Kejda Gjermani her miscellaneous musings


Jeffrey Sachs sucks: “Poverty Trap” debunked

I was peripherally acquainted with Jeffrey Sachs' work from a while ago, and didn't think much of it. Nothing seemed to distinguish him from the many misguided Keynesians who dominate the public arena of mainstream economics by default nowadays. But while all purist free-enterprise champions are alike in what they advocate, I guess every dull little statist economist is a statist in his/her own way, with a unique master plan for development, each involving creative offshoots of applied Communism, some more deranged than others.

Sachs' uniqueness doesn't end there: He is not your run-of-the-mill statist economist always on the perpetual brink of choking on his own triviality. He knows what he is and he certainly knows what he is doing. Unlike most laughable economists who sound so stupid only because they cannot see how overly seriously they take themselves, Jeffrey Sachs is pure self-aware evil!

Fascista Sachs

In his interview with Steven Colbert he sounds like a crook and a charlatan. Listen to him talk, pay attention to his smile, the look on his face, and tell me if you don't see a man who knows he is lying on the spot. There is nothing misguided about him, he is fully premeditated in what he is doing.

Hanging out with Bono and Angelina Jolie has got to make Sachs second-handedly feel like a superstar, and second-hand glory is more then enough for a pathetic authoritarian creature to get off on. He knows he will be long dead before his voodoo economics falls out of fashion so he's completely safe and comfortable riding the wave of popularity propelled by the cumulative mediocrity of Oprah-worshiping drones in particular, and the entire ecosystem of leftist-strife spewers in general. Good for him!economist rock-star

Note in the Colbert interview how cheaply he is pandering to the moonbat base by spewing venom on the military and W. Bush. Sachs is befuddled at how "the President" has allotted to the crusade against malaria (read: handouts to Africa) for the next five years, the measly equivalent of the daily budget of the military. That makes no sense "in his book/s", since the military is just killing people and not helping anyone, whereas Sachs could save the world with that cash! Oh brother... They just have trouble figuring out anything at all in Washington these days. Instead of signing Sachs a blank check, they give him a laughable $1.5 billion to work with.

If only "the President" were a feudal lord free to piss the spoils from his taxpayer vassals on grandiose personal-charity events to his heart's content! W. Bush is certainly under no obligation to give any money at all; it is in fact arguable that he is under an implicit constitutional obligation to not spend taxpayer money on handouts to other countries, which generally end up benefiting only their dictators and some distinguished ungrateful parasites like Sachs, whose genial administrative plans for that money are sure to entail much more than just a multi-billion-dollar mosquito-net shopping-spree.


It is obvious to me that Jeffrey Sachs is a conman, but it might not be obvious to you, so I will stop pushing on that front because at the end of the day it's not so relevant whether he is a crook or just a misguided moron, but rather whether his economics adds up. So let's turn to his economic ideas and consider them on their own merits. Everything Jeffrey Sachs has said (and I expect him to ever have to say) about development pivots around the "poverty trap", a conjecture whose gist can be safely summarized as follows:

Poor countries are so poor today because they started out so poor for one reason or another, that their people cannot even minimally afford to save today to accumulate capital for investment. And it takes a critical mass of investment to achieve any tangible results in development, since for example, a bridge constructed only half-way through is of no use, but once it is fully built, it will rock the world! But the dirt-poor subSaharan Africans cannot afford to save for projects that will deliver results the day after tomorrow: they would starve by tomorrow if they cut their consumption every-so-slightly today to give rise to investment! So you see, they're stuck in a Poverty Trap, and we the West need to give them just enough aid for them to make it through the initial hump, to get out of the trap. They'd be all set from there on.

This is the focal point of Sachs' argument for development. Please watch carefully while this snotty undergrad blasts off Mr. Smarmy Harvard PhD with a single unpretentious quasi-rhetorical question:

If the key to development is escaping this poverty trap, then wouldn't foreign direct investment be perfectly capable of doing the job instead of foreign aid?

The opposite of Sachs' booga-booga poverty crap should normally be observed: countries starting out at the very bottom of the developmental ladder for "one reason or another" should grow at rates much faster than normal due to the proverbial catch-up effects. Investment in India returns a whooping 19% on average! Countries too poor to save for themselves don't need to: rich foreigners can supply the capital, the natives only have to freely accommodate it. Everybody wins, and no Big Plan is needed, just a native government that sufficiently tolerates free enterprise.

