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Other public figures from the Dark Side of the Force

Dr Jeffrey Sachs

From review of The End of Poverty by George Caffentzis, 15 July  15, 2005

Globalization’s ideological crisis had deepened to the point that by the end of 2004 all the major efforts to extend the “globalization” agenda (CAFTA, FTAA, the Doha Round, etc.) were being stalled on both the street and the diplomatic levels. Jeffrey Sachs wrote and published his book, The End of Poverty: How We Can Make It Happen in Our Lifetime (as well as a series of related op-ed articles in the New York Times), in early 2005 to respond to this ideological and political crisis. For Sachs represents those who are convinced that neoliberal globalization, if properly managed, is the only path to a future without abject poverty and misery for billions of people (and indeed is the only alternative for the survival of capitalism itself).

The book’s publication was timed to reach its greatest audience in early July when the G8 “leaders” met in Scotland to consider a new “anti-poverty package” for African nations that was developed by a variety of agencies from the British Foreign Office, to the UN, to academic centers like Earth Institute that Sachs heads in NYC, to the organizers of the “Live8” concerts like Bob Geldorf and Bono.

There is much that is unattractive about the book, besides its ideological purpose. The End of Poverty is one part self-congratulatory memoir of Sachs’ roles as advisor to the governments of Bolivia, Russia, Poland, India, China and part world-historical tract justifying the ultimate rationality of neoliberal capitalism (if it is properly applied to “sick” countries by “clinical economists” like himself). In the first part of the book Sachs tells us what he advised these governments to do during the time of his involvement, but invariably he adds an upbeat note, even when the results were patently catastrophic (e.g., it is estimated that millions of Russians, especially men, died prematurely because of the collapse of wages and the public health system during the time that Sachs was advising the Yelstin government — perhaps equal to the death rate of a “moderate” nuclear war!) But Sachs’ panglossian comment on this episode is: “Looking back, would I have advised Russia differently know what I know today?…To a large extent, the answer is no…. Most of the bad things that happened — such as the massive theft of state assets under the rubric of privatization — were directly contrary to the advice that I gave and to the principles of honesty and equity I hold dear (Sachs 2005: 146–147).”

You protest too much, Dr. Sachs. Is it possible to be so nice in our discriminations of the “good” versus the “bad” things, especially when dealing with the primitive accumulation of capital? Can Sachs have forgotten the “fire and blood” that set the stage for the triumph of Scottish Enlightenment thinkers like David Hume and Adam Smith he so admires: the massacres of the Highlanders at the end of 1745 rebellion and the clearances that followed throughout the end of the 18th and 19th centuries (so deftly described by Scott in the epigraph of this piece). The ghosts of those dead Highlanders greeted the G8 leaders in Gleneagles and perhaps spoke a little truth that was not drowned out by the fairy tale of pacific capitalist development Adam Smith began to tell and Sachs continues to this day. A more sober assessment of the process of introducing neoliberal globalization into societies where there are commons-based systems of reproduction would have been called for, given the realities of collapsing incomes and increasing “poverty” in many countries that have given over the direction of their economies to the “experts” like Sachs.

I attempted unsuccessfully to post the following comment:

I was trying to reconcile the appalling record of Sachs described in Naomi Klein's “The Shock Doctrine” with Sachs’s current reputation for being some kind of champion of the world's poor. As an example an approving review of Jeffrey Sachs’s “Common Wealth (Economics for a Crowded Planet)” posted to the Yahoo PopForum mailing list (of Sustainable Population Australia) concluded:

“It could be that the occasionally misplaced optimism of this book is a good starting point to get the ball rolling on the changes that are needed in the way that humans are impacting upon the planet.”

Somehow, I think not.

candobetter.org/james

Michael Egan

Outsiders in their own party

The Labor Party ranks according to Michael Egan

Ed Lewis, 9 May 08

The public discussion over electricity privatisation in NSW is increasingly becoming a traditional union bash in the media. Today, Michael Egan, another former Labor Party official and politician, steps forward to read a lecture to the party’s ranks about a properly respectful attitude towards politicians.

Read the rest of this entry on Ozleft

Comments

pffft, lean something. the arg in the Shock Doctrine is a caricature. Heaven forbid someone try to explain something extremely complex and make simplifications for public consumption - if you read the other thousands of pages he's written you'd have a fundamentally different view - so that people who won't read more than a 600 word oped or a sensationalist complain about everything without offering solutions book can still get the message. Great analysis, glad to see you've put so much time into thinking about these problems. If anything, your comment is a good argument for the need for critical thinking and media literacy classes starting in grade school.