7 Sep 2009

Surreal Sachs

I've had a good time lambasting Jeff Sachs's continued faith in big government, top-down "solutions," but now (via NMC) he seems a caricature of himself. While discussing a program to aid small farmers in Africa, he says that the money should be given to the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Then:
Governments in hunger-stricken regions, especially Africa, would then submit national action plans that would provide details on how they would use the donor funds to get high-yield seeds, fertilizer, irrigation, farm tools, storage silos, and local advice to impoverished farmers. An independent expert panel would review the national plans to verify their scientific and managerial coherence. Assuming that a plan passes muster, the money to support it would quickly be disbursed. Afterward, each national program would be monitored, audited, and evaluated.

[I did NOT take anything out here. He REALLY does continue to say...]

This approach is straightforward, efficient, accountable, and scientifically sound.
Poor Hayek must be rolling in his grave. Sachs's "straightforward" prescription is full of information and incentive holes big enough to drive a truck through.

Bottom Line: The best way to help farmers in developing countries (and the people they feed) is to protect property rights, improve markets and free trade. Yes, less government, more entrepreneurs!


  1. Amazing. In Africa, the governments are often the cause of poverty and hunger... How can anyone look at the level of corruption and still believe money can be funneled through such governments to reach those in need? This guy's approach just adds more opportunities for graft!

    On the other hand... "less government" isn't working out so well for those people, either. What they need is better government.

  2. Great post! Wonder What William Easterly would say?

    I am trying to get through 'Common Wealth' now - tough going!

  3. albionwood is right on. Property rights (both physical and intellectual) require a strong and fair government to enforce them.

    Government is not the enemy, but rather an essential enabler of long-term solutions that will allow markets and initiative to grow. But rule of law is what's needed, not kleptocracy.


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