But there is no foreign investment going on in Africa. Investors won't inject their funds into those countries because the volatility of institutional thuggery that doesn't give a shit about its citizens' life, liberty, and property, let alone the property of foreign investors, is not conducive to profit-generation. Africa doesn't need any handouts: they just fatten its dictators, cripple whatever free independent spirit its people have, give parasitic jobs to an army of bureaucrats, and hold these countries back from moving towards freedom and self-reliance. What Africa desperately needs is government, of the kind that will let its people be. The best thing that could ever happen to the continent would be for America to colonize it and govern it according to its constitution for a century or so.

But Jeffrey Sachs urges governments to throw money to a cause which no private investor is willing to back. There would be no returns from it, no end to poverty through it, and no end to it, period... just handouts after handouts after handouts. He knows it too, if you read between the lines he is calling it what it is in so many words: perpetual charity.

And being the authoritarian cock that he is, he won't stop at urging people to donate individually and privately. His great cause, his Big Plan is larger than life: not only private investors won't walk the walk, but even private philanthropists will not give enough to satiate Sachs. The Government is his only hope, the only agent rich and careless enough to finance his Big Scheme. And despite receiving insane amounts of taxpayer money, he yet bites the fat hand feeding him, complaining that the US government won't just give him any number he fancies. Every cent that he does receive is taken by force, since he has not been able to raise it voluntarily through cheesy U2 concerts, private charity, and private investment combined. It's a $1.5 billion no one else but the government would give him, and it's still not enough, it's never enough.

BonoSachsJeffrey Sachs makes me sick.

I rest my case...

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Comments (15) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Interesting… On its face, it appears his policy advice in Bolivia and Poland in the 1980’s and early 1990’s promoted free markets and private property.

  2. It seems like he’s been getting worse (i.e more authoritarian in outlook) over the years, but his core has been constant throughout. Whatever parts of the free-market mechanism he has advocated, have always had a twist to it, were always part of a greater administrative top-down solution. They were seen as efficient means to achieve milestones, but rarely as permanent structural foundations of the economy itself, independent of and uncompormisable by the government. Whenever things seemed to be going right after his advice to governments, he claimed full credit for it, but often when things turned out sour/trickier, he never took responsibility: always blamed it on the governments not fully listening to his advice, or external circumstances, etc. No such thing as empirical reality checks for him, ever.

    Check out William Easterly’s works for a more thorough analysis of why Sachs is f***ed. No need to buy his books either, the essays he has on his homepage suffice.

  3. Jeffrey Sachs makes me sick too.

    I linked to this post in one of my own, and stole your Sachs photo from Johns Hopkins – kudos:

  4. i think he’s an amzing person. I completely agree with his policies

  5. this article is ridiculously biased and i wonder what the educational background of the person that wrote this is. To me, they are full of shit. 1.5 billion dollars is not that much to help an impoverished continent.

  6. I will buy you a coffee, spiked with arsenic and botulism.

  7. But does it really help, Chris?

    I have been working for more than a decade in development cooperation and results for Afrika show…. no results. Is just a deep dark hole, oen can hardly see the bottom. Charity in the long run can not be sustainable.But there are no easy answers on how poverty can be tackled and how viscious cycles can be broken. After reading many of all these intelligent artciles, books and papers on this, I still could not build a clear view on that for myself. Is nice to help people, of course! The question is: in which way, so that they would not become dependable and passive?

  8. WTF?

    Chris: Your level of education, from your own email address, is revealed to be undergraduate. You’re spewing your leftist strife everywhere. 1.5 billion dollars is not that much to help an impoverished continent? Then give away your own 1.5 billion, when and if you ever make it. Who do you think you are to decide how much is not that much, enough, or too little, for other people to be forced to pay for something they get nothing out of? Nothing but international welfare! Yet you feel like you have the moral high ground for deliberating with a nonchalantly charitable inclination on money that is not yours.

    Nick, I’m still waiting for my steamy coffee. It’s precious to see the ugly hatred roaming just beneath the mask of the so called progressives. When one exposes their hypocrisy and moral void, they wish them death as a knee jerk reaction.

