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by
Scott Ott

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July 21, 2014 - 8:20 am
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Sounds like a simple enough way to cure poverty: Form a partnership between donors and leaders of government. Get a set of measurable goals and diligently track progress toward those goals. There’s nothing we can’t do when we put our minds to it.

It’s a technocratic solution to a human problem that plays to our sense of confidence as scientific problem solvers.

That’s been the basic approach to economic development of the so-called “third world” by the “first world” since the middle of the last century.

But not only is it a failure, it actually props up dictators and stomps the rights of the poor, while allowing wealthy donors, like Bill Gates, to feel good about themselves as they monitor the “measurable” progress.

I love the [United Nations'] Millennium Development Goals. I think they’re the best idea for focusing the world on fighting global poverty that I’ve ever seen….Thanks to these goals…the world at large knows the key measures of poverty, hunger, health and education. Some of the numbers are good and some are not. But the fact that the world is focusing on these numbers is excellent….The Millennium Development Goals can guide the search for new discoveries by showing us where innovation can bring the biggest returns. This is their genius.
– Bill Gates, speech to U.N. General Assembly, September 2008  (video below)

Sounds great. But is it true?

The Tyranny of ExpertsThe Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, by William Easterly, demonstrates how a toxic stew of arrogance, altruism and racism has led “the West” to positively hinder “the Rest” from achieving the very thing we value most — equality under law. Easterly has produced a rarity among serious books — page-turning readability, with even-handed scholarship and careful documentation.

Easterly says the problem with well-meaning fellows like Bill Gates is multi-pronged.

1) We don’t have accurate data, we ignore contrary evidence, and we misinterpret the faulty data, attributing apparent growth to the activities of autocrats and bureaucrats when the evidence points to factors beyond their control.

2) We ignore history and the actual needs of the people, as if we could write our own solutions upon a blank slate, that we decide is framed by modern national boundaries.

3) We idolize strong leaders who can implement programs funded by donors, but ignore their autocratic repression of individual rights, and so we often use charity dollars to pay for pogroms via programs.

4) We think of innovation as something a few elite scholars and captains of industry bring to the poor, rather than something that springs from decentralized problem-solving by people who have freedom, property rights, equal justice under law and profit motive.

In the video below, Bill Gates speaks to the UN General Assembly — history’s greatest congregation of thugs and tyrants. For more than six minutes Gates praises the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), without even hinting that people might need more than food, medicine and education. He never mentions self-governance, liberty, or capitalism.

The best spin on this is that Gates think if we take care of health, learning and economic survival, then republican governance and its protection of person and property will come later.

The vector of history collides with, and obliterates, that notion.

The worst-case scenario is that Gates cravenly kowtows to the world’s oppressors because he needs their cooperation to reach his beloved development goals. Like a geek with an MS-Excel spreadsheet, he has lost sight of the human impact behind the columns, rows and formulae. All that matters is the data, not how you get there.

Top Rated Comments   
Actually, we love that.

What we hate is rich people expending their money and energy on the illusion of common good.

This is one of the things that distinguish liberals from conservatives.

You give points for "caring", regardless of the actual outcome.

We give points for actually doing something useful.

10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is little conservatives hate more than a rich person expending their money and energy on the common good.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Microsoft had a problem. They were getting a steady stream, or maybe a river, of requests for "new" features (particularly in Word & Excel) that were already there, and had been for years.

Focus panels showed people were not able to find the features, even though they were in the menus.

What to do?

Well, the obvious answer was to create a completely new menu system, and they did. It’s the one we have now. It debuted in Office 2010, I think. They spent millions developing it. I seem to recall the figure 10 million, but don’t quote me on that.

It's horrible. It takes up a LOT more room on the screen, it's poorly organized, and the first iteration of it offered NO customization at all. The 2013 version offers some very weak customization options, which are FAR inferior to what the old menu system had. It’s a giant step BACKWARDS. And did I mention that it’s horrible?

And all to solve a problem that didn’t exist.

You see, the old menu system was well thought out, logical, and rich in features. But, it had one feature that it should not have had, and worse, that feature was turned on by default.

In their infinite “We know what’s best for you!” wisdom, Microsoft had decided to hide all menu items that were not used frequently. What is “frequently”, you ask? Only MS knows for sure, and they weren’t saying.

So, when you first opened the software, most of the menu features were hidden by default. And those features STAYED hidden unless the user went through some convoluted and very NON-intuitive steps to show them. And of course, to do that, he'd have to know it was possible. But how many users go looking for features that aren't there?

This is probably the stupidest thing they could have done. It violates the most fundamental rules of software usability. It is breathtaking in its arrogance and, did I mention, stupidity? It would be hard to imagine a more stupid thing to do with a menu system. Hide the features?

So they spent a few years and ~10 million dollars fixing a problem they had created, and in the process, took away some very useful options for the user. (All they needed to do was to turn OFF that feature by default. That would have probably required just changing one value in one string of code. They wouldn’t even have needed any extensive testing.)

Brilliant.

