Jason Hickel

The UN is hiding the true extent of global hunger

As the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire, the United Nations and the international NGO community are rallying around the conclusion that this has been “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history”. Poverty has been cut in half, they tell us. And hunger has taken a serious hit, falling narrowly shy of the target. It’s a…

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The microfinance delusion: who really wins?

I’m always amazed at how many students show up each year in the classrooms of the London School of Economics, where I teach, quivering with excitement about microfinance and other “bottom-of-the-pyramid” development strategies. Like eager young missionaries, they feel they’ve stumbled upon the One Idea that is sure to save the world. Would that it…

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The delusion at the heart of the sustainable development goals

This is a big year for the development industry. In September, the world’s heads of state will gather in New York City to decide on the new sustainable development goals (SDGs), which will replace the millennium development goals as they expire. This process might sound mundane and wonky to people who don’t follow the development…

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The death of international development

International development is dying; people just don’t buy it anymore. The West has been engaged in the project for more than six decades now, but the number of poor people in the world is growing, not shrinking, and inequality between rich and poor continues to widen instead of narrow. People know this, and they are…

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Exposing the great ‘poverty-reduction’ scandal

The received wisdom comes to us from every direction: poverty rates are declining and extreme poverty will soon be eradicated from the face of the earth. This narrative is delivered by the World Bank, the governments of rich countries, and – most importantly – the UN Millennium Development campaign. Relax, they tell us. The world…

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How to save capitalism from the capitalists

It is always a bit surprising to hear an economist described as a “rock star” in the media, but Thomas Piketty has been collecting this accolade in spades since the publication of his runaway bestseller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. It surely says something interesting about our times that this 700-page tome packed with dense…

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The new shock doctrine: ‘Doing Business’ with the World Bank

One of the problems with neoliberal economic policy is that it’s tough to get countries to agree to it; especially democratic ones. It has often required quite extreme measures, such as invasion — the classic example being the US-backed coup against Chile’s democratically elected president — or debt bondage and structural adjustment led by the…

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South Africa at 20: Storms behind the rainbow

April 27 marks the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections. Most of us remember those iconic images of citizens queuing up in long, snaking lines to vote Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) into power. It was an extraordinary moment, replete with hope and pregnant with expectation, enough to supply years’…

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Flipping the corruption myth

Transparency International recently published their latest annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), laid out in an eye-catching map of the world with the least corrupt nations coded in happy yellow and the most corrupt nations smeared in stigmatising red. The CPI defines corruption as “the misuse of public power for private benefit,” and draws its data…

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‘Free trade’ and the death of democracy

“Free trade”. The term itself is a trap — a brilliant framing device that neatly neutralises opposition. If you take a stand against free trade you appear to be taking a stand against freedom itself, which is clearly not a tenable position. In fact, in recent decades the term “free trade” has become very closely…

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