Take, for example the Aid Watch blog itself, whose motto is "Just asking that aid benefit the poor."
Now (bear with me for a moment here!) let's say you're back in the historical paradise of planning, namely the Soviet Union. Everyday, you have to eat the same old cr&p food...
Then one day, a leader arrives, with a banner that reads "Just asking that the food not suck!" You cheer! You hoist your comrade on your shoulders! At last, you are fighting back against the system. The battle for better cafeteria food is on!!
But what is the opportunity that is missed here? What is the thing you really need, that you're not going to get from the "Just asking that aid benefit the"--I mean, the "Just asking that the food not suck" campaign?
What you're not getting, and what you really need, is some new restaurants!! Yes, that would be just the thing. Some options. You would like another place to go to eat.
There is a general rule here: What really drives change isn't protest, but genuine competition driven by consumer choice. (Back to dining for a moment: Think about food in airports twenty-five years ago, if you were alive then. All Sodexo monopoly. Uniformly terrible and expensive. Now, with entry and competition for licenses, the food in the airport is at least as good as what you get outside the airport.)
Entry (or threat of entry) doesn't have to be by entrepreneurs in order for it to induce beneficial change. In the U.S., the most significant new entrant in the aid business in the last decade has been the Department of Defense. At his big event at Brookings last month, Easterly ridiculed the assertion by Secretary of State Clinton that the DoD's mission could be aligned with development, saying:
Her big think point was that we can merge defense, diplomacy, and development. And that’s probably one of the worst ideas I’ve heard in my career as a development economist.Well, what does he think is more likely to stir USAID from its longstanding torpor: (a) the Aid Watch blog, or (b) the threat of being rendered obsolete by the Pentagon? I'd put my money on (b).
So instead of "just asking that aid benefit the poor," how about just asking for some new restaurants?