Economics and Ethics



Jeffrey Sachs is what they call a “big thinker”, the best that the USA has to offer, an economist committed to the health of the earth and the overall well-being of people. Named twice to Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential world leaders, he taught at Harvard for 20 years and now heads the Earth Institute at Columbia. His goal (remember the big picture) is  ending extreme global poverty. His latest book Economics and Ethics: The Price of Civilization  is well worth the read.Iti s a veritable cri de coeur on behalf of the planet What distinguishes Sachs (and his Nobel American confrere, Joseph Stiglitz) is that they have little time for American romance, the self-preening exceptionalissm which has beguled the US in the post-Reagan era.

Sachs was on the same Tavis Smiley  panel (talk about an embarrassment of riches) with Jonathan Kozol who railed against the abandonment of children (largely black) in inner city American schools. He maintained that this problem was eminently solvable.It is a question of priorities. In the case of the USA, its priorities are totally warped on behalf of defence, massive tax breaks etc.

On the same show Sachs maintained that the respect for the dignity of the poor was already being achieved in other countries. around the world with demonstrated, proven results.

“So every child in many countries of Europe start out with that preschool, and the results are that unlike this country, there isn’t hereditary poverty – exactly what you’re saying. It’s proven. This is not a theory. What you’re saying about the health system is completely proven. Our health system costs an extra $750 billion a year for exactly the same services that you would get in other countries.

The Institute of Medicine just issued a report that the waste and fraud that comes from this for-profit system is 5 percent of our national income, wasted. Now that sector owns both parties in Washington, and this has been off the table, but it’s not theory, because this is what other normal countries do. We’re just not normal.  Our politics got hijacked. Our politics got hijacked.

Tavis Smiley interjected with the repeated American illusion:” But we are the greatest nation in the world so how could this be happening elsewhere and not be happening in the greatest nation in the world”?

Sachs: replied “Because one of the things that the greatest nation in the world refuses to do is look at any other nation.”

Sachs is merely one of thousands in the States whose ideas if implemented could really bring some sanity and humility back to “the indispensable nation.”


1 Comment »

  1. 1
    wmgrace Says:

    Tavis Smiley always makes a strong contribution to the conversation around getting America back on track as a free and just society.
    Kudos to Jeffrey Sachs and other like-minded big-thinkers who are willing to challenge the US corporate state to improve its dismal record on poverty.

    Where are all of the other leaders and graduates from the world of academia? Why don’t we hear their voices when it comes to the issues of injustice, poverty and oppression in the US – or any other nation for that matter? How often do they speak out, or speak to the oppressed to indicate some kind of interest or solidarity with them? The silence is deafening.

    Can anyone disagree with Chris Hedges when he states,”The power elite, including most of those who graduate from our top universities, and our liberal and intellectual classes, have sold out for personal comfort.” In other words, why bother worrying about such things as poverty, unemployment, inadequate health care, crumbling infrastructure or crime rates, when they can live well in a secure community and have the best schools and even boutique medical care for their families.

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