100 books like Dead Aid

By Dambisa Moyo,

Here are 100 books that Dead Aid fans have personally recommended if you like Dead Aid. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Bueno de Mesquita and Smith emphasize the desire of leaders to seek political survival after all else. The authors show how democratic and autocratic leaders respond to the political institutions that they are embedded in, by having systemically distinct policy proclivities. The academic version of the theory is in their book The Logic of Political Survival. The Dictators’ Handbook is the version meant for popular consumption. It is full of examples of leaders making policy choices that benefit their political survival at the expense of their own people who they profess to rule for. I assign the book to illustrate the theory in classes in Comparative Politics. The examples in the book, all of which are non-fiction, are always popular with undergraduate students.

By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (lead author), Alastair Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dictator's Handbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith's canonical book on political science turned conventional wisdom on its head. They started from a single assertion: leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They don't care about the "national interest"-or even their subjects-unless they must.

Newly updated to reflect the global rise of authoritarianism, this clever and accessible book illustrates how leaders amass and retain power. As Bueno de Mesquita and Smith show, democracy is essentially just a convenient fiction. Governments do not differ in kind, but only in the number of essential supporters or backs that need scratching. The size of…


Book cover of The Taming of Democracy Assistance

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Democracy aid deals with governance-related political reforms. Using statistics and case studies of the US, Tunisia, and Jordan, Bush understands the failures of democracy aid through the lenses of organizational politics. On the donors’ side, Bush documents how the professionalization of democracy aid forces nongovernmental groups to prioritize projects with quantifiable outputs that bureaucrats want. On the recipients’ side, Bush demonstrates the attempts by authoritarian regimes to control, restrict and co-opt the nongovernmental groups that seek democratic reforms. Buffeted from both directions, such nongovernmental groups respond by avoiding serious projects that challenge the authoritarian regime. Instead, they prioritize symbolic projects that look good to the bureaucrats in the donors but fail to promote genuine democratization. It is organizational politics run amok. 

By Sarah Sunn Bush,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Taming of Democracy Assistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few government programs that aid democracy abroad today seek to foster regime change. Technical programs that do not confront dictators are more common than the aid to dissidents and political parties that once dominated the field. What explains this 'taming' of democracy assistance? This book offers the first analysis of that puzzle. In contrast to previous research on democracy aid, it focuses on the survival instincts of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that design and implement democracy assistance. To survive, Sarah Bush argues that NGOs seek out tamer types of aid, especially as they become more professional. Diverse evidence - including…


Book cover of Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S.-Egyptian Alliance

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Besides foreign aid, there is also military aid. Brownlee’s book is a study of the American-Egyptian alliance during the 30 years of Hosni Mubarak’s regime. His insight is that the US strategic interests are better met with an authoritarian, instead of a democratic, Egypt. Pay attention to his account of the Egyptian parliamentary elections in 2005-2007 and the 2006 Gaza War. Both are instances where US and Egyptian preferences diverge. In the first case, the US backed down once it realized further liberalization could allow the Muslim Brotherhood, an anti-American party to come to power. In the latter case, the US was able to arm-twist a reluctant Egypt as Israeli security was at stake. These eye-opening examples support his claim that the American-Egyptian alliance supports authoritarian survival.

By Jason Brownlee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Democracy Prevention as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a popular revolt forced long-ruling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign on February 11, 2011, US President Barack Obama hailed the victory of peaceful demonstrators in the heart of the Arab World. But Washington was late to endorse democracy - for decades the United States favored Egypt's rulers over its people. Since 1979, the United States had provided the Egyptian regime with more than $60 billion in aid and immeasurable political support to secure its main interests in the region: Israeli security and strong relations with Persian Gulf oil producers. During the Egyptian uprising, the White House did not…


Book cover of Aid Imperium: United States Foreign Policy and Human Rights in Post-Cold War Southeast Asia

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Regilme studies the negative impact of US foreign aid on Philippines’s and Thailand’s human rights. He argues that the shared policy expectations between the donors and recipient governments and the domestic legitimacy of recipient regime jointly determine the extent of human rights abuse. The recipients with strong domestic legitimacy need only use the foreign aid on legitimate military threats. This was the case for the Philippines and Thailand in the 1990s. When the domestic legitimacy of the recipient regime is weak, that foreign aid is strategically repurposed to include the repression of the political opposition. This explains the human rights abuse in Thaksin and Arroyo administrations. The book helps us understand how authoritarian aid recipients can manipulate foreign aid to seek political survival. 

By Salvador Santino Fulo Regilme,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Aid Imperium as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Does foreign aid promote human rights? As the world's largest aid donor, the United States has provided foreign assistance to more than 200 countries. Deploying global numerical data on US foreign aid and comparative historical analysis of America's post-Cold War foreign policies in Southeast Asia, Aid Imperium provides the most comprehensive explanation that links US strategic assistance to physical integrity rights outcomes in recipient countries, particularly in ways that previous quantitative studies have systematically ignored. The book innovatively highlights the active political agency of Global South states and actors as they negotiate and chart their political trajectories with the United…


Book cover of Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution

Daromir Rudnyckyj Author Of Beyond Debt: Islamic Experiments in Global Finance

From my list on how anthropology helps us understand the economy.

