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Samizdata quote of the day

The problem of poverty is not a shortage of experts; it’s a shortage of rights.

– On December 6th 2015, William Easterly gave the most recent Hayek Memorial Lecture, on the subject of “The Tyranny of Experts: Foreign Aid versus Freedom for the World’s Poor”.

Just after 13 minutes and 40 seconds into his lecture, Easterly said the above words, twice.

21 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Mr Ed

    A good talk, and his plan is very interesting. Good on him to call out the World Bank for forcibly dispossessing farmers of their land. I wonder if Mr Cameron will decide that there is £13,000,000,000 borrowed and spent on overseas aid that could be better put to use left unborrowed. After all, the the National Debt at £1,529,000,000,000 and rising, or in £1 coins, the same mass as 194 Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers.

    I also note that he points out that the same solutions were being trotted out for Africa in 1938 by the great and good. Obviously events in WW2 intervened, like the often overlooked East African Campaign, but the problem for Africa was that the colonials left to be replaced by the avowed Marxists, or just plain crackpots. I remember all too well the coloured maps of Angola on the news during the mid-1970s after the Portuguese left, and the ominous splodge of red for the MPLA, that never seemed to stop growing. Africa needs the same as everywhere else, private property, low taxes and stability.

  • RRS

    For those who might care to go a little deeper:

    Liberty Fund, under its Amagi, imprint, released a reprint of Charles Murray’s (1988) In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government in 2013.

    Underlying all: HUBRIS

  • Paul Marks

    He means right as in property right – not “positive rights” in the sense of goods and services from the government.

    For example if Robinson Crusoe (when he was alone) starves to death (or dies of sickness) on his island – his rights have been in no way violated (there is no one there to violate his rights – and he has no right to be given stuff).

    It is also useful to remember that even someone who owns no property (other than themselves – if the self can be called property) still benefits from private property.

    There is no real conflict between natural law people like me and rule-utilitarians – as long as this is kept in mind.

    The same policies are for the long term interests of “rich” and “poor” – employers and and employees alike.

    So the answer to the soft Marxism of such books as “What’s Wrong With Kansas?” – why do so many poor “working class” people “vote against their interests” by voting Republican (such as the people who voted for Ted Cruz yesterday) is – they are NOT voting against their interests. As the same policy is for the long term interests of rich and poor, employers and employees.

    This is the central insight of Classical Liberalism.

    And it is just as true in the “Third World” as anywhere else.

    Such policies as “land reform” (stealing the land of the rich and breaking up estates to give land to the poor) do NOT benefit most people in the long run – they undermine economic development and perpetuate poverty.

    As for government “aid” – Peter Bauer refuted this policy many years ago.

    See, for example, “Dissent on Development” (1989).

  • Thailover

    Paul Marks said,

    “As for government ‘aid'”

    I despise the con-job of any organization that takes in enormous amounts of cash they they’ve done nothing to earn, gives a pittance of this largess to the “unfortunate” and then pulls a muscle patting themselves on the back.
    This is true in regard to gov tax revenues as well as the Catholic Church. “The Church” collects money, primarily from the poor who are in hopes of a “blessing”, the church keeps virtually all of it and gives a pittance to help “the unfortunate” and then pretend that they’re a benevolent enterprise. Ditto for gov taxes. Taxes are taken by force by people with guns and cages. Then a small pittance of that is allocated towards welfare systems, to help “the unfortunate victims of society”, telling them that they’re entitled to this recompense for being victimized. Only they fail to mention that 5/6 of these moneys are kept for “overhead”. And when they distribute (not ‘redistribute’) other people’s money, the 1/6 of what was allocated, they take bows for being “benevolent”.
    It’s enough to make a cat laugh.

  • Thailover

    What was grossly missing from his speech can be encapsulated in one word…


    Capitalism is free enterprise. “Free” from what? Free from gov attempts to steer markets and attempts to sanction and enforce unfair markets, i.e. cronyism. (There’s no such thing as crony capitalism for the same reason there’s no unknown knowledge, unowned property or four-cornered triangles. These are self-contradictory terms).

