2007 Reith Lectures
April 13, 2007 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Over the next four weeks, Jeffrey Sachs will be giving the 2007 BBC Reith Lectures. Download [MP3] the first week's lecture ("Bursting at the Seams"), or subscribe [XML] to the podcast. Listen to the 1999-2006 lectures in full, or hear historic lecturers such as Bertrand Russell and J.K. Galbraith.
posted by Aloysius Bear (14 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks so much for putting this up. I have one question, and I might just be a moron who isn't seeing it, but are there mp3 versions of the historical lectures available?
posted by Sangermaine at 12:36 PM on April 13, 2007

V. S. Ramachandran's Reith lectures from a few years ago were fascinating and really worth the listen. He wrote a book called Phantoms in the Brain that goes over a lot of the same territory.
posted by Falconetti at 12:37 PM on April 13, 2007

As far as I can tell, there are only RAM (RealPlayer) versions of the historical lectures.

The BBC made a deal with Real a few years ago where Real make a special ad-free, spyware-free version of RealPlayer that the BBC offers, and in return the BBC uses RealPlayer for everything except MP3 for podcasts. Hopefully they'll see sense soon, and switch to MP3, but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 12:44 PM on April 13, 2007

I attended a Sachs lecture a couple of years ago and found him quite compelling. Looking forward to this -- thanks.
posted by treepour at 12:50 PM on April 13, 2007

Sachs should not be accepted unquestioningly.

For example, the wikipedia entry on Sachs features this quote: "Africa's governance is poor because Africa is poor." The solution that Sachs proposes (to just about everything) is to put more foreign aid into poor countries - "from the $65bn level of 2002 to $195bn a year by 2015." Since when has putting more money into corrupt environments done anything but increase the levels of corruption and waste?

We've been giving aid this way for 50 years, and its worked in some places and not in others. The places where aid has had a positive impact on people's lives are places where governments work better than average and there is less corruption, southeast asia, india, botswana, not where there is more aid. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a definition of futility and insanity.

Right now, we're pouring aid money into leaking buckets, and everything that leaks out is absorbed by corrupt and usually authoritarian leaders at the national and local levels, not to mention siphoned off by the western consultants and IFIs that manage the process (yes, I'm talking to you, Paul Wolfowitz). The intended recipients of the aid - the poor, the sick, the young?

So wouldn't it make more sense to try to fix the holes in the buckets before (or at least at the same times as) we pour more money into them? Shouldn't we devote at least as much of our resources to putting some pressure on the leaderships of these countries to get their government institutions working, to get parliaments that actually represent people, civic groups that can monitor government spending, media that can report on it?

(Aid has worked better when it has bypassed the rotten institutions of government found in most developing countries (rotten in part because of the colonial legacy and post-colonial exploitation, but also because of the aid itself), for example through micro-enterprise and to womens organizations, but you can't give those kinds of organizations the vast quantities of money that Sachs is talking about. )

Even as I write this, I know that it'll be overwhelmed by accusations of being cold-hearted and not caring about the millions of sick and hungry poor around the world. And few development professionals are going to be honest about this, because who is going to argue against a massive infusion of cash into their business. Oh well. Its hard to be a libertarian liberal. And sorry, I know rambled on for too long.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 1:00 PM on April 13, 2007

The Glabraith lecture is so depressing, so much for the "supply and demand law"
posted by zouhair at 1:06 PM on April 13, 2007

RandlePatrickMcMurphy, on the contrary, I think yours is a reasonable objection, and it's one that Sachs takes seriously. I don't have the time (or memory) right now to articulate his counterargument, but it do recall that I found it reasonable, supported, and well-stated. He's position isn't a simple "throw-money-at-it-and-hope-for-the-best" one.
posted by treepour at 1:09 PM on April 13, 2007

Randle, Sachs certainly does not go uncontested... William Easterly is a prime critic, and there is alot of intellectual resistance by many in the development field who don't want to see international aid and development killed when/if Sachs' "big push" approach/ theories are implemented and fail. (Sachs's big thing is that Africa is in a "poverty trap" that preempts the classic neo-classical savings and growth models, Sachs believes that a "big push" (in the right ways! see his Millennium Villages Project) will push SSA out of the trap and into growth.

The main problem is that the big push was presented 40 years ago and it failed for a variety of reasons. It MAY work but again, many people see a failure has killing any long term political hope for continued aid to Africa.

When seeing him speak I found Sachs to be very compelling . So compelling that I feared he played the role of the evangelist better than that of the global problem solver. *shrug*

For more reading Easterly's site has alot of good stuff including debates with Sachs...
posted by stratastar at 1:20 PM on April 13, 2007

Talk about depressing. I jumped at the opportunity to hear Bertrand Russell's lecture. But the archive lectures are .ram files. *leans over desk, hurls*

(Has anybody watched Leonard Bernstein give his Harvard lectures? Now, that's fucking hilarious stuff.)
posted by phaedon at 1:55 PM on April 13, 2007

Also available via this MeFi Project
posted by horsemuth at 5:51 PM on April 13, 2007

whether you realize it or not, you guys are just parroting the racist line about all African countries and governments being corrupt and unsupportable. If i've heard anything before, I've heard this, over and over and over. The same things are said about my own city, in the United States, because we were/are a majority black city.

What is different about Sachs's ideas, at least the ones in "the End of Poverty," is that for the UNDP, the aid will be based on the needs of an organized plan developed by the countries in need themselves, for themselves. the transparency of the plan will aid accountability. This is different than the way aid has worked in the past.

The usual way international aid has worked is that the rich countries only give as much as they want, to whom they want--and half the time they are only giving the money to G7-based contractors anyhow. if aid is given, it's given selectively, based on the preferences of the giving country, and more often than not this leads to corruption--and in hindsight, how can it not?

All this talk about corruption is a very convenient way to weasel out of responsibility. But it's bullshit. the G7 need to own up on their own role in the "corruption" problem and stop painting Africa with that broad brush.
posted by eustatic at 10:54 PM on April 13, 2007

whether you realize it or not, you guys are just parroting the racist line about all African countries and governments being corrupt and unsupportable.
Who said that? And how is it a "racist line"? African countries are corrupt. Take a look at the 2006 Transparency International Corruption Index. I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. It's racist to imply that African countries have corruption? Surely you aren't saying that there is no corruption in Africa. It's an objective fact, and it has nothing to do with skin color. Many African nations have extremely poorly run governments, for a variety of reasons. Just flat out denying this isn't going to help anyone.

It's not just "bullshit". Corruption is a serious problem that syphons money away from those that needs it. The G7 didn't magically cause corruption in African nations, and acknowledging its reality isn't "a convenient way to weasel out of responsibility." RandlePatrickMcMurphy is right, just dumping money isn't going to help. You need to make sure that money is used correctly. Saying African countries are corrupt doesn't mean you shouldn't give any money at all, it just means that there are problems that need to be looked at when giving out that money.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:12 AM on April 14, 2007

Recent FT interview
posted by IndigoJones at 8:51 AM on April 14, 2007

At the lecture I attended, Sachs made the following point (disclaimer -- my paraphrase, based on distant memory): there is no essential relationship between corruption and level of economic "development". Some nations widely viewed to have corrupt governments have become quite developed. I believe he gave China and Singapore as two examples. Whereas some of the least corrupt (and he cited an African country, I don't recall which one) remain crippled by extreme poverty.
posted by treepour at 6:40 PM on April 14, 2007

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