Did the IMF cause the Ebola crisis? Of course not.

There’s been a lot of news coverage today of a Lancet op-ed that blames IMF austerity for making the Ebola crisis worse.

My reaction in The Monkey Cage:

Unfortunately, this just doesn’t really make sense if you’re familiar with the governments in these places, local politics, or more generally how weak states actually work. …it illustrates of the perils of doing research from afar, and ignoring politics.

In my experience, you don’t see this as much when people write about India or China or Iraq. Too many people know something about these countries, including newspaper and journal editors. As a writer or researcher, you don’t get away with ignoring the context: who makes the decisions, who has what incentives, and what arms of the government can actually get things done.

When it comes to Africa, however, too many people are willing to assume it’s a blank slate, and that nations dance to the tune of Western donors and banks. Or that weak states are functioning, rational bureaucracies. I think this is one reason why so many newspapers are picking up the “IMF caused the Ebola crisis” so uncritically.

Read more here.