Greg Mankiw links to 'a new hagiography of Jeffrey Sachs' in Vanity Fair.

Jeffrey Sachs—visionary economist, savior of Bolivia, Poland, and other struggling nations, adviser to the U.N. and movie stars—won't settle for less than the global eradication of extreme poverty. And he hasn't got a second to waste.

Here is more on Sachs's 'Millenium Villages'. Hagiographies of Sachs occur with impressive frequency. Mankiw is clearly, if not explicitly, ironic; Dani Rodrik is also sceptical. Academic economists are certainly less enamoured to Sachs than journalists - but whether this reflects envy about the man's image in the 'popular' press or deeper objections to the substance of his work is difficult to tell.

Personally, I am a fan - here's an economist who understands that the science of economics can not merely be 'disinterested study' and that packaging and marketing are essential elements of public policy.

At the same time, I am not too sure projects such as the Millenium Villages are worth the effort; and it does feel like press coverage is consistently way over the top. But how can you blame the press? Jeffrey Sachs is a journalist's dream.

And to prove the point, here's an excerpt from PBS's 'Commanding Heights' documentary, directly from the horse's mouth:

Drafting Poland's Reform Program

INTERVIEWER: Tell me the story about how you and your colleagues were given basically an overnight deadline to work out an economic plan for Poland.

JEFFREY SACHS: We had these discussions with all of the Solidarity leadership, and one night David Lipton and I went to the small apartment flat of Jacek Kuron, a marvelous man, one of the most wonderful people I've ever met, a real hero of mine. We were in his cramped apartment, he didn't really speak English but he understood most. Chain-smoking like crazy.

And we talked for a few hours, where I was trying to explain, at least [in] my view, how you get out of this mess that the Communist system had left behind. Of course no one had tried it yet, this was all hypothetical. And the idea was to sketch it, and every couple of minutes that I was speaking, he would pound on the table, "Pah, pah, pah, yes, yes, yes, I understand." And we'd gone on, pah, pah, and it was really exciting. We went on for a few hours like this. I was exhausted and the room was filled with smoke and he said, "Okay, clear."

Our friend was translating, he said, "Clear, write up the plan." And we got up, I said, "Well, this will be a great honor. Doctor Lipton and I are leaving tomorrow evening or the next day and we'll send you something just as soon as we can." "No. Tomorrow morning I need the plan." And I laughed and he said, "I'm absolutely serious, I need this written down now." And we looked at each other and our friend, who was the business manager of the Gazeta Wyborcza, which was the embryonic newspaper at the time, it had just been opened, and it was working out of a kindergarten school classroom with the offices on slabs of wood over sinks so you could put down a computer terminal. He said, "We'll go back to the office and we'll write something."

And Lipton and I went back and we wrote up a plan that night, from about 10:00 in the evening until I don't know if it was 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning.[We] delivered it the next morning to Kuron, to Geremek, to Michnik. And they looked at it, distributed to the Solidarity members of the Parliament, the so-called OKP, the Solidarity club of the Parliament, and we were told, "You can get on an airplane to go to Gdansk. It is time for you to go see Mr. Walesa."

by datacharmer | Saturday, June 09, 2007
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