We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
This blowback against “globalization from above” has spread to every corner of the Earth. It now threatens to kill sensible, moderate steps toward the freer movement of goods, ideas, capital, and people.
What is the best way to help poor countries? What William Easterly in Foreign Policy terms "the ideology of development" entails sending in development experts to tell the country what to do, and it is all the rage these days among economists, organizations like the World Bank, and commentators like Thomas Friedman. Easterly says:
Like all ideologies, Development promises a comprehensive final answer to all of society’s problems, from poverty and illiteracy to violence and despotic rulers. It shares the common ideological characteristic of suggesting there is only one correct answer, and it tolerates little dissent. It deduces this unique answer for everyone from a general theory that purports to apply to everyone, everywhere. There’s no need to involve local actors who reap its costs and benefits. Development even has its own intelligentsia, made up of experts at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and United Nations.
The problem is is that such top-down impositions of "reforms" and development plans have never worked anywhere. What does seem to work is for nations to find their own paths to prosperity, organically, from the inside, out. As Easterly notes:
Unfortunately, Development ideology has a dismal record of helping any country actually develop. The regions where the ideology has been most influential, Latin America and Africa, have done the worst. Luckless Latins and Africans are left chasing yesterday’s formulas for success while those who ignored the Developmentalists found homegrown paths to success. The nations that have been the most successful in the past 40 years did so in such a variety of different ways that it would be hard to argue that they discovered the “correct answer” from development ideology. In fact, they often conspicuously violated whatever it was the experts said at the time. The East Asian tigers, for instance, chose outward orientation on their own in the 1960s, when the experts’ conventional wisdom was industrialization for the home market. The rapid growth of China over the past quarter century came when it was hardly a poster child for either the 1980s Washington Consensus or the 1990s institutionalism of democracy and cracking down on corruption.
I think this is an important essay. Read the whole thing at Foreign Policy.
Addendum from The Editor: Closely-related. Jonah Goldberg via Driscoll argues that wealth does not come from material things: National prosperity is a reflection of a civilization - its laws, culture, knowledge, attitudes, morals, values, and personal and business habits. Buildings and dams and armies of bulldozers are the least of it. To quote Goldberg:
A potential lesson for the World Bank may be that building roads, dams, and factories in the third world is a fool’s errand until those nations have the intangible capital required to maintain such things. The Marshall Plan’s success in rebuilding Europe after World War II stemmed not from the U.S. footing the bill for concrete and bulldozers but from the intangible capital locked in the hearts and minds of everyday Europeans.
This helps explain, I believe, why some parts of the world, like much of Africa, parts of the Middle East, much of Central America and parts of South America are rich in resources and opportunities and yet remain poor by modern standards. It's the culture.
"A potential lesson for the World Bank may be that building roads, dams, and factories in the third world is a fool’s errand until those nations have the intangible capital required to maintain such things."
When you go to these places, the stunning thing is not that there is no infrastructure - it is that the infrastructure is decayed and often abandoned. The silted up colonial port, the railroad yard with abandoned tracks, the old sugar mill with trees growing through holes in the roof. The great promise, the false start, then all too soon it crumbles away.
Corruption is a destroyer of the free market because it destroys the trust necessary for efficient market exchange. Why be better if the nephews are going to get the contract anyway? Why pay in full if you expect no delivery?
Assistant Village Idiot
Ahh--about Corruption. Good for you--you understand that in order for either an economy, a system of law, or a democracy to exist we must be dilligent in our attempt to destroy corruption. It might be interesting to examine the relationship between the opening up of gaming casinos outside of Las Vegas, the merging of the teacher's unions with the AFL-CIO, and the democrats reluctance to make judgment calls except to harass the Republicans. Perhaps, we would see that buy Putin, buying the governorship of WA state, and buying our system of law are all very closely linked to the beginning of the time when our church membershipo began to decline; to the time we legalized the paying of bribes by our corporations to officials in other countries in which we were doing business. Maybe somebody will see that "relative ethics" has a clear systemic impact on the other things we cherish.