Who am I?

I'm an economic anthropologist and teach classes and conduct research in this area. Economic anthropology is different from economics in that it questions many of the things that economics takes for granted. For example, most economists assume that allocating goods through the market by buying and selling is the best way to organize human communities. Economic anthropologists have shown, in contrast, that many societies have been organized according to other exchange principles. In fact, some of the oldest communities in the world, such as Sumer and Babylon, based their economies around elaborate systems of redistribution, in which every citizen was guaranteed food shares.

Daromir's book list on how anthropology helps us understand the economy

Daromir Rudnyckyj Why did Daromir love this book?

We often think that unemployed people are lazy or lack ambition. 

Ferguson shows how in certain parts of the world the problem is not indolence but the fact that there are simply not enough jobs for all those who need employment or would like to work. With the acceleration of automation, offshoring, and artificial intelligence this situation could become far worse and ultimately create a great deal of social and political instability. 

Ferguson documents how a number of states around the world have adopted universal basic income programs, in which poor people are provided funds by the government with no work requirements or other strings attached. The book shows how changing our thinking about the morality attached to work might actually create more stable societies.

By James Ferguson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Give a Man a Fish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Give a Man a Fish James Ferguson examines the rise of social welfare programs in southern Africa, in which states make cash payments to their low income citizens. More than thirty percent of South Africa's population receive such payments, even as pundits elsewhere proclaim the neoliberal death of the welfare state. These programs' successes at reducing poverty under conditions of mass unemployment, Ferguson argues, provide an opportunity for rethinking contemporary capitalism and for developing new forms of political mobilization. Interested in an emerging "politics of distribution," Ferguson shows how new demands for direct income payments (including so-called "basic income")…


Book cover of The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India's New Gilded Age

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta Author Of Gas Wars - Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis

From my list on crony capitalism.

Who am I?

For over 44 years, I have been a writer, speaker, anchor, interviewer, teacher, analyst/commentator, publisher, producer, director, and consultant across different mass media: the written word, the spoken word, and the audio-visual medium – printed publications and websites, radio and podcasts, television, and documentary cinema. As a student of the political economy of India, I have sought to investigate the working of the nexus between business and politics. I am of the view that crony capitalism and oligarchy are at the roots of much that has gone wrong in the country of my birth and domicile which is often described as the “world’s largest democracy”.

Paranjoy's book list on crony capitalism

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta Why did Paranjoy love this book?

American author Mark Twain had described the last decades of the 19th century as the Gilded Age in the United States, a period when on the surface everything appeared to be glittering like gold concealing the filth and ugliness that lay beneath. British journalist and academic James Crabtree, now based in Singapore, believes that the last few decades in India closely resembles the Gilded Age of the US. His 357-page book is filled with dozens of anecdotes about some of India’s most wealthy individuals such as Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, and Vijay Mallya. His meetings with them and his detailed descriptions of their lifestyles and demeanour make for racy reading. 

A disclaimer: Crabtree has described in flattering terms his meeting with this writer and referred to some of my articles and books.

By James Crabtree,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Billionaire Raj as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A colorful and revealing portrait of the rise of India’s new billionaire class in a radically unequal society

India is the world’s largest democracy, with more than one billion people and an economy expanding faster than China’s. But the rewards of this growth have been far from evenly shared, and the country’s top 1% now own nearly 60% of its wealth. In megacities like Mumbai, where half the population live in slums, the extraordinary riches of India’s new dynasties echo the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers of America's Gilded Age, funneling profits from huge conglomerates into lifestyles of conspicuous consumption.  

James Crabtree’s…


Book cover of The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate

Clifford F. Thies Author Of Global Economics: A Holistic Approach

From my list on the global economy.

Who am I?

I am the Eldon R. Lindsey Chair of Free Enterprise and Professor of Economics and Finance at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. Most of my writing is academic, including in the Independent Review, Journal of Markets and Morality, and Presidential Studies Quarterly recently. Before pursuing my doctoral degree, I served in the U.S. Army and worked for an insurance company.

Clifford's book list on the global economy

Clifford F. Thies Why did Clifford love this book?

This recommendation is more technical than my previous recommendations.

The authors reconstruct many measures of income and income inequality to show that the widening gap indicated by official statistics is an artifact of certain assumptions underlying these statistics.

First, and most importantly, regarding those who are dependent on the social safety net, "income" includes only cash benefits dispensed by the government, not the cash value of non-cash benefits; and, for those who are taxpayers, "income" is defined as before-tax income, not after-tax income.

Second, monetary values are incorrectly corrected by the CPI (the authors propose using the chained-linked CPI).

The book might be considered to present an agenda for further research on the specifics it addresses and similar concerns.

