Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Economics kills people

A stunning article by DD on Crooked Timber: How Economists Kill People. It is mostly quotes from Peter Griffith's book 'The Economist's Tale'. Griffiths was in Sierra Leone at the time the World Bank attempted to impose extreme free market dogma on that country. The World Bank required the Sierra Leone government to cease all imports of food and to remove the subsidy on rice, the staple food of the poor. Government was also forbidden to keep a stockpile of food.

neither the World Bank nor the Ministry of Commerce appeared to have made any effort to base their Agreement on logic or analysis

Griffiths, however, had been employed by the World Bank to examine the food situation in Sierra Leone, so he knew what would happen.

The unavoidable conclusion was that when present stocks ran out, in four months time, there would be no imports. The country people would keep the rice they grew, so there would be no rice at all for the urban population. Starvation would start immediately. How many people would die before emergency aid could be arranged? Quarter of a million? Half a million?

But he was in a difficult situation. He knew that field agents like himself were sacked and ostracised for failing to support the WB. "I was frightened of the reaction World Bank staff would have if I said they had blundered. It was odds on that I would be fired on the spot". Furthermore "a lot of people stood to make money from the famine."

Nevertheless his conscience made him act. He convinced the government to renege on the WB agreement. Although the situation in Sierra Leone has been dire, there has not been mass starvation. But "Curiously enough, since the book came out I haven’t got any World Bank consultancies, for the first time in my life. Also problems with other donors."

In the 1960's, when Maoism started to break down in China, national agricultural policy collapsed. Following the collectivisation and modernisation of agriculture in the late forties/early fifties, rice production soared in China (leading to the population explosion with which we are familiar). As the dogma was pursued with increasing rigidity, production creased to rise, and then began to fall. There was starvation. Like the World Bank, the communist government ceased to listen to the farmers, and the local experts. It is the same mindset, under a different flag. Powerful officials would not admit they had got it wrong, that their ideology might be wrong. Corrupt local politicians were equally to blame. Critics were silenced.

We are globally facing that crisis now. The free market has its place, just as joint ownership has, but when it is pushed too far it leads to environmental collapse and starvation.

Some people think that that collectivism=bad, free market privatisation=good. Instead the situation is flexibility and responsiveness= good, central dogma and power politics = bad. Nowadays it's a different dogma, but poeple keep dying just the same.

  • Phew what a scorcher

    I see Gove has backed down on climate change and it's back in the curriculum again.

  • GCSE Computer Science

    My book is now for sale

  • LJ Settings

    At the moment I have set up this journal so that only friends can comment. I hate doing this, but I was just getting too much Russian spam.

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