Post 6 | Easterly Vs. Sachs

When reading about the two sides and seeing that Banerjee and Duflo from Poor Economics didn’t pick a side, I thought I didn’t want to pick a side either. However, when I sat back and meditated on both sides I feel as if I agree more with Easterly’s side more than Sachs. In any situation if there is a strong foundation whatever builds upon the foundation will be stronger than if the foundation was weak. I think this is what Easterly’s argument is saying about ending poverty. His argument states that if the politics are right, good policies will eventually emerge. Easterly has more of a positive attitude towards ending poverty than Sachs does. Sachs argument is that he see corruption. “A poverty trap: poverty causes corruption, corruption causes poverty.” I do think that this has some truth to it but not enough to believe that the only reason for poverty is corruption and that there is really no way to keep corruption out. Easterly wants to take big actions as in fixing politics rather than focusing on small actions like Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs). He talks about how RCTs have discouraged researchers because they aren’t seeing enough improvement from their actions to make really any difference at all. Like Easterly, I agree if you go straight to the source then problems can be addressed directly and quickly. If the politics in countries with poverty were to be improved there is no doubt that policies would change for the better.

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There aren’t just arguments from Easterly and Sachs concerning poverty in countries. Paul Romer makes the argument that if you cannot run your country on your own, have someone else do it for you. He says to start with small cities, small enough to be manageable but large enough to make a difference. This is something that made me think of a strategy that was used in WW2 that I read about in The Purpose Driven Life, “the strategy the Allies used in World War II to liberate islands in the South Pacific. First they would “soften up” an island, weakening the resistance by shelling the enemy strongholds with bombs from offshore ships. Next, a small group of Marines would invade the island and establish a “beachhead” tiny fragment of the island that they could control. Once the beachhead was secured, they would begin the long process of liberating the rest of the island, one bit of territory at a time. Eventually the entire island would be brought under control, but not without some costly battles.” (Warren)

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This is the same concept and if it would work in today’s world with poverty that would be amazing. I do think it could have effects but it wouldn’t completely fix the problem permanently. I believe that Easterly’s ideas would be more long-term and permanent.

Learning what I have while reading Poor Economics, my view on poverty has drastically changed. I admit to not being educated in any capacity on other countries and their problems they face. I believe that Banerjee and Duflo did an excellent job addressing the issues sufficiently. They told their audience what was going on in a neutral and informational way and said it in a way that most can understand. I never felt as if what they were saying was over my head or too difficult to understand. With someone with basically no background knowledge of this topic I could understand almost everything they talked about in the book. I think the policy measures that seem to work are to give each country a hope that they can change. I feel that that is one thing that was stressed throughout the entire book. They want countries to have a hope that no matter where they are on the scale they have a chance to make a change. I think a little encouragement can go a long way with people, especially those in poverty.  The needs that are addressed are talked about sufficiently in the conclusion chapter of the book. It gives a great summary of what was talked about in early chapters. There are five main points talked about; the poor often lack critical pieces of information and believe things that are not true, the poor bear responsibility for too many aspects of their lives, there are good reasons that some markets are missing for the poor or that the poor face unfavorable prices in them, poor countries are not doomed to failure because they are poor or because they have had an unfortunate history, and finally that expectations about what people are able or unable to do all too often end up turning into self-fulfilling prophecies. These points are sufficient to talking about what is going on in poverty stricken countries and what is happening globally to change that. They made sure to use many outside sources to back up their claims and to show what other have found, not just themselves. On the front of the book it says “A radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty”, I do think they would make anyone rethink a way to fight poverty and this is a great way to inform those to help change the world.

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Banerjee, A. V., & Duflo, E. (2011). Poor economics: a radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty. New York: PublicAffairs.

Warren, Richard. The Purpose Driven Life. Cleveland: Findaway World, 2005. Print.


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