Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Easterly on Hayek and Sachs

In today's Wall Street Journal, economist Bill Easterly channels Friedrich Hayek to take on economist Jeffrey Sachs. An excerpt:

Hayek's great book [The Road to Serfdom] is all about the dangers of large-scale state economic planning, courageously written in 1944 when Soviet central planning, technocratic socialism and administrative control of the wartime economy appealed as a peacetime model to many New Dealers, celebrity economists and policy wonks of all stripes.

The countries that are now rich subsequently listened enough to Hayek and to common sense to avoid the road to serfdom. Yet today, Mr. Sachs (in his book "The End of Poverty") is peddling his own administrative central plan -- 449 steps in all -- to end world poverty. In his plan, the U.N. secretary-general (to whom he is an adviser) would supervise and coordinate thousands of international civil servants and technocratic experts to solve the problems of every poor village and city slum everywhere. Mr. Sachs is not in favor of central planning as an economic system, but he offers it as a solution, anyway, to the multifold problems of the world's poorest people. If you want the best analysis of why the approach of Mr. Sachs and his confreres in Hollywood and the U.N. will fail to end world poverty this time (as similar efforts failed over the past six decades), you can find it in Hayek.