    • Emmm. 1.5 billion on 400 million citizens makes less than $4 per capita. Let’s exclude kids and elderly and you’re still at about $10 per taxpayer, on average. Is that really such a big deal?

      I do wonder however if it will work – because

      A. The money should not again be pocketed somewhere downstream
      B. Would it really be enough to fix things?
      C. Some people actually earn money because of the (disputed) poverty trap – those
      interest payments go somewhere. And no debt means no interest.

  9. I wonder if you are as smart as he is…and if you are doing as much as he is doing to help Africa. It’s so easy to criticize when you don’t know what’s really happening.

  10. I agree that Jeffrey is a self-oriented self-publicising conman. He is very talented in that regard, which is why he has such influence. His Book on The End to Poverty devotes so much space to his role in solving this crisis or that, and his relationship with people of power and celebrity it is quite sickening. I always find his economic arguments typically start with great visions and outcomes that most can agree with, and are then followed up with comedy analysis or suggestions…some half right, many questionable, but by then its too late…people have bought into the vision. He also has slippery shoulders…distancing himself when things go wrong…think of the Soviet Union, Shock Treatment, Dominican Republic. However your free-market alternative tells only half the story. Since the free market drives growth and innovation fantastic, lets have some. And bear in mind that the USA is not close to being a free market economy with over 30% of national wealth being spent by the public sector. But it also creates and widen inequality…the rich and powerful can accumulate wealth as the expense of others. Increasing inequality is bad when you are one of the 2 billion at the bottom of the pile, living on $1 per day. Moreover, where markets don’t work properly, because of corruption, monopoly, oligopoly, difficulty of applying he market to social and environmental aspects, this can and does become abusive. In the USA and Europe this is mitigated. The market drives growth. Regulations stop abuse. And importantly pro-poor programmes target those at the bottom who are created by the market. Even the World bank agrees that growth policies and pro-poor policies are needed for development. The market alone may drive up average growth rates, but it scroos the people at the bottom in developing countries that can’t afford to look after them because it creates poverty. And by the way, if the US constitution was applied to Africa for 100 years, its GDP would be higher. By 2110, my prediction is, it would also be the fattest, unhealthiest, least well educated, most insular, ignorant, violent, selfish, individualist, environmentally, socially and culturally vacuous place on earth.

  11. Like him or not, he is providing us with answers to what is wrong with America today – and I doubt you will dispute that is the case. You, on the other hand, has a clever pen and a headful of snooty remarks – both of which will do nothing to better our situation, so grow up, please.

  12. I honestly found your article one of the worst written ever. Normally I don’t comment on these types of things, much less nonsense articles, but your ignorance is far too compelling. First of all, your article is the perfect example of self-entitled nonsense. You say things like “I was peripherally acquainted” and “always on the perpetual brink choking on his own triviality,” large and wide assumptions that sound intellectual but fail to provide any supporting evidence or substance. To make matters worse, your article is laden with hypocrisy and nonsensical mudslinging. For example, “Please watch carefully while this snotty undergrad blasts off Mr. Smarmy Harvard PhD with a single unpretentious quasi-rhetorical question.” Really? Not only are YOU being the snobby and pretentious one, quite hypocritically, but your nonsense, pseudo-intellectual babble pretty much can be translated to mudslinging without any supporting logic.

    Now, why are you snobby, you may ask? Unlike you, I will elaborate with some logic. A quick Wikipedia will reveal that Sachs is an economics genius. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his views, he breezed through college, received a PhD from Harvard, and became one of the youngest tenured professors in Harvard’s history. Furthermore, he actually helped out many post-communist nations as well as nations in Latin America. Thus, it’s incredibly insensitive, and therefore “snobby,” to imply that you’re so much better than him. Well if you are, why aren’t you at Columbia as a distinguished professor? What have you done to help people? Do you really think you could do better?

    Excuse my ranting, but I just find it almost disturbing the lack of respect that people have for people of Sachs’s intellect and knowledge. Can’t you at least appreciate his intellectual rigor and try to understand his viewpoint? It’s not only telling of the close-mindedness rampant in society today, but also unfortunate that people cannot rationally think about situations without bursting out into mudslinging comments devoid of support.

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