Monday, January 02, 2006

The Planners Who Made African Poverty Worse

Christian Sandström, a fellow at the Swedish free-market think tank Captus, writes a withering critique of ‘socialist planning’ in Africa’s history from the 1960s onwards: “Exporting Marx Instead of Smith to Africa” in, 2 January. Read it at:

Three extracts show his theme:

Today, Africa is the continent that has the lowest amount of free trade, the least economic freedom and the lowest share of investment by Multinational Corporations in the world. Needless to say, much of the blame for this belongs to the dictators and autocratic rulers in Africa who have exercised these policies. But for many decades, the western intellectuals encouraged these rulers to do so.
The following quote by Gunnar Myrdal, the Swedish economist whom received the noble prize in 1974, illustrates this:
"All special advisers to underdeveloped countries who have taken the time and trouble to acquaint themselves with the problems, no matter who they are . . . all recommend central planning as a first condition of progress

As an economic undergraduate in the 1960s, I remember Gunnar Myrdal, whose 1974 quotation was praising the central planning consensus and not blaming them for the errors of their ways. I purchased and still have a copy of his anti-capitalist “Poverty of Nations” (Penguin) and remember his influence on development economics, along with the likes of Raul Prebisch in the UN. Julius Nyerere in Tanzania was another major figure leading a continent to ruin. Their intellectual descendants now run the anti-globalisation campaign, along with many Marxists who play down their Marxism.

The reason ‘all special advisers’ recommended central planning was because that is what they were taught in university economics departments by faculty who agreed with Gunnar Myrdal and Presbisch et al, and profoundly disagreed with what they called ‘classical economics’ and their version of Adam Smith in particular.

Christian Sandström summarises his conclusions powerfully:

To sum up, the rich world exported the ideas of Karl Marx instead of Adam Smith to Africa. The ideas of Marx haven’t worked anywhere and apparently they did not work in Africa either.”

Read Christian Sandström at:


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