Indonesia | Economics

Monday, August 28, 2006

The president to make poverty history?

Jeffrey Sachs wrote a book offering a panacea to end absolute poverty in the world, and now some people want to make him the president of the United States. No, seriously! Harvard macroeconomist, Gregory Mankiw, suggests what his administration would look like here, who's in and who's out.

If he ever become the president, would he really make poverty history? Methinks not (see this (in Indonesian), this, and this).


  • Actually, when you consider the political situation in the USA, Sachs seems like a pretty good bet. He is not perfect, but at the very least, he addresses issues that no politician does, and he does so well (even if you don't agree). Personally, i disagree with his detractors who argue that he is a big mess. My experience watching him shows me that he is very open to criticism and adjusts accordingly. I do agree with most criticism that he come off as though he is giving a sunday church service, more then a economics lecture, but honestly, that is to his favor.

    Anyway, all i am saying is that Sachs is not perfect, but he is pretty powerful and i would like to see his views represented in the american political system. even if they did not take over... Obviously, he would be pretty good for the rest of the world, which would also be good for the USA...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/28/2006 08:09:00 pm  

  • Hi Arya,
    I was going to make a longer comment, but then realized that you've already written a lot on this issue in your blog & newspaper articles.

    I am a fan of Easterly's "Elusive Quest..", and I like his take on Sachs' ideas, such as: "The West Can't Save Africa". On any day, I'd prefer Easterly to Sachs. But sometimes, I find myself empathizing with Sach's frustration: and that unless a radical change is put in place, and massive resources are mobilized, the (more realistic) change that Easterly imagined will take forever!

    But then again, is radical change and massive resource mobilization to end poverty realistic? I think it's not in "the West's" interest to do so. I'm thinking of the Core-Periphery-SemiPeriphery theory. I don't know if you buy this thing, cause it's left-leaning. But I think it explains much of Africa's plight.

    In the end, I'd have to agree with Easterly: change should be lead by those who has incentives to make change happen. In this case: Africa's (or Indonesia's) fate lies in the hands of its people. This is more realistic. Although it IS frustrating that such change will take a very, very long time.

    By Anonymous Muli, at 8/28/2006 08:09:00 pm  

  • Anonymous,
    I agree. I don't follow Sachs closely, but I think, rhetorics and personal ego aside, he is still, at heart, a scientist. His "magnificent seven" village experiments he is supporting in Africa suggest he is going bottom-up despite the accusation of him being top-down-oriented.

    I still think that Sachs's overtly interventionist development rhetorics is dangerous for poor countries. My experience suggests that Easterly's right: such an approach dilutes accountability on the side of poor country governments.

    But, I think Sachs is wearing two hats: One the advocate, and another, the economist. Problem is he's not always clear when he's wearing which.

    I am a big fan of Easterly's Elusive Quest... (IMHO, a notch above his second book). I think that book influenced my thinking on economic development more than anything else.

    I am frustrated as well with "the West's" apathy, but that may not always be for the worse.

    Iraq (if you believe the neocon's rhetorics) is an example of an effort of the West to "help", and it has become a bungling mess. Africa is full of similar stories, where Western countries "try to help" only to stop when help would have been most effective, because it's against their strategic interests.

    That's why I agree with your conclusion. To quote John Kay, Only the poor can make poverty history.

    By Blogger Arya, at 8/28/2006 09:47:00 pm  

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