EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the April 11, 2005, issue of National Review.
Say this for President Bush: The man has a sense of style. Critic after critic howls for the heads of the architects of the Iraq war, and above all for the head of the man the European media call “Paul Vulfovitz,” as though he were a villain in a John Buchan novel. So what does the president do? He names this Vulfovitz to run the World Bank–a job that the world’s do-gooders and bleeding hearts have long regarded as their exclusive domain. Take that!
And just to add extra torque to the nomination, there is this irony: Even the president’s detractors have been constrained to admit that Wolfowitz is likely to prove an excellent choice–maybe more excellent than is entirely comfortable either for the bank, for its clients in the underdeveloped world, or for its constituencies in the advanced industrial democracies.
The foreign-aid industry has long been under fire from the free-market Right. The great Hungarian-born economist Peter Bauer published his searing essay “Dissent on Development” all the way back in 1971. Bauer’s work was bitterly controversial at the time, but in the three
and a half decades since, it has evolved into something close to orthodoxy: Bauer himself ended his days as a member of the British House of Lords.
In the 1990s, the old attack from the Right was reinforced by a new challenge from the anti-globalist Left. This new wave of protesters objected to the World Bank’s record of supporting dams, mines, highways, and airports rather than the traditional life of primitive villages–and to its even more alarming habit of expecting its loans to be repaid. In the face of this unexpected onslaught, the bank’s image-conscious chairman James Wolfensohn hastily retreated. He gave speeches declaring that he shared the protesters’ goals. He promised to consult environmental activists before funding future dams. He declared that poverty reduction would replace traditional big-project development as the bank’s main priority…
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