Locust Effect? Fairly depressing with no good prescription

Locust Effect Cover

Gary Haugen’s The Locust Effect is both an important read as well as very frustrating read. As the book’s heart, Haugen seeks to lay out the case that the billions of aid that we spend on economic development as well as medical and social development is completely hampered by the lack of justice for the poor.  His data is complete and compelling – he illustrates the importance of sex crimes within the poor of areas such as Narobi, the Philippines, and Peru.  He shows the lack of judicial access that the poor have worldwide – and the crimes that result from that, ranging from slavery to property confiscation.  He calls this the Locust Effect – a plague of locusts that will eat up the benefits of international aid to the poor.

His particular concern is the lack of equity for the poor women of the world, especially in light of studies that show that women hold the key for bringing out of poverty.  For example, education of females is critical for reducing poverty yet school has become a primary location for sexual violence against girls, leading to families holding their daughters out of school.  And there is no recourse for the poor in terms of the legal system.  Should aid be spent on guaranteeing education for females? Yes, but unless buffered by law & order mechanisms, it will be largely wasted.

Haugen does not just a good job, but a great job in laying out  his thesis – that aid without access to justice and law enforcement is subject to be ineffective.  By mixing in personal stories with data, his is a thoroughly depressing book that makes you wonder what can be done.  And that becomes the root of the problem with the book.  It does not give a clear picture of how the reader can effectively help change?  Donate to his organization, International Justice Mission (which is a truly great cause, by the way)?  Call our congresspeople?  You just don’t know.  The key to a book like this lies not just in shining a light in a dark place, but showing how the reader can help bring people out of darkness.  Is there an easy answer? No, but some signposts on the way for the average reader to go would have made the book much more effective.

🙂 🙂 🙂 out of 5

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