Monday, March 21, 2005

Noted on Sachs and Ehrlich

Yin and Yang

There are two articles of note I read over this weekend. One is an in-depth piece on Bob Ehrlich, Republican Governor of Maryland, in the April 2005 issue of Liberty. The article describes his 'rise' (if being a politician can actual said to be progress :-) ) from working class Baltimore through a sports scholarship to good schools and the US congress, to challenging a Kennedy for the governorship two years ago. He is a civil liberarian, on cutting edge of medical marijuana reform, and is not afraid to veer from the status quo of the Repub party. Unlike Costa Rica where the national power shifts from one party to the next each election without fail, MD has had Dem party leadership for over 30 years, so its good to challenge the entrenched powers and redefine the checks and balances within the state (state here meaning 'state' of MD and 'state' of local government). Like a friend of mine said, its best to have a new job every two years to stay fresh.

The other article in the March 19 Economist on Jeffrey Sachs new book on development economics, "The End of Poverty". I have not read this book but the review said that he is calling for 'western' governments to be less stingy with their aid money. This is an oft-repeated mantra calling for more of the same. It is past time to rethink the whole aid status-quo, to allow individuals to trade freely, to remove impediments to sustainable (meaning natural human organization as has occured over many centuries) trade, investment and capital flow, not to have more state-directed 'development'. Traditional "aid" has not worked except in isolated cases for 50 years, why would it work now? I am not an expert, but I have heard that Mr. Sach has done some good work in monetary reform in the developing world, so this book could be an interesting one as he tells stories of his work abroad, especially of course for those in the field.

I read once that if USA were to unilaterally remove its trade barriers to products of the 'developing' world the wealth of these nations would increase by $14 billion, twice as much as the, at the time, $7 billion we were giving in aid. Most of this aid returns to the US anyway in the form of consultant salaries. Lastly here on aid: it is a question of one's take on economic growth. If you believe economic growth actually raises the boat of all, then yes, free trade is the way. However if you think that economic growth does not filter down, then yes, international welfare, eg more redistributionist aid money is the answer. Which is more hopeful?