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During a presentation on Monday at Copper Union of his new book “The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor,” William Easterly, Professor of Economics at New York University (NYU) and Director of the Development Research Institute, argued that the logic used by the World Bank and the financial institutions working on economical development in Third World countries didn’t follow the experiences and practices used in Europe and North America. It is the process of expanding rights for people that produces economic growth. The Chinese economical development goes somewhat on that direction; people in China today have a little more rights that under Mao Zedong. It is refreshing to hear someone question the humanitarian approach of the economical help the West offers the rest of the world. It will be better for those experts to help develop the rights of the communities they want to help economically, instead of imposing loans linked to social and economical re-structurations that are later followed by sanctions.
As a personal opinion, maybe what we call the “economical crisis” here at home is a consequence of that logic. For the last 30 year, people, mainly the poor, have lost a large part of their rights in the U.S.: the right to free access to health and education, rights to free circulation between Canada and Mexico, loss of some access to banks, loss of some rights to vote, the right to get unionized, the right to a decent minimum wage. Police became linked to the immigration agency and it is much more complicated to establish a small business as the regulations and permits are just over the roof.
Now we have a great and solid argument for New York City to get the rights to vote for legal resident in municipal elections: it will improve our Democracy and produce economic growth.