On tyrannical experts and expert tyrants
Easterly’s Tyranny of Experts is a paean to freedom, democracy, and the rights of the poor. It rightly damns the “technological illusion” that development is an engineering problem, not a political problem that cannot be solved by experts, particularly not by outside experts. While Tyranny is strong in its denunciation of inappropriate experts, it is less strong in explaining the proper role of expertise. Although the extent of knowledge is often overstated, we are not completely ignorant about the effects of policies, especially of harmful policies. We should indeed champion the rights of the poor and their full participation in a democratic state. But it is too optimistic to believe that rights and democracy by themselves will guarantee growth and prosperity, and the argument that rights and democracy are both necessary and sufficient for population health is largely wishful thinking.