Two Reviews in Barron’s

by Don Boudreaux on October 5, 2013

in Books, Complexity & Emergence, Curious Task, Debt and Deficits, Man of System, Regulation, The Crisis

The current issue of Barron’s features a superb review by Bill Easterly of Nina Munk’s new book on Jeffrey Sachs.  Here’s Bill’s ending:

As the author makes clear, no one has worked harder to help the world’s poor than Jeffrey Sachs, or made more of the world’s affluent care about their plight. Moreover, aid has had some focused successes, such as vaccination programs. But aid cannot achieve the end of poverty. Only homegrown development based on the dynamism of individuals in free societies can do that, just as it did for the lucky people of the world whose forbears climbed out of poverty.

Sachs offered a seductive message to Westerners: that they could be the saviors who could end poverty in Africa with a modest amount of effort. After reading Munk’s superb book, nobody will ever again think ending poverty is really that easy.

Following Bill’s review of Munk’s book is my review of Robert Kuttner’s Debtors’ Prison.  I do not think highly of Kuttner’s book.  Here’s a slice from my review:

Consider his criticisms of speculators. As Kuttner tells the tale, speculators in search of quick profits just happened to pick on the unlucky Greek government, driving up the interest rate that it must pay to borrow. But there would be no profit for speculators in betting against Greece’s creditworthiness if that creditworthiness was not in jeopardy – and it was put in jeopardy not by speculators but by government profligacy.

All the speculators did by pricing the debt was to reveal to the world more quickly just how precarious Greece’s fiscal situation was. Kuttner’s response — to rein in speculators — is the left-wing reformer’s equivalent of shooting the messenger.

Unfortunately, both of these reviews – and the two others (both quite good) published along with Bill’s and my reviews, one by Per Bylund and the other by Andrew Heaton – are gated.

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