More smart thinking about what doesn’t work in foreign aid from the author of The White Mans’ Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good:
The opposite of ideology is freedom, the ability of societies to be unchained from foreign control. The only “answer” to poverty reduction is freedom from being told the answer. Free societies and individuals are not guaranteed to succeed. They will make bad choices. But at least they bear the cost of those mistakes, and learn from them. That stands in stark contrast to accountability-free Developmentalism. This process of learning from mistakes is what produced the repositories of common sense that make up mainstream economics. The opposite of Development ideology is not anything goes, but the pragmatic use of time-tested economic ideas — the benefits of specialization, comparative advantage, gains from trade, market-clearing prices, trade-offs, budget constraints — by individuals, firms, governments, and societies as they find their own success.
History proves just how much good can come from individuals who both bear the costs and reap the benefits of their own choices when they are free to make them. That includes local politicians, activists, and businesspeople who are groping their way toward greater freedom, contrary to the Developmentalists who oxymoronically impose freedom of choice on other people. Those who best understood the lessons of the 20th century were not the ideologues asking, “What is to be done?” They were those asking, “How can people be more free to find their own solutions?”