Throughout history, imperialism has been a fact of the international system. Only recently has the nomenclature changed, with military intervention, peacekeeping, and nation-building replacing the colonial era term. Whatever term is used for western intervention in the developing world, the salient point is that with the exception of a few countries, the developing world has been significantly influenced by the presence and policies of western governments. In some cases, these policies have been beneficial. For example, the construction of railroads in Africa dramatically reduced transportation costs and time on the continent. In other cases, the policies have been disastrous. The arbitrary delineation of borders in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia has created severe sectarian problems in these regions. In The White Man's Burden, William Easterly explores western influence in the developing world and concludes that it has been largely negative.
[...] Overall, the moral imperative of aiding poorer nations, as well as material contextual factors, were largely responsible for the fate of the developing world, not simply Western intervention as Easterly asserts. The Moral Imperative of Economic Aid Easterly's assertion that the western planners have repeatedly failed is dead on. But is his solution of “searchers,” bottom up organizers of economic development, necessarily the solution? Colonization forever tied the West to the rest, through both nascent interconnectedness and the responsibility the West has to its former colonies. [...]
[...] The moral imperative of economic aid has led to grandiose plans and benchmarks with no clear path towards these goals established. The planners must be incentivized in a way that forces pragmatic goals to be reached in the developing world. Finally, it is important that those involved in the debate over economic development recognize the constraints of the international system. Self- interested actors in the political realm will always be a reality. The interests of the state will generally transcend the suffering and poverty of others. [...]
[...] On the other hand, Sachs, driven by a moral imperative to end suffering, completely ignores the impact of corrupt governments on western aid and assistance campaigns. In the midst of his long essays of people's suffering throughout the developing world, Sachs loses all semblances of pragmatism. Instead of pushing tangible goals, Sachs repeatedly references tragedy to draw on the moral imperative of helping the impoverished and is part of the rationale for his idealistic big push plan. What is noticeably absent from his plan is how to deal with the maze of international political logistics of carrying out such large programs of Western assistance in the developing world. [...]
[...] Material Factors and Economic Progress While Easterly notes the problem of corrupt government in the developing world, it alone is not a compelling argument for the abandonment of western assistance programs. Further, Easterly does not consider the broader implications of the West's history of intervention in his denunciation of its policies. If the West had simply ignored the developing world, the people would still be suffering, even with “searchers” free to discover and create economic miracles. Vaccines and medicines for tropical diseases wouldn't exist if the West hadn't colonized those areas. [...]
[...] In this sense, Easterly recognizes the problem of the moral imperative and hopes to reduce the West's role in the developing world rather than accept it. He speaks directly to the West in saying, “don't invade other countries stop wasting our time with summits and frameworks.” Unfortunately, the nature of the international system precludes such an easy fix. The interconnectedness of society has led to a mass dissemination of information about other regions of the world. Thus, the suffering of others at the hands of brutal governments becomes the cause of constituents of the West. [...]
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