What’s this got to do with Mr. Ott’s article?

Both situations represent the same mindset. The same good intentions, but without paying attention to the actual data. Failing to ask the right questions. Failing to see the obvious.

Above all, the arrogance that says, “Shut up. We know what’s best for you.”

Bill Gates, this is your life.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (63)
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The same can be said of progressives in the United States. Since the Progressive Movement began in the 1890s, the left has attempted to subvert individual liberty in the name of progress. According to their theory, the rule of experts trumps democracy and authoritarian rule simply makes governance more efficient. Progressive rule of the larger cities is a case in point.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not that individual liberty isn't embraced by leftism, anyways. I know the Existential proponents, especially Sartre, promoted individual liberty and personal responsibility, yet it was clear they supported left-wing causes, especially Communism, Stalinism, heck, even Che Guevara. Personally, I'd rather individual liberty and collectivism is outright destroyed, and we are instead ruled as mere puppets before God and Jesus, where we are relegated to licking God's shoes.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Personally, I'd rather individual liberty and collectivism is outright destroyed, and we are instead ruled as mere puppets before God and Jesus, where we are relegated to licking God's shoes.

What an appalling concept. I say that as an atheist who respects the religious beliefs of the large majority of people that have them. If you want to discard your individual liberties to kowtow to your god, feel free but don't take MY liberties away in the process.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
"but don't take MY liberties away in the process. "

Actually, God WANTS those liberties exterminated whether you want it or not, heck, whether I want it or not. Or maybe you've forgotten that Jesus told us Christians to go out and spread the good news (ie, conquer) the four corners of the world. Had he not wanted us to conquer anything at all, bring the world directly under His control, Jesus would have just told us to not even attempt to interfere with any religious belief systems, not even for our own survival, and say all religions have merit. In other words, he would have preached nihilism. So no, God DOES want absolute total dominance, and won't tolerate any deviance from His rule.

And BTW, Atheists don't respect the religious beliefs of others. In case you've forgotten, Voltaire, Diderot, Sade, Hume, Kant, Rousseau, Marx, Engels, Nietzsche, Robespierre, Sartre, Chomsky, Foucault, Derrada, Gramsci, Stalin, Lenin, Khrushchev, Brezshnev, Kosygin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, all those guys actively tried to destroy religion and replace it with irreligion and atheism.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Betterment arises, rather than is imposed.
What a remarkable, wondrous insight.

Yep, liberty first, baby!

10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Okay, this article just totally misses the point. Most of what the Gates Foundation does are simple things like oral rehydration salts, malaria abetment and other more or less absolute goods. So what if you kow tow to a tyrant to let you get a few cents worth of salts to save babies. The people are not going to be more or less accepting of a tyrant because fewer babies die of diarrhea.

This seems like a stretch to gripe about one of the people behind Common Core or some of his politics. I don't like his politics, but we are talking about simple solutions that are going to save millions of children.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
If he were actually concerned about saving children, he would not support abortion. Heck, even his wife did more to actually try to stop abortion than he did (and that's mainly because during her control of the foundation in 2002-2006, she actually revoked any and all donations to any lobbies who promoted unlimited access to abortion). He wants to save millions of children? How about he start by trying to defund Planned Parenthood, and donate to causes that are geared towards ending Roe v. Wade, at the very least stop donating to abortion groups?
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh for god sake...if I hear one more SoCom try to turn every damn discussion that uses the word baby into a freaking abortion debate. There are a couple thousand late term abortions that are clearly bloody murder. There are an unfortunate number of other late second term abortions that are very troubling. And then there are a boatload of first trimester abortions that are no different than the probably 50% of pregnancies that end in miscarriages.

Bill Gates is not a religious fanatic that thinks a pinhead sized blastocyst is a person because god gave it a soul at the moment of conception. Neither do I, neither do the vast majority of people in this country. Bill and Melinda Gates are going to save more people in the next 20 years by writing checks than Hitler killed in all his concentration camps by writing checks. That is a lot more significant than any of the negative discourse here. Frankly I find the article offensive.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Gates should follow Google's advice to not be evil.

When will this book be "kindled"?

Life, liberty, property baby.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
I listened to some of the Easterly tape linked below. Like all academics, he is long winded and tends to make the obvious convoluted.

Whether you're an individual or a country...

Modern progressives (Barack, Lizzie Warren, Bill Gates etc.) believe that only their personal massive financial benevolence OR a humongous overarching state can lift a person, a people, a society out of abject circumstances.

As Easterly notes, their attitude is highly condescending. Not to mention that since there is no substantive basis for this "lifting" it is, at best, a bandaid.

(but good luck getting a modern African autocrat to turn down billions in cash payouts. He can build a new palace, like Saddam did with many of the profits from Iraqi oil)

Lieawatha Lizzie, the progressives' new Queen Bee, doesn't think you built that or even can build that without Jabba the Hutt government.

Normal people :) know that there is nothing more rewarding to an individual life than making something of yourself on your own.

And that's true all over the world, in complete contradiction to liberal élites' condescension.

