Friday, April 27, 2007
The bank's credibility was already fatally compromised by hypocrisies far greater than those of Wolfowitz
Friday April 27, 2007
"It's not the act itself, it's the hypocrisy. That's the line on Paul Wolfowitz coming from editorial pages around the world. It's neither: not the act (the way he disregarded the rules to get his girlfriend a pay rise); and not the hypocrisy (the fact that Wolfowitz's mission as World Bank president is fighting for "good governance").
First, let's dispense with the supposed hypocrisy problem. "Who wants to be lectured on corruption by someone telling them to 'Do as I say, not as I do'?" asked one journalist. No one, of course. But that's a pretty good description of the game of one-way strip poker that is our global trade system, in which the United States and Europe - via the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation - tell the developing world: "You take down your trade barriers and we'll keep ours up." From farm subsidies to the Dubai Ports World scandal, hypocrisy is our economic order's guiding principle......
The three main institutions at the heart of that crusade are in crisis - not because of the small hypocrisies, but because of the big ones. The World Trade Organisation cannot get back on track, the International Monetary Fund is going broke, displaced by Venezuela and China. And now the World Bank is going down.
The Financial Times reports that when World Bank managers dispensed advice, "they were now laughed at". Perhaps we should all laugh at the World Bank. What we should absolutely not do, however, is participate in the effort to cleanse the bank's ruinous history by repeating the absurd narrative that the reputation of an otherwise laudable anti-poverty organisation has been sullied by one man. The bank understandably wants to throw Wolfowitz overboard. I say: let the ship go down with the captain."