By Phil Gramm, Robert Ekelund, John Early

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Myth of American Inequality as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2022: Politics

Everything you know about income inequality, poverty, and other measures of economic well-being in America is wrong. In this provocative book, a former United States senator, eminent economist, and a former senior leader at the Bureau of Labor Statistics challenge the prevailing consensus that income inequality is a growing threat to American society. By taking readers on a deep dive into the way government measures economic well-being, they demonstrate that our official statistics dramatically overstate inequality. Getting the facts straight reveals that the key measures of well-being are greater than the…


Book cover of The Great Surge: The Ascent of the Developing World

Gregg Easterbrook Author Of It's Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear

From my list on hope for the future.

Who am I?

As an author, I write both serious nonfiction and literary fiction. As a journalist, I have lifelong associations with The Atlantic and the Washington Monthly. I didn’t plan it, but four of my nonfiction books make an extended argument for the revival of optimism as intellectually respectable. A Moment on the Earth (1995) argued environmental trends other than greenhouse gases actually are positive, The Progress Paradox (2003) asserted material standards will keep rising but that won’t make people any happier, Sonic Boom (2009), published during the despair of the Great Recession, said the global economy would bounce back and It’s Better Than It Looks (2018) found the situation objectivity good on most major issues.

Gregg's book list on hope for the future

Gregg Easterbrook Why did Gregg love this book?

Maybe you think Asia and Africa are mired in depressing immiseration. Certainly that’s what the mainstream media sell us. Yet in the last 25 years more progress has been made against poverty in these places than in all of previous human history combined! Radelet, a professor at Georgetown University, shows that the improvement – still a long way to go, of course – of the developing world is the most important thing happening in our spinning world. 

By Steven Radelet,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Great Surge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The untold story of the global poor: "Powerful, lucid, and revelatory, The Great Surge...offers indispensable prescriptions about sustaining global economic progress into the future" (George Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management).

We live today at a time of great progress for the global poor. Never before have so many people, in so many developing countries, made so much progress, in so short a time in reducing poverty, increasing incomes, improving health, reducing conflict and war, and spreading democracy.

Most people believe the opposite: that with a few exceptions like China and India, the majority of developing countries are hopelessly mired…


Book cover of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor

Liah Greenfeld Author Of The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth

From my list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism.

Who am I?

The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth is the second volume of my nationalism trilogy. When I published the first volume, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, the accepted view on the subject of nationalism was that it is a product of economic development, specifically, of industrialization and capitalism. On the basis of historical evidence, I proved that its emergence had nothing to do with these economic phenomena: in fact, it preceded both. Reviews of Nationalism, noting that, for this reason, economic developments could not have caused nationalism, raised the question what relationship, then, did exist between nationalism and the economy, and this led me to investigate it. 

Liah's book list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism

Liah Greenfeld Why did Liah love this book?

This book is a rare attempt by an eminent economic historian to examine cultural determinants of economic growth and answer the question why it happens, which distinguishes it sharply from the discipline’s exclusive focus on how it proceeds.

Landes, in other words, disentangles the explanation of causes from the preoccupation with the process, which is why I recommend this book.

By David S. Landes,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Wealth and Poverty of Nations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now that the old division of the world into the two power blocs of East and West has subsided, the great gap in wealth and health that separates North and South remains the single greatest problem and danger facing the world of the Third Millennium. The only challenge of comparable scope and difficulty is the threat of the environmental deterioration, and the two are intimately connected, indeed are one. David Landes argues that the North-South division is the great drama of our times, and that drama implies tension, passion, conflict and disappointment as well as happy outcomes. While Landes does…


Book cover of The Specter of "the People": Urban Poverty in Northeast China

Dorothy J. Solinger Author Of Poverty and Pacification: The Chinese State Abandons the Old Working Class

From my list on poverty and social welfare in the US and China.

Who am I?

I’ve been studying China for almost 60 years and have visited the country 40 times. Around 1990 I became aware of the sad situation of migrants from the countryside trying to move to cities to earn a better living. There they are met with low wages, poor living conditions, and discrimination. I spent 6 or 7 years interviewing them and writing about them and the book I wrote won a prize for the best book on 20th century China published in 1999. Then I learned about the workers who were laid off as China modernized, and went to talk with them. The present book is full of empathy and concern for these people.

Dorothy's book list on poverty and social welfare in the US and China

Dorothy J. Solinger Why did Dorothy love this book?

This is a brilliant anthropological field study of how rural migrants and laid-off Chinese workers cope with their lot in a region where factories have shut down and there are few ways of earning money.

The two competing groups are both very poorly served by the government and they are forced to live among trash with little to no welfare. There are here, again, copious quotations from the people involved and you can learn a lot about the varying conditions that mark the different lives of these two groups of people.

By Mun Young Cho,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Specter of "the People" as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Despite massive changes to its economic policies, China continues to define itself as socialist; since 1949 and into the present, the Maoist slogan "Serve the People" has been a central point of moral and political orientation. Yet several decades of market-based reforms have resulted in high urban unemployment, transforming the proletariat vanguard into a new urban poor. How do unemployed workers come to terms with their split status, economically marginalized but still rhetorically central to the way China claims to understand itself? How does a state dedicated to serving "the people" manage the poverty of its citizens? Mun Young Cho…


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