The White Man’s Burden

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28 October 2015

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The White Man’s Burden


            ‘The White Man’s Burden’ is a book by William Easterly. The book explain why Western relief has done more harm than good. There are high poverty levels in Africa where millions of children are dying from easily preventable diseases despite the increase in foreign aid. Gordon brown called for doubling of foreign aid which was a Marshall plan to help the world’s poor countries. According to Easterly, the West spent around $2.3 trillion on foreign aid for the past five decades and has not yet managed to get affordable medicines for children to prevent half of deaths caused by malaria. The West spent that amount and had not managed to buy cheap bed nets for poor families or give three dollars to every mother to prevent massive deaths. Easterly also argues that, despite the doubling of school fees, students from poor families do not go to schools.

            Easterly is concerned about how global society has developed a superior entertainment approach to rich families while it cannot afford cheap medicine to poor families. The west believes that they have made a lot of efforts to help whereby they feel that their hard work and compassion should be recognized. He also says that there is much compassion and goodwill among various people to help the poor. However, only a few people address the important issue regarding foreign aid. The big plans are to help the poor. Easterly propose that, he is not advocating for the pulling down of the aid to the poor, but the West should ensure that foreign aid reaches their target audience. He proposes that if the rich Western countries wish to address the issue of foreign aid successfully, they have to deal with the issue of extreme poverty. Otherwise, there will be vicious cycle of poverty characterized with high expectations, idealism, cynical backlash and disappointing results (Easterly, 2007).

            The second issue arise because of misappropriate method that customary Western aid assumes regarding world poverty. Easterly also propose that recent reforms in foreign aid take a misdirected approach as they try to find out the appropriate approach. He views advocates of customary method as the planners, and agents for transformation in substitute method as the searchers. The poor have no funds to motivate market searchers to attend to their hopeless situations. The mentality of market searchers should be a guide to positive method to foreign aid. Easterly argue that in foreign aid, planners have good intentions; however, they do not motivate individuals to perform them. On the other hand, searchers find appropriate solutions and get rewarded (Easterly, 2007). He adds that planners have no responsibility of attending their high expectations, while searchers take responsibility of their dealings. Planners focus on the supply while searchers are interested in demand. Planners have less information regarding basic issues while searchers have adequate fundamental information.

            Easterly also argue that planners assume that they have appropriate answers to some of the problems. Searchers believe that poverty is a complex issue of social, institutional, political, technological and historical factors. On the other hand planners think that poverty is a technical issue that can be solved using their answers. Planners think that the solution can be obtained from outsiders while searchers think that solution can only be obtained from the locals. Easterly also examine Professor Jeffrey Sachs’ approach of reducing poverty. Professor Sachs propose an approximate of 449 approaches which ranges from antiretroviral to fight AIDS, nitrogen-fixing plants to restock soil fertility, and cheap medicine to prevent malaria. Easterly acknowledge Professor Sachs’ great contribution of calling upon the West to assist the poor; however, Easterly believes that these approach is less practical. In addition, professor Sachs propose that West should implement big plan by coordinating officials from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, UN country teams and six Un agencies. This plan is the newest among the approaches that have been exercised in previous decades to curb poverty (Easterly, 2007).

            Easterly points out the major areas that make planners to fail in their efforts to curb poverty. Planners try out various strategies; they do not have information regarding their target audience, lack of motivation among their agents, various foreign aid agencies use different approaches on malaria and entire health scheme. Planners do not have an approach of ensuring their aid reaches the target audience or a way of identifying needs (Easterly, 2007). According to Easterly, searchers should concentrate on appropriate methods of helping the poor rather that concentrating on Big Plans. Searchers should be rewarded for identifying appropriate methods and be responsible for their actions. Easterly also say that there are some cases where searchers attained substantial benefits, but fail solve global poverty since foreign aid had been dominated by the planners. He says that poor people mainly die because differences to the levels of poverty in the world as well as unsuccessful endeavors by the donors. To escape vicious cycle of poverty, it is good to focus on the opinions of planners. However, it is good to acknowledge their efforts (Easterly, 2007).

            Donors should focus on the big issues rather than concentrating on the big plans. Almost ten million kids die annually from effortless preventable diseases. It is also approximated that almost three billion people across the world live below poverty lines (Willis, 2007). AIDS kill almost three million people every year and it also spread fast. Almost quarter of the children in poor countries does not complete primary education; one billion adults across the world are illiterate. In addition, almost two billion people lack access to proper sanitation and one billion people lack access to fresh water. The poverty levels prevailing across the world have touched many Western countries. Easterly propose that West can employ other strategies in addition to foreign aid. These strategies include; nation building, spread of information regarding democracy and capitalism, giving loans from World Bank and International Monetary Fund, offering technical advice, military intervention, scientific technology to prevent and cure diseases, and neo-imperialism. Easterly define West as wealthy governments from Western Europe and North America who chiefly control international agencies and endeavors to change poor nations. However, over the time non-western countries such as Japan have joined to fight poverty.

            Poverty mostly inspires transformation. James Wolfensohn; the World Bank president, pinned a message on the wall of World Bank Headquarters that, ‘our dream is a world free of poverty.’ Wolfensohn has written about the World Bank in eloquence and inspiration. Easterly also highlight United States of America major efforts in eradicating poverty, promoting equality and human dignity, achieving of democracy, peace and environmental sustainability. Political leaders from various countries across the world consented on the Millennium Development Goals. There are eight appealing objectives in 2015 MDG’s; (a) curb hunger and extreme poverty, (b) attain universal primary enrollment, (3) encourage women empowerment and gender equality, (4) cut down child mortality, (5) mental health advancement, (6) combat malaria, AIDS, among other diseases, (7) guarantee environmental sustainability, and (8) build up a worldwide corporation for development.

