Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Wilkinson on Sachs

Will Wilkinson gives us his summary of the Jeffrey Sachs approach to saving the world.
So a somewhat less cynical view is that Sachs is a grim pessimist who sees catastrophic market failure everywhere and sees immensely improbable global collective action as the only possible solution. Because he is always so incredibly vague about the institutional mechanisms that would be needed to solve the assurance problems necessary to get this kind of enormous cooperative effort off the ground, we ought to infer that Sachs doesn’t know what those mechanisms are, and so he probably suspects that global cooperation at the necessary scale is impossible. That is Sachs’ esoteric doctrine: We are probably doomed. But Sachs, strangely for an economist, also believes strongly in the power of propaganda, especially the power of elevating rhetoric from high-status figures, to transform social norms. It’s a longshot that Bono and Angelina can really bring about a fundamental transformation of public sentiment in a way that makes the global coordination problem tractable, but since it’s the only hope we’ve got, exhortation must continue.

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