March 18, 2013 | 39 comments
How I would lead the World Bank.
Recently, Professor Jeffrey Sachs made a public application to be the next president of the World Bank with an op-ed in the Washington Post titled “How I would lead the World Bank.” I was not aware they were taking applications, but since they are, I thought I’d throw my name in the ring.
I must admit that unlike Mr. Sachs I am not on “a quest to end poverty.” It is not that I don’t care — I just lack the self-confidence to believe I have the power to do such a thing. But I am hoping the World Bank presidency might be a good confidence booster. I also confess that until Professor Sachs pointed it out, I didn’t know the World Bank was on 18th and Pennsylvania, but now that I do, I too am eager for this challenge.
But enough about me. Let’s focus on the issue at hand — Why I should run the World Bank:
I don’t seek the presidency because of the World Bank’s track record in “ending poverty.” In fact I don’t place a lot of faith in the World Bank’s ability to solve world poverty. When it comes to alleviating poverty in the developing world, I have a lot more faith in entrepreneurs than I do in internationalista technocrats from the World Bank or any part of the aid industry.
Like Professor Sachs, I am not a Wall Street big player or a Washington insider. But unlike Professor Sachs, I have not spent years at the center of the foreign aid poverty establishment promoting top-down solutions, and advocating for increases in foreign aid despite the evidence that it has not worked. Notwithstanding his self-characterization as an outsider, Professor Sachs was the architect of the UN Millennium Development Goals, which has dominated development policy for the last decade. In this sense, it’s somewhat disingenuous for Professor Sachs to portray himself as an outsider. He is a genuine development celebrity.
But enough of Professor Sachs. Let’s get back to me.
I believe that wealth can be created and poverty can be reduced, but I do not believe that international bureaucrats have much of a role to play in realizing such goals.
I believe that focusing on the causes of poverty is the wrong question — the correct question is what causes wealth?
For this reason, I don’t believe that foreign aid is the solution — or even a solution. It has subsidized corruption and delayed the development of local business. In short, it is generally part of the problem. And I’m not alone in thinking so. There are growing numbers of Africans, Latin Americans, and Asians who are saying no to aid and instead want the chance to have free and fair competition.
I also don’t believe the developing world is a lab for Western scientists and technocrats to test out their various utopian theories on others. When I am president of the World Bank, none of these people would be given support to experiment with the lives of others.
In this connection, I should mention that I don’t believe in a “scientific” solution to poverty. Nor do I believe that I or anyone else can end poverty “forever.” There will always be some poverty because there will always be human weakness, human error. There will always be a need for human love and caring.
I don’t hang out with celebrities and haven’t traveled the world with Bono — not yet at least. (Bono has done much to raise awareness and since I was a fan when I was young and feel some loyalty, I don’t want Bono to be behind the times. I’d be happy to help him re-think his advocacy of big aid.) I do not believe that the poor are a different species; that they are somehow different than us. As Ghanaian entrepreneur, Herman Chinery-Hesse said to me. “The people here are not stupid, they’re just disconnected from global trade, that’s all”
I don’t believe in managerial capitalism, corporate capitalism, Davos Capitalism, state-led industrial policies, big business-big government oligarchies, or big UN plans that have dominated developing economies. I believe in a free economy where everyone, especially the poorest, have a chance to compete without having to rely on favors from the social and political elites. I believe that the locus of power needs to be transferred from governments and big aid to local entrepreneurs and leaders
I do not believe people are problem to be solved. I believe that people are the solution to poverty. I believe that people are created in the image of God with dignity and creative capacity and when given the opportunity will create wealth and produce more than they consume.
But if I want to run the World Bank I should at least tell you what I believe.
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H/T to National Review Online