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Less than one percent
November 7, 2004 8:09 PM   Subscribe

Driven, immodest, intense and abrasive, Jeffrey Sachs is clearly a man on a mission. That mission is ending global poverty in our lifetimes. Can the man who once administered "shock therapy" to a reeling Russia, with tragic if predictable results, redeem himself? And even if the developed world somehow comes to a consensus that this is a project worth undertaking, would it work? (Apologies for yet another NYT piece.)
posted by adamgreenfield (9 comments total)

 
Note to anyone looking up Jeffrey Sachs on various wikipedia-derived sources--the Jeffrey Sachs who was the boyfriend of Argentinian actress Andrea del Boca is not the Jeffrey Sachs who is the head of the Earth Institute at Columbia, longtime Harvard professor, etc.

del Boca's Jeffrey Sachs is younger and has a different middle initial.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:23 PM on November 7, 2004


Global Poverty Inc. is so going to crush this guy.
posted by quonsar at 8:28 PM on November 7, 2004


He didn't have an answer to the question, "can you prove that all the billions already spent have done any good?"

Lots of post-colonial countries have gotten on the road from poverty to prosperity, and they've done it with law and order, free enterprise, and titling of and respect for private property.

The only additional classes of foreign aid in Africa we should support is to create, and compensate well, offices of Registrars of Deeds, and Western-standard civil courts and divisions of bailiffs to enforce their decrees.
posted by MattD at 9:41 AM on November 8, 2004


Not that I am necessarily disagreeing with you about the importance of the rule of law, etc., but which "post-colonial countries have gotten on the road from poverty to prosperity" precisely?

Also, can you show me why an Anglo-American model of jurisprudence is so sufficiently attuned to the needs of Africans that it should be imposed in preference to other models?
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:28 AM on November 8, 2004


but which "post-colonial countries have gotten on the road from poverty to prosperity" precisely?

Well, the United States of a America, for one, though it has some of its own problems...

Seriously, it's worth remembering the country was in fact a series of colonies at one time... and for a long time, had a frontier lawlessness to it that made it not completely disimilar to some places we now consider third-world. And indeed, according to Hernando de Soto, certain legal decisions/structures, as MattD described, helped us play with capital better, which led to more investment and riches. It seems like a pretty good theory.
posted by weston at 10:54 AM on November 8, 2004


Good legal structures are more important than the concept, that Sachs used to advocate, that the "right" laws are implemented. The "shock therapy" formula used in Russia was actually the opposite of the rule of law-- screw the will of the people, get a bunch of rich guys in charge that will force through policies that hurt the populace at large that conform to a specific ideology, and then hope that good things will magically happen. All too often, these initiatives to "end third world poverty" end up with a large number of strings attached to force countries to adopt a set of laws that actually hurts their people and gives the country less control over its own destiny.

On the other hand, very, very inexpensive initiatives can be taken in the third world that will improve people's lives, such as ensuring that everyone has potable water.
posted by deanc at 11:09 AM on November 8, 2004


Countries to look at in the poverty-to-prosperity transformation include South Korea, India and China.

In fact, Africa has advantages which those countries didn't have. African natural resources vastly exceed on a per capita basis those of India, China or South Korea. Virtually every African country has a common law or civil law judicial system which could be revived, an English- or French-speaking educated population, and a large American and European diaspora ready to come home if they saw the opportunity to invest.

It took India and China 40+ years to figure out that they had to ditch socialism. Independent Africans have had just about that 40 years now, so I'm hopeful that they'll start to do the same.
posted by MattD at 12:51 PM on November 8, 2004


But MattD, none of the countries you namecheck has a free market system, and none of them had, until very very recently, anything like a consistent rule of law. You refute yourself!

Lookit: South Korea was a military dictatorship with a "guided," chaebol-driven economy. India is still a socialist dog's breakfast of preferential contracts. We don't even need to get into China, but I can hardly believe you're going to claim it as exemplary of "law and order, free enterprise, and titling of and respect for private property."

What is it, precisely, that you think should be emulated here?
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:51 PM on November 8, 2004


But MattD, none of the countries you namecheck has a free market system, and none of them had, until very very recently, anything like a consistent rule of law. You refute yourself!

psssst... adam.. don't tell him... it's too much fun, let him go on...
posted by matteo at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2004


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