Christianity Today has an excellent interview with economist William Easterly on his new book The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor. In it, Easterly explains that poverty is a moral problem that cannot be easily fixed by technocratic solutions. The answer comes from treating the poor with the same dignity as everyone else. He explains,
I realized our attitude towards the poor is so often condescending and paternalistic. We think of them as helpless individuals. We don’t respect their dignity as individuals.
The next step was not to just avoid paternalism or condescension but actually to go back to first principles and think about the rights of the poor and what role those rights play in development. Economists’ research actually does give the institutions associated with individual rights a lot of the credit for the development in the West and the rest of the world. This combined with my own moral awakening that these rights are a desirable good in and of themselves. Whenever we violate them, we set back development.
Check it out.