    Capitalism is a SOCIAL system, not merely an economic system. Why? Because capitalism is not merely economic freedom, but also political freedom; because what is necessarily the alternative to capitalims is either a collectivist tyranny of a despot or the tyranny of the majority. (Slavery to a tribe, whether that tribe has a chief or is purely democratic in nature).

    Capitalism is a social system rather than merely an economic system because capitalism requires a stable, capable government that recognizes and protects individual rights, including self-ownership and property rights.

    “Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself.” ~ John Locke

  • Thailover

    It should also be noted that poverty IS NOT lack of money. Lack of money is merely a symptom of poverty.
    Poverty is not knowing how to, or inability to, create and keep one’s own wealth.
    But before one can create and keep one’s own wealth, there must first be a stable gov that recognizes and protects individual rights, including property rights.

  • Lee Moore

    But before one can create and keep one’s own wealth, there must first be a stable gov that recognizes and protects individual rights, including property rights.

    A tiny quibblette. As PM mentioned, nobody stepped on Robinson Crusoe’s rights, since until Friday turned up, there was no one to step on them. So you can create and keep wealth all on your own on an island, just fine without a government. And you can even do so if you have co-operative friends who adopt a liberal, property rights view of society. You only need a government when the cannibals come calling, or when they come calling in sufficient numbers that a voluntary make do effort is insufficient to see them off. It is, for practical purposes, a quibble of no value, since we don’t each live alone on our own island. Except that it does help remind us why government is needed, and consequently, what it is for.

    It is needed to protect the respecters of liberty (and so property) from the disrespecters. Any more government than that defeats the point of it. You just get a bigger, stronger disrespecter of liberty.

  • RRS

    @ Thailover:

    Capitalism is a SOCIAL system, not merely an economic system.


    Perhaps if one examines the concept of “system” closely, and that a system can be defined, it will be clear that:

    Capitalism is NOT a system it is a resulting condition. That condition results from particular relationships in specific circumstances; in which individuals or groups seek their determined objectives, by their determined means; almost universally for the acquisition or accumulation of “durable” assets (Capital) for deferred consumption or further production.

    The processes of those relationships and circumstances can be described; but not defined.

    The resulting condition of capitalism in a particular social order may not necessarily require circumstances of economic or political freedom; although its broadest optimum benefits in a social order may call for them.

  • RRS

    @ Thailover:

    But before one can create and keep one’s own wealth, there must first be a stable gov that recognizes and protects individual rights, including property rights.


    History refutes that assertion.

    The development of “stable” governments, with varying degrees of considerations for “individuals” (even with privileges and immunities) have extended the creation and preservation of accumulations of capital (wealth); but, they have not been a necessary condition to that creation and preservation.

  • NickM

    Mr Ed,
    I love those sort of analogies. They really hit home.

    Now roughly if you stacked the national debt of the USA in dollar bills (0.11mm thick) then you get a figure of c.2.1 million km. That is roughly 5.5 times the distance to the moon. Oddly enough my rough understanding is it cost the USA 10 billion dollars to send Neil, Buzz and Mike on their little excursion.

    I despise the con-job of any organization that takes in enormous amounts of cash they they’ve done nothing to earn, gives a pittance of this largess to the “unfortunate” and then pulls a muscle patting themselves on the back.

    If only this was money from taxes etc. It is on the never-never. It’s not just stealing from you but taking out a mortgage in your name for a house you’ll never live in.

  • Paul Marks

    Whether private enterprise can protect itself or needs a government (a state) is one of the great questions of libertarianism.

    After all a tax for defence does, itself, violate the Non Aggression Principle – unless everyone agrees to it.

    John Locke (as Gough pointed out 70 years ago) rather dishonestly moves from individual consent to majority consent – even though the distinction was well understood even in the Middle Ages. I say “dishonestly” as Locke does not openly say what he is doing – he tries to slip past the reader.

    But what is the alternative?

    The system of Poland (where a single noble could say “no” and make it stick on taxes and so on) undermined the Commonwealth and left Poland open to its enemies. It is not true that the collapse of Poland discredited aristocracy – it discredited aristocracy that also has an individual veto on things.

    Small scale resistance?