10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
(but good luck getting a modern African autocrat to turn down billions in cash payouts. He can build a new palace, like Saddam did with many of the profits from Iraqi oil)

I remember reading an article not long after the 2003 invasion/liberation of Iraq that said US forces had found not one but ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY PALACES belonging to Saddam. Apparently, the newest hundred of those palaces had been built during the sanctions that were supposed to keep Saddam from misbehaving.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry about triple post. PJM still needs to get a handle on their system.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is all about farming. How's that?
In the US and most of the more or less "free" world, farmers farm an acre, or even square foot, at a time, knowing which field stands wet, which field drains well, which field has a little more clay in the soil, etc. They then select crops/ animals based on tradition and their own observations of the planting, tending and harvesting cycles of the particular segment of their farm.

Enter Soviet (or any other government mandated) style. Some technocrat, who may have been raised on a farm but hasn't seen one in 30 years, decides that county or even state X should plant wheat from fence to fence.

All of the Caring Aid Givers are like soviet technocrats. Want to improve agriculture (the obvious first step in any economic system)? Do it on a Micro scale, not Macro. Set up one or two real local farmers with some baby step advancements, including men, not just women, in the fields, and let others see what happens. A bigger harvest and fatter belly are the best advertisement. DO NOT dig the wells for them, just show them how to use a spade, wells have been dug for years and yes you can go deep.

So many Westerners want to skip steps and jumpstart an economy into the 21st Century that is still struggling with the 19th! We train their best and brightest to be engineers etc. when the have nothing to engineer at home. These same individuals could be shown some Self Starter techniques, create good farms, small fabrication shops making goods needed locally, etc... some will fail, most will not.

What does this take? Property rights, micro-loans and get the Heck out of the way.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh heck yes, Small Is Beautiful!
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is all about farming. How's that?
In the US and most of the more or less "free" world, farmers farm an acre, or even square foot, at a time, knowing which field stands wet, which field drains well, which field has a little more clay in the soil, etc. They then select crops/ animals based on tradition and their own observations of the planting, tending and harvesting cycles of the particular segment of their farm.

Enter Soviet (or any other government mandated) style. Some technocrat, who may have been raised on a farm but hasn't seen one in 30 years, decides that county or even state X should plant wheat from fence to fence.

All of the Caring Aid Givers are like soviet technocrats. Want to improve agriculture (the obvious first step in any economic system)? Do it on a Micro scale, not Macro. Set up one or two real local farmers with some baby step advancements, including men in the field, and let others see what happens. A bigger harvest and fatter belly are the best advertisement. DO NOT dig the wells for them, just show them how to use a spade, wells have been dug for years and yes you can go deep.

So many Westerners want to skip steps and jumpstart an economy into the 21st Century that is still struggling with the 19th! We train their best and brightest to be engineers etc. when the have nothing to engineer at home. These same individuals could be shown some Self Starter techniques, create good farms, small fabrication shops making goods needed locally, etc... some will fail, most will not.

What does this take? Property rights, micro-loans and get the Heck out of the way.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is all about farming. How's that?
In the US and most of the more or less "free" world, farmers farm an acre, or even square foot, at a time, knowing which field stands wet, which field drains well, which field has a little more clay in the soil, etc. They then select crops/ animals based on tradition and their own observations of the planting, tending and harvesting cycles of the particular segment of their farm.

Enter Soviet (or any other government mandated) style. Some technocrat, who may have been raised on a farm but hasn't seen one in 30 years, decides that county or even state X should plant wheat from fence to fence.

All of the Caring Aid Givers are like soviet technocrats. Want to improve agriculture (the obvious first step in any economic system)? Do it on a Micro scale, not Macro. Set up one or two real local farmers with some baby step advancements, including men in the field, and let others see what happens. A bigger harvest and fatter belly are the best advertisement. DO NOT dig the wells for them, just show them how to use a spade, wells have been dug for years and yes you can go deep.

So many Westerners want to skip steps and jumpstart an economy into the 21st Century that is still struggling with the 19th! We train their best and brightest to be engineers etc. when the have nothing to engineer at home. These same individuals could be shown some Self Starter techniques, create good farms, small fabrication shops making goods needed locally, etc... some will fail, most will not.

What does this take? Property rights, micro-loans and get the Heck out of the way.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is little conservatives hate more than a rich person expending their money and energy on the common good.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Did you actually read the article? Puzzling , this knee jerk defensiveness that you spew here. A great case is made that Gates is an enabler of 3rd world misery. Just because he spends some of his money and espouses your world view doesn't change that.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, we love that.

What we hate is rich people expending their money and energy on the illusion of common good.

This is one of the things that distinguish liberals from conservatives.

You give points for "caring", regardless of the actual outcome.

We give points for actually doing something useful.

10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
"You give points for "caring", regardless of the actual outcome."

And the so called "caring" itself is only the illusion of caring, a self-righteous posturing, 'cause I ain't never met one of these libruls who is the real deal

10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
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