Big New Book Treads Old Economic Memes
By Staff News & Analysis - January 11, 2011

Dambisa Moyo (left): without change US will almost certainly become a socialist nation … Dambisa Moyo is that rare type of person – an economist who makes waves. Her first book, Dead Aid, angered many in the charity sector by arguing that foreign aid has harmed Africa and should be phased out. Her second, which is published in London on Thursday, accuses America and other Western powers of squandering their world economic dominance through a sustained catalogue of fundamentally flawed policies. How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly – And the Stark Choices Ahead goes so far as to predict that the US will be a "bona fide socialist welfare state" by the latter part of this century. "Indeed, if nothing else changes it from its current path," writes Moyo, "it is almost certain that America will move from a fully-fledged capitalist society of entrepreneurs to a socialist nation in just a few decades. – UK Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: The West faces great challenges and must change its ways.

Free-Market Analysis: Dambisa Moyo's first book, Dead Aid, was certainly impressive. Mayo, a woman of color with a distinguished background, was not afraid to explain how Western aid was hurting impoverished countries. The accusations carried weight, and many have been eagerly awaiting her next book, How the West Was Lost. The Telegraph's review, excerpted above, is an advance one. But it does provide clues as to what Mayo has produced as a follow up.

Moyo's new book seems less groundbreaking than her first. According to the Telegraph, she blames governments for the West's plight; but in the 21st century, we would argue that there is a need to go beyond formulas that blame elected officials for the world's woes. The issue in our view is the Anglo-American power elite that stands behind the West's governments and has pushed for programs that on our humble estimation weaken the West in order to make global governance more likely.

Moyo obviously has a different interpretation; and certainly she certainly has the credentials to support whatever argument she wishes to make. According to the Telegraph, she achieved a chemistry degree and MBA at Washington DC's American University, a doctorate in economics from Oxford and a masters from Harvard before working as a consultant at the World Bank and then for nearly a decade at Goldman. Since the publication of her first book, Moya has been literally besieged with honors. Here's some more on her background from Wikipedia:

• In May 2009, TIME Magazine named Moyo as one of the world's 100 most influential people.

• In September 2009 Moyo was featured in Oprah Winfrey's power list of 20 remarkable visionaries.

• In 2010, Dambisa Moyo was a participant at the Bilderberg Conference.

• In 2009, she was honoured by the World Economic Forum as one of its Young Global Leaders.

• She also serves on the board of Barclays Bank, SABMiller and Lundin Petroleum.

• She has done numerous speaking engagements at organizations including: OECD, World Bank, IMF, Council on Foreign Relations, American Enterprise Institute and the 2009 Munk Debates as well as most of the G7 countries. In 2009 she spoke at the TEDx conference at the EU Parliament.

• She is a regular contributor to financial journals such as The Economist and Financial Times and has appeared as a guest on networks such as CNN, CNBC, BBC and Fox Business.

Moyo obviously moves in elite circles. Yet her first book in a sense attacked those same interests. She questioned the efficacy of pouring trillions in aid through corrupt governments and claimed it worsened the plight of citizens in those countries. In part, it resembled "Confessions of Hit Man" – which accused the IMF of working for corporate interests. These multinationals swoop down once a country is indebted and purchase various public utilities at pennies on the dollar. The World Bank puts nations in hoc – so goes the cynical view – and the IMF extracts these nations, but at a price. As we have pointed out before, it is a kind of tag team – and it is a purposeful one.

The fix the West is in today is also purposeful, in our view. Yet this time Moyo makes a case that is sympathetic to government; Western bureaucracies have arrived at their current pass with the best of intentions. "Policies that Western populations have rallied around as great ideas turning out to produce detrimental results," the Telegraph informs us. "Western governments have implemented laudable notions like the idea that everyone should have a roof over their head, receive access to food and be supported in old age. These have led to unfortunate outcomes in terms of capital, labour and productivity, the key ingredients for economic growth." Meanwhile, Moyo apparently argues that a technocratic approach to government – along with an emphasis on "austerity" – is the solution:

"We all know what the problems are," she says. "Which is why I actually think the [British] coalition Government is brilliant because so far they have been able to implement some of the hardest choices of the austerity measures in an environment where it's much less politicised than if it was just a left-wing or right-wing government in power. You kind of need to strip out the politics." It also may require a change of mindset, with Moyo arguing that governments need people who are absolutely focused on long-term structural issues such as education, deficit management, energy, food commodities, longer-term productivity and infrastructure. "The problems have been highlighted but where's the plan for those issues? There isn't one."

We have heard this before. (In fact we have written about these solutions as emergent, elite, dominant social themes.) Moyo's emphasis on China as the West's great competitor and the idea that various factions in Western governments need to be pragmatic rather than adversarial – these are some of the emergent promotions of the elite in our view.

Her positive view of the UK's current coalition government, with its combination of liberal and conservative leadership, is one that echoes New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – one of the world's richest men – who has also made clear his preference for coalition governments. Bloomberg believes that people ought to have the opportunity to vote for the "best person" – the one who is best able to fix the problems that government is capable of solving. This accepts as a given that government is the repository of solutions and that those who work in government ought to concentrate on solving problems that need to be fixed. There is no awareness that government might be the CAUSE of the problem(s).

Having not read Moyo's book (only descriptions of it) we cannot be sure of the details. But so far as we can tell, Moyo's analysis is much like any other quasi-libertarian analysis delivered over the past half-century or so. The accusations are consistently the same and have to do with misguided policies rather than purposeful ones. Solutions inevitably feature government as well; just better government; more enlightened government; technocratic government that works on behalf of the "people" to solve problems that need resolution.

Here at the Bell, we have a much darker view of what has gone wrong in the past 50 years. We believe that the Anglo-American powers-that-be may have driven the West to ruin in order to create one-world government. We believe the current chaos in the West is no accident and that government solutions only reinforce the mercantilist strategies of an elite that anticipates an ever-more centralized, global bureaucracy.

In Moyo's book we see the emergence and repetition of certain themes of the elite: Government as technocracy; China as adversary; "austerity" as a solution to what ails the West. While these ideas are perfectly supportable, we tend to believe they miss the mark in an increasingly polarized modern age. We would argue that because of the Greater Recession and an alternative economic and sociopolitical narrative available on the Internet (see other article this issue), arguments such as the ones that Moyo is advancing are going to have more difficulty finding unabashed acceptance, especially within the context of an increasingly alienated intelligentsia.

After Thoughts

The narrative that Moyo is offering sounds fairly mundane – in light of the West's current upheaval – as do her solutions. There is another narrative that we believe the elite is creating – one that features the implacable corruption of the nation-states and the curative transparency that only a truly visionary world-government can provide. We have tended to believe that Julian Assange might be a figurehead for this sort of paradigm; and we note, too, that he has just received a book contract.