Some Mirror-Imaging from Jeffrey Sachs

In a Huffington Post piece, economist and one-time neoliberal policy wonk Jeffrey Sachs (“Budgetary Deceit and America’s Decline,” July 23)  complains of Obama’s cave-ins — as well as those of other establishment Democrats — to the Republicans.

“Super-rich Americans have walked away with the prize in America. Our country is run by millionaires and billionaires, and for millionaires and billionaires, the rest of the country be damned.”  The country’s owned by “the rich and multinational corporations.”

He accuses the Democrats (“the Wall-Street-owned Democratic Party”)  of collusion in bringing about this state of affairs.  They’ve been the party of the banks ever since “the modern Democratic Party was re-created by Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin.”

Sachs also mentions, helpfully, that “I travel around the world as part of my job…”  Indeed.  Today he jet-sets around with “progressive” folks like Bono (who, by the way, has demonstrated his “progressive” credentials by pointing to Chinese censorship of the Internet as a model to be used by the Copyright Nazis at the RIAA/MPAA for suppressing the file-sharing movement).

But some of Mr. Sachs’ earlier travels, back in the nineties, involved facilitating the handover of Russia to exactly the same kind of bankster kleptocracy he now complains of in America.  In fact he was pushing for the same kinds of neoliberal “free market reform” in Russia that the above-mentioned Bob Rubin was helping Clinton ram through in the United States.

And bear in mind that what Sachs put a stop to was arguably much more credible as a genuine free market policy than what he put in its place.  The Gorbachev privatization agenda involved converting state industry into self-managed worker cooperatives, on something like the Yugoslav market socialism model.  And in Poland, Solidarity was pushing for the reorganization of state industry along similar cooperative lines, administered by the unions on a syndicalist model.  That was Rothbard’s model for privatizing state industry in formerly state socialist countries:  treat the state property as unowned and let it be homesteaded by the workers actually using it.  That was the model proposed by David Ellermann, then at the World Bank.

Sachs wasn’t having any of such proposals from those he dismissed as “self-management imbeciles.”  What he wanted was “normal capitalism” on the American corporate model, with a stock market and lots of MBAs hired to strip assets, downsize human capital, and give themselves multi-million ruble bonuses.

According to Naomi Klein, in The Shock Doctrine, the “privatization” carried out by Yeltsin, under the benevolent supervision of Mr. Sachs, came to pass in this wise:  The Russian state ministers transferred enormous public funds into banks owned by the oligarchs — themselves major figures in the state and former Communist Party leadership. The oligarch’s banks, in turn, conducted the privatization auctions of state industry — and they bid on it themselves, using the embezzled funds received from the government.  Klein referred to it as “the strip mining of an industrialized state.”  This, by the way — and Yeltsin’s forcible suspension of parliament and rule by decree — went largely unremarked on by the same people currently squealing about Putin’s authoritarianism. The difference is that Yeltsin was their thug.

In short, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Jeffrey Sachs helped do to the people of the former Soviet bloc what Pinochet had done to Chile.  The people had their revolution stolen out from under them by Sachs and his ilk.

It’s funny how so many “Progressives” can afford to be so progressive mainly before they’re put in power (like Mr. Hope and Change back in 2008), or after they leave it (Mr. Sachs) — and not when they’re actually in power.  Jam yesterday and jam tomorrow — but never jam today.  Funny, the effect that power seems to have on the “progressive” ideals of those who hold it.

You’d almost think it was impossible to achieve anything progressive through the exercise of state power.

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory