The Elusive Quest for Growth

Feb 14, 2005


William Easterly 
Professor of Economics
New York University

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Since the end of World War II, economists have tried to figure out how poor countries in the tropics could attain standards of living approaching those of countries in Europe and North America. Attempted remedies have included providing foreign aid, investing in machines, fostering education, controlling population growth, and making aid loans as well as forgiving those loans on condition of reforms. None of these solutions has delivered as promised.

In this program we will discuss how all of these solutions violate the basic principle of economics, that people--private individuals and businesses, government officials, even aid donors--respond to incentives. We will first discuss the importance of growth, and then analyze the development solutions that have failed. Finally, we will explore alternative approaches to the problems.

Distinguished Scholar Breakfasts are invitation-only programs that explore the role of economics in policy areas that may be considered "out of the ordinary." Unlike lectures or panels, these breakfasts are exchanges among senior staff, colleagues, and a scholar in a particular field. While Mercatus provides the framework for the breakfast, participants direct the discussion.  Participants will be given copies of Dr. Easterly's book.

Williams Easterly is currently Professor of Economics (Joint with Africana Studies Program) at New York University and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development.  Prior to his appointment to NYU, Professor Easterly spent 16 years with the World Bank as a Senior Advisor or Economics in the Macroeconomics and Growth Division, the World Development Report, and the West Africa and Columbia divisions.  He is author of the much publicized The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics.