Jeffrey Sachs’s plan to eradicate world poverty

John Cassidy in The New Yorker:

Sachs_1On July 9, 1985, a thirty-year-old American economist named Jeffrey Sachs stepped off a plane in La Paz, Bolivia, high in the Andes, where the inflation rate was three thousand per cent. Prices were rising so fast that on the streets of the capital people were frantically trading bags of depreciating pesos for dollars. Sachs, one of the youngest tenured professors in the history of the Harvard economics department, had established himself as an authority on inflation and international finance, and was someone who, in his own words, “thought that I knew just about everything that needed to be known” about his subject.

It was Sachs’s self-confidence that had earned him an invitation to Latin America. A few months earlier, during a seminar at Harvard on the Bolivian crisis organized by some Latin-American students, he had interrupted the speaker, strode to the blackboard, and announced, “Here’s how it works.” When he finished scribbling equations, a voice at the back of the room said, “Well, if you’re so smart, why don’t you come down to La Paz to help us?” Sachs laughed, but the speaker, Carlos Iturralde, a Bolivian businessman who later became his country’s foreign minister, wasn’t joking. Seven weeks after Sachs arrived in La Paz, some of his recommendations were implemented, and three years of hyperinflation came to an immediate end.

More here.