[lbo-talk] sachs and poland

123hop at comcast.net 123hop at comcast.net
Fri Dec 2 16:01:33 PST 2011

Maybe he's an asshole or maybe he fell prey to a form of stupidity shared by most westerners at the time.

An anecdote. When I started working at Apple in 1989, I got friendly with a younger colleague, fresh out of Stanford, English major I think, who had aspirations to be a writer. She showed me a short story she had written whose main character, an upwardly mobile young woman, had been called upon to go to Eastern Europe to teach the brutes how to have a market. The author knew nothing of history, nothing of economics, nothing of Eastern Europe, but she clearly felt that her contempt for the clueless natives was shared by everyone and that the putative expertise to be rained down on them was indeed expert.

I was deeply offended by her story and her attitude but there was little I could say as her view was held to be common sense at the time. People think that academics are capable of independent thought; but this is untrue. They are for the most part herd-like and sanctimonious. Given that they preach to a captive audience and talk almost exclusively amongst themselves, this is not surprising. The Ivier they are, the worst they are. And Sachs was very much part of the academic elite.


----- Original Message -----

Monthly Review Press will be publishing a book by the noted Polish economist Tadeusz Kowalik. The book is titled From Solidarity to Sellout: The Restoration of Capitalism in Poland. He says this about Jeffrey Sachs:

"Sachs would visit Poland briefly many times, and his main role was to create a favorable background for the great jump. Not only his general concept of jumping into the market, but also his tendency to exaggerate, or even go to extremes, turned out to be functional by making other radicals appear more reasonable. As we shall see, Stanisław Gomułka in particular benefited from this. Sachs's position is also tainted with propaganda and a kind of self-promotion. The fact that in the meantime his views underwent a pivotal change also undermines his credibility. There are times now that he appears to be closer to St Francis than to Balcerowicz. And yet he feels no need to explain the old prescriptions he had for Poland from the standpoint he holds today. All this when even the heads of the Fund and the World Bank have managed to show more self-criticism."

>From his rich and privileged post at Columbia, Sachs has reinvented himself as a critic of what he once said and did. But the people of Poland continue to suffer, in a way Sachs never will, the consequences of what he once said and did. Why doesn't he go to Poland and apologize to the Polish people? If he is really sincere now, shouldn't he do what John Gurley did and become a radical?
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