Arrogance and Aid


Jeffrey Sachs thinks we can end extreme poverty by shelling out $150 billion and giving the poor a "big push" to jumpstart economic development. In Sunday's Washington Post, William Easterly calls Sachs "the world's greatest economic reformer" and then rips into his plan:

What's the alternative? The piecemeal reform approach (which his book opposes) would humbly acknowledge that nobody can fully grasp the complexity of the political, social, technological, ecological and economic systems that underlie poverty. It would eschew the arrogance that "we" know exactly how to fix "them." It would shy away from the hubris of what he labels the "breathtaking opportunity" that "we" have to spread democracy, technology, prosperity and perpetual peace to the entire planet. Large-scale crash programs, especially by outsiders, often produce unintended consequences. The simple dreams at the top run afoul of insufficient knowledge of the complex realities at the bottom.

Daniel Drezner is respectfully skeptical, and Tyler Cowen compares "the end of poverty" to Dow 36,000.

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  1. I have a plan, too:

    End agricultural welfare in America, open up our markets to food grown in the third world, put economic pressure on Europe to do the same.

    Simple as that, and cheap, too.

    Can I be called ‘the world’s *second* greatest economic reformer’?

  2. Jeez, not very realistic. I don’t think our domestic meth labs could keep up with that kind of sudden demand. We might have to outsource.

  3. The poor are always with us. Of course what poverty means changes over time.

  4. If on one Clive Cusller’s early novels the bad gusy are super-rich businessmen who decide instead of leaving their wealth behind to fund Carnegie-ye foundations they are going to take over a couple of Latin or South American countries, institute market reofrms, Deming management methods etc, and then once these countries are flourishing they expect that their neighbors will be all gung ho to join the program.

    Of course the businessman resort to crime (including murder) and get their comeuppance from Dirk Pitt.

    It would be intersting if somehow some destitute country could be subject to a take over bid. The new owners come in invest some capital, build up some market-type institutions, turn things around and then can sell citizenships to this new paradise at a profit.

    Not that any of this could ever happen in the real world, but it’s nice to dream.

  5. James,

    Don’t wake me up yet…this is good.

  6. Along these lines, I thought I’d point out Ronald Bailey’s Reason article from 2002. Poor Planning: How to achieve the miracle of poverty. It argues that in today’s world it isn’t easy to keep your people poor and has some indispensable advice for any would-be “kleptocrats and egalitarians” who are seriously interested in achieving the “miracle of poverty.” It would be hilarious if it weren’t for the sad reality of so much suffering caused by the repeated implementations of these policies. If you are at all interested in this subject (and if you’re not, why are you reading this thread? ­čśë ) this article is not to be missed!

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