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Sunday, March 27, 2005


jeffrey sachs

sachs is the acknowledged champion of the washington consensus, the economic prescription of free markets so brilliantly described in daniel yergin's "the commanding heights" (and its pbs analogue).

he has also become one of the most vociferous advocates of rich country aid to relieve third world poverty. his recent book, "the end of poverty", destroys the notion that washington consensus free market reforms can do anything for the impoverished world. the defense he offered on cspan, in which he was frequently emotional, is one of the most lucid circumscriptions of free market effectiveness i've ever heard -- it should be mandatory viewing for anyone who considers themselves politically aware.

among the intense points he made -- the washington consensus worked in poland because poland had roads, electricity, and was not disease-ridden and ecologically deteriorated; this is not the case in ethiopia. the world bank offered $6/year/capita for health care in such countries, where the minimum for any effective system is $40-50 -- and then says it cannot commit more because of concerns about the effectiveness of those miniscule sums. rich donor nations could all but eliminate the problems of disease, food supply, infrastructure and transportation cost with the smallest sliver of their wealth; without such commitment, foreign direct investment (so critical to washington consensus resuscitations such as poland) cannot and will never happen -- and sachs boldly speaks to the duplicitous stupidity of free market "one-answer" economists who dreamily believe that poland and ethiopia are abstractly identical. debt cancellation is essential -- so important that sachs openly recommends that poor nations simply quit paying, regardless of what the g8 nations say.

i'll work to find a transcript of his talk on c-span book tv, but his book is in any case -- as an impassioned and rational demand for radically increased aid to the impoverished world by the world's leading free market economist -- a self-evidently important read.

UPDATE: via crooked timber, sachs battles on.

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