By John Hemington
Jeffrey Sachs will soon be speaking in Pittsburgh. He has become the establishment’s bright liberal light by opposing the right-wing ‘Freedom Caucus’ and supporting efforts to combat global climate destabilization. His past actions, however, are a poor foundation for such acclaim.
Jeffrey Sachs is best known for his work as president of the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID). The HIID was known for its unstinting efforts, in league with George Soros, Larry Summers and CIA-related organizations, to spread neoliberal ‘shock doctrine’ policies to the world. These were an outgrowth of Milton Friedman’s ‘Chicago Boys’ economic destruction, first tried out in Chile following the ouster and murder of Dr. Salvador Allende in 1973.
To quote from The Internationalist (October 2011):
“Dr. Sachs was contracted by hardline capitalist regimes from Bolivia to Russia. His task: to design an economic ‘shock treatment’ that produced misery and death for untold numbers of working people.” (Emphasis in original)
Sachs was known as the leader of the ‘Harvard Boys,’ a clique of America’s supposed ‘best and brightest’ young economists out to save the world for neoliberal corporate interests. This he accomplished with a tremendous energy akin to a religious fervor. He and his team worked closely with numerous governmental and non-governmental front organizations closely affiliated with the CIA and Treasury Department, such as USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
Sachs first major effort was in Bolivia, where he was determined to smash the tin miners’ union on behalf of rightist president Victor Paz Estenssoro and former dictator Hugo Banzer, and to impose neoliberal economic policies. A decree was issued by Paz which virtually made strikes illegal, shut down the mines, fired miners and “relocated” more than 20,000 to tropical areas. All these actions followed the advice given by Dr. Sachs. As a result “. . . the social costs… were immense,” The Internationalist reported. “Paz passed the costs of stabilization onto the lower classes. . . In 1986 the purchasing power of the average Bolivian was down 70 percent… Unemployment reached 20-25%, and nearly all social welfare benefits were swept away.”
Next on the list, accompanied and supported by George Soros, was Poland. Here Sachs worked to convince Lech Walesa and Solidarnośé to move toward neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ in order to quickly convert the economy to capitalism. It appears that the utter destructiveness of this policy on the Polish population was never revealed to Walesa or the members of his union. The privatization policy meant mass unemployment, the destruction of social benefits and the rise of anti-woman, anti-worker attitudes and a rise of xenophobia. It also made a number of oligarchs quite wealthy.
However, Bolivia and Poland were mere stepping stones to the ultimate prize – Russia. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union moves were afoot to establish a blend of socialism and capitalism to ease the move away from the Soviet version of socialism. But Russia needed financial help in order to move forward and the IMF moved in to offer loans, but with a string attached. Russia had to employ neoliberal shock therapy if it was to receive the loans. Thus appears HIID in the persons of Jeffrey Sachs, David Lipton and George Soros to guide U.S. chosen stooge Boris Yeltsin through the process of thorough neoliberalization. As characterized in The Nation:
“The activities of HIID in Russia provide some cautionary lessons on abuse of trust by . . . foreign advisers, on US arrogance and on the entire policy of support for a single . . . group of so-called reformers. The . . . story is a familiar one in the ongoing saga of US foreign policy disasters created by those said to be our best and brightest.”
The shock treatment’s result in Russia “was a thorough disaster, one of the worst collapses in human history,” noted the Left Business Observer. It produced millions of deaths, the gross domestic product was sliced in half, poverty increased tenfold, health care was devastated, the mortality rate increased by 75%, life expectancy for men dropped by 7 years, and the nation was turned over to ruthless oligarchs. Short of all- out global war there is nothing much to compare it with.
John Hemington worked as a general practice lawyer for about ten years before transitioning into computer law and eventually into computer management. He worked as Information Technology Director for 16 years at the Watson Institute in Sewickley before retiring. He is an avid student of history and politics, with a particular interest in neoliberalism’s history, development and impact on today’s world.