Doing Bad by Doing Good

June 7, 2013

A common argument for intervening abroad is to alleviate potential or existing human suffering. Repeatedly, however, state-led humanitarian efforts have failed miserably. Why do well-funded, expertly staffed, and well-intentioned humanitarian actions often fall short of achieving their desired outcomes, leaving some of the people they intended to help worse off? Why are well-meaning countries unable to replicate individual instances of success consistently across cases of human suffering?

Using the tools of economics, Dr. Christopher Coyne’s new book, Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails, shifts the discussion from the moral imperative of how governments should behave to a positive analysis of how they actually do. Coyne examines the limits of short-term humanitarian aid and long-term development assistance, the disconnect between intentions and reality, and why economic freedom — protection of property rights, private means of production, and free trade of labor and goods — provides the best means for minimizing human suffering.

Video produced by Caleb O. Brown and Austin Bragg.

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