    Rothbardian militias are a fantasy – a ruthless (I repeat ruthless) professional military can always defeat un organised people without training and equipment (Rothbard’s examples to the contrary are as flawed as most of his historical writings are – it is always what he wanted to be true, not what actually happened).

    Large scale private companies with orbital space stations with nuclear weapons and so on?

    Perhaps in the future – but I see no sign of it presently.

    And those who call themselves “anarchists” are actually very hostile to large private companies with their own military forces. As hostile as the left are – think of all the Hollywood films and television shows where private military forces are presented as the ultimate evil.

    One thing must be stressed – no monopoly.

    The East India Company became horrific (see its taxes in Bengal – which actually increased in time of famine) due to its state granted charter.

    It is not true that bodies corporate are “gifts of the state” – such things as Trusts have been creatable under Common Law without any permission of the state, and Trusts (like Churches and colleges and so on) are bodies corporate with limited liability and the ability to trade and produce on their account.

    But MONOPOLY is the gift of the state as it the right to take produce from farms one has never bought (and so on) and other forms of taxation.

    And so we return to the start – without taxation is successful defence likely?

    And if not, how is this taxation to be organised?

    Surely it is best for the tax payers to have some say in the level of taxation and who collects and for what?

    And if not by individual consent – at least by majority consent.

    Till those private orbital battle stations (with nukes – and owned by private companies) turn up from Science Fiction.

  • Mr Ed

    such things as Trusts have been creatable under Common Law without any permission of the state,

    No, the Trust is a creature of Equity, the bastard parent of socialist doctrines.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ah! The perfect opportunity! It has appeared wearing a Mr Ed suit, and looks like, well, brainwork….

    Specifically, Mr Ed, I have recently been captured by the phrase “in law or equity.” (In particular in reading Art. III of the Constitution, but it turns up all over the place.) To me “equity” is your share of the financial value in some economic good, such as a house. Clearly as a legal term that’s not what it means. I have repaired to the Great Foot, but I fail to grasp. Would you be willing to take a short moment to enlighten me a bit, please? In return, I will send you my recipe for the world’s best fried chicken if you like. :>)

    Of course, Laird and RRS and others in the know on the legal concept of “equity,” please feel free to chime in.

    Thanks. 🙂

  • Mr Ed

    Julie, I cannot say more at this juncture, but Equity is Dickens’ novel about the Courts of Chancery (which I am proud to say I have never read), Bleak House?. It is a set of principles (of sorts) from the the Court of the Chancellor to the English King, trying to destroy the Common Law.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Hm. Well, that at least seems like a highly condensed but at least vaguely graspable note on the Foot’s article.

    Thanks, Mr Ed. :>)

    In the exquisitely learned and erudite company one finds at Samizdata, one is reluctant to admit that one has never read Dickens. One will, under sufficient duress, admit to having watched a cartoon version of A Christmas Carol at some point, and not only that, but even worse, enjoying it; but of course that’s another thing to which one is loath to confess in such exalted society. 🙁

  • RRS



    But to what end when there are, over at the OLL of Liberty Fund, the complete Essays of Pollock and Maitland.

    Of course one might sum it up by saying Common Law derived from common custom and Equity derived from common morals; then purse the lips.

  • RRS

    Ah! Mr. Ed,

    Jaundice v. Jaundice in Bleak House focuses on the processes of the Chancery Courts, not the concept of Equity as a remedy for Justice not provided by Common Law pleadings.

    No instruction in Law or Equity intended.

  • Julie near Chicago


    Je suis confusée, as the only Pollock I know is a fish, although there was painter by the name of Pollack who was given to distressingly unmentionable acts when attending fancy salon parties in NY penthouses. And I have it on the authority of the PMO that exposure to Maitland causes cooties. But perhaps yours is a different Maitland.

    Nevertheless, I thank you for the advice and will go have a look. :>)

  • RRS


    Live and Google (Sir Frederick Pollock).

    The PMO is redoubtable; which means you can have an occasional divergent view.

  • Mr Ed

    RRS: but the process is the child of Equity. The process of seeking equity becomes as nebulous as the concept itself.

  • Alisa

    Julie, this is pretty good at explaining the basics of concept. Think ‘fairness’ as a broad synonym.

    Ed, the novel is excellent, one of my all-time favorites, FWIW.