Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails

(Stanford University Press, 2013)

Book Forum
June 5, 2013 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM EDT

1st floor/Wintergarden

Featuring the author Christopher J. Coyne, F. A. Harper Professor of Economics, George Mason University; with comments by M. Peter McPherson, Former Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, 1981 – 1987; moderated by Malou Innocent, Foreign Policy Analyst, Cato Institute.

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. Join us as experts discuss this hotly debated topic.