            In 2005, British Prime Minister, Tony Blair pushed for Millennium Development goals. According to Blair, poverty could only be alleviated through increment of foreign aid. Blair report findings were released in March 2005. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown placed great efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa. The issue of poverty is placed among the leading agenda of the G8 in July 2005. The live concert assembled by Bob Geldof was helh on 2nd July 2005 to convince G8 leaders to alleviate poverty in Africa. In 1985, veterans of Live Aid Concert such as Madonna and Elton John performed with the same intentions. Coldplay is another band of younger generation that performed in 1985 with an aim of alleviating poverty in Africa. A lot of people attended G8 meeting because they were moved by the level of poverty in Africa. These people were willing to spend their time for the desperate and the needy.

            To help the poor today requires acknowledging past efforts that were conducted for the same course. Unluckily, west have pitiful trail record of pact approaches. For instance, 1990’s UN summit universal primary-school enrollment was anticipated to be completed by 2000. According to the new Millennium Goals it is planned for 2015. 1977 summit agreed that the deadline for access to sanitation and clean water would be 1990; however, it is now a 2015 Millennium goals. This reveals major failure since nobody was held accountable for the missed objectives. The current focus of big plans has taken a new replica where they have started engaging in war against terror. The war against terror has done more harm than good because there is major destruction in African countries. The war against terror resembles cold war since military interventions are similar. Easterly propose that neo-imperialist enthusiasm is similar to the past colonial enthusiasm. Military occupation and intervention illustrate a typical planner’s outlook of applying a basic external retort from West to a multifaceted internal predicament in the Rest.

            The West has leaves the rest with a lot of debts, they continue to double foreign aid, but these countries are not able to pay back the loans. For instance, in 2005, G8 doubled foreign aid given to Africa from twenty five billion dollars to fifty billion dollars and forgave them the loans they had given them during the previous dealings. In the Rest local politicians are the searchers who do not necessarily understand needs of the poor. Planners are popular because they are wealthy group; however, they do not understand the needs of the poor people (Willis, 2011). The wealthy people ask for tangible actions to solve big issues which are compassionate and understandable. Big plans keep the wealthy people happy because they believe that big issues such as world poverty are being solved. The West pushes for poverty alleviation and maintains that anything or something must be done regardless of how it will be conducted.

            Foreign aid can only be effective if only these aid agencies evaluate appropriate approaches where the funds should be redirected. In his book, Easterly suggest that people should not suppose that big plan reform will occur in the foreign aid. The only big plan that occurs is the discontinuation of the big plans. H e also adds that the solitary big answer is that there is no big answer. Celebrities donate insecticide-treated nets to the poor; however, those nets end in the black markets. Black market is one of the many factors that drag countries behind. These nets end up being wedding veils and fishing nets. Malawian government was investigating an approach to make advancement on malaria. They concluded that bed nets would be one of the solutions; therefore they focused on the two-channel sales idea and the antenatal clinic. This system was not aimed at ensuring that insecticide-treated donation nets worked at all conditions, but a creative response to a given problem. The donation of nets creates additional problems instead of being a cure for malaria (Easterly, 2007).

            The most annoying thing about planners is how belittling they are as they provide foreign aid. They usually refer themselves as “We” which means “we whites” which is white man’s burden in the present world. As the West make efforts of how to increase the grants from $50 billion to the poor countries, the two poor countries were busy increasing income to $715 billion annually. This shows how foreign aid will make the poor countries to be mental slaves of the West. The poor countries should be thinking of how they can find appropriate solutions to the prevailing problems instead of waiting for foreign aid. Countries such Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea have been able to move from third world countries to the first world countries in the last four decades. They were able to achieve this without foreign aid from western countries and full support from their governments (Easterly, 2007). The countries that are in the bottom fourth in regard of receiving foreign aid as part of their income have had no issues achieving healthy growth rates. These countries have experienced 2.5% fold increase in income over the last four decades.

            The West cannot transform the rest by giving them grants, but it is only the poor who can change their conditions by being their own searchers. The poor should be borrowing technology and ideas from the west rather than depending on foreign aid. High aid revenues benefits national government political insiders who are usually corrupt. These corrupt insiders robustly oppose democracy that would ensure equitable distribution of aid. Recent research findings reveal that foreign aid decreases democracy and worsen the government. Steve Knack, a World Bank official recognized that foreign aid cause violation of law, worsen bureaucratic quality and impose corruption (Easterly, 2007). In 1993, World Bank efforts to assist Pakistan reform their social conditions had adverse effects to the country. The social action program resulted to marginal improvement, stagnation and decline of social indicators. The failure of SAP was mainly caused by corruption among top politicians who used the grants for their personal gain (Easterly, 2007).

            In conclusion, foreign aid caused more harm than good. The countries who receive foreign aid experience low economic growth and remain highly indebted. Foreign aid causes corruption, worsen the government and decrease democracy. High aid from the West usually ends up in the hands of corrupt political insiders who use the same money to oppose democracy. In the efforts to provide foreign aid to treat threatening diseases such as malaria by providing insecticide-treated nets, foreign aid causes more harm. The nets end up in the black market which greatly affects the economy of a given country. Research findings show that in most cases donors gain interest in bad governments. Therefore, the only cure to the poor countries is to find appropriate methods of solving their problems. Poor countries should seek technological assistance and ideas from the West rather than foreign aid.


Easterly, W. (2007). The white man’s burden: Why the West’s efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good. New York: Penguin Press.

Willis, K. (2011). Theories and practices of development. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

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