The Jeffrey Sachs & William Easterly saga

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In the July issue of Vanity Fair Jeffrey Sachs calls for more aid money. This time it's $200 billion a year – about twice the current spending: "it's much cheaper than giving food aid, it's much cheaper than having wars, and it's much cheaper than having mass migration" he says. William Easterly, writing in Foreign Policy, is not short for words (see also the impressive illustrations by Mike Benny). He calls the World Bank the "high church of Development" and goes on to dispute Mr. Sachs' view:

Unfortunately, Development ideology has a dismal record of helping any country actually develop. The regions where the ideology has been most influential, Latin American and Africa, have done the worst.

Showing tangible results, Mr. Sachs points to the Millennium Villages Project – a poverty eradication experiment – in which each chosen participant receives $110 allocated each year for five years in the form of: fertilizer and high-yield seeds, clean water, rudimentary health care, basic education, mosquito bed nets, and a communication link to the outside world.

The first of Sachs's Millennium Villages was in Sauri, Kenya, where intervention began almost three years ago. Since then, production of maize in Sauri has more than tripled, while the incidence of malaria in the village has fallen by two-thirds. As well, lured perhaps by the free school lunches, more children than ever are attending the Bar Sauri Primary School. These are the sorts of results Sachs hopes to replicate all across sub-Saharan Africa, starting first in villages and countries that are relatively stable, receptive to change, and eager to work with him.

But Mr. Easterly remains skeptical:

[Sach's] own plan features hundreds of expert interventions to solve every last problem of the poor—from green manure, breast-feeding education, and bicycles to solar-energy systems, school uniforms for AIDS orphans, and windmills. These experts see poverty as a purely technological problem, to be solved by engineering and the natural sciences, ignoring messy social sciences such as economics, politics, and sociology.

More to come, for sure.

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