Is liberalism the key to fighting global poverty? Or does it cause it?

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Social experiments are fraught with hazards, especially in political matters, where the center of gravity tends to lie on a slippery slope. The perils of such endeavors, as some social phenomena tend to unveil themselves in neon colors, tempt those who dare to peek through the cracks of their social construct to chisel the façade and examine what is underneath.

I propose an experiment to establish the equivalent of the Vatican City in Washington D.C., with a sovereign, supranational power and have it run by liberals. Let us call it “liberal nirvana.”

{mosads}Alluring questions race through inquisitive minds. Would “liberal nirvana” prove to be a Disneyland in its administrative efficiency or a Mugabe-land in its dysfunction? Would it be a self-constrained power governed by the rule of law or a Hobbesian island, devoid of accountability and moral imperative? Would it be a kingdom of redeemed fallen angels, or of bestial remnants of human’s heritage as risen apes?


The experiment can provide us with microcosmic insight into the larger liberal universe, albeit with due circumspection. The good news is that we do not have to wait too long to see the results of such an experiment. There is already such a supranational entity in Washington D.C. that has been around for 75 years. It is called the World Bank.

The World Bank is funded with taxpayer dollars. Nonetheless, it is a sovereign power with its own court system. It is the equivalent of the Vatican City, though it exists in a parallel universe from where God has been exiled. Its population size is 10,000 in its headquarters, but its tentacles reach 193 nations.

Its overarching objectives are lofty and idealistic, bordering on a messianic zeal. They include ending global poverty, promoting equitable growth, and leading the global crusade against climate change. The current president, Jim Yong Kim wants to add healthcare as a human right. You essentially have Bernie Sanders on steroids. Of course, it all sounds great until you ask: Who will pay for it?

The World Bank is the world’s longest running “Go Fund Me” enterprise. Its function is to mobilize resources from rich countries to help fund development programs in poor countries. The funds are provided to the recipient countries as grants or loans at low or zero interest rates.

Throughout its existence, the mammoth organization has drawn sustained criticism from conservative circles. In 1996, the Heritage Foundation called upon the U.S. government to stop funding it, providing hard data that “most long-term recipients of World Bank money are no better off than they were when they received their first loan. Many are actually worse off.”

Yet, this is an organization that receives taxpayer dollars. Despite the fact of its failures. Would you invest your money in a company that has more failures than success? Probably not, but that hasn’t stopped the World Bank from receiving taxpayer dollars.

The devastating assessment was amplified in a 2001 book by one of the World Bank’s own lead research economists, William Easterly. The book, aptly titled “The Elusive Quest for Growth,” laid bare the abject failure of the World Bank in spurring development in poor countries. The institution considered the book as a validation of the Heritage Foundation’s assault on its liberal paradigm.

In 2006, Easterly was vindicated by 28 world renowned economists. The group commissioned by the World Bank and chaired by Angus Deaton, a Nobel laureate in economics, found Easterly’s book as the “most influential of all of the World Bank’s research outputs.” Despite the recognition and accuracy of Easterly’s book, he was ultimately removed from his position. However, Easterly is not the only high-profile official banished for harboring dissenting views.

Remember Paul Wolfowitz? Wolfowitz was treated as a pariah because of his conservative outlook and his uncompromising stand against corruption in developing countries. Liberal-leaning civil society organizations argued that “the World Bank has neither the mandate nor the legitimacy” to fight corruption in countries that it finances.

Ultimately, Wolfowitz lost the fight and left the World Bank. One of the countries he canceled a scheduled loan was Chad, after its government violated the terms of agreement on a $4.2 billion World Bank loan. In 2015, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund approved a $1.1 billion debt-relief package for Chad after its leaders squandered the loan. At the time, Chad ranked as the seventh most-corrupt country in the world.

It clear that the World Bank despite its good intentions has a track record of failure. As Easterly told the New York Times, the bank’s track record is a “tragedy” for the poor. The tragedy is that “the West spent $2.3 trillion on foreign aid over the last five decades and still had not managed to get 12-cent medicines to children to prevent half of all malaria deaths.” Or better tackle the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Far from alleviating poverty, World Bank financed projects have “devastating consequences for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet,” as documented by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Despite the intent to do good, not only has this “beacon of hope” failed to fight poverty, it also has a long history of its own discriminatory past. This is nowhere clearer than in the way the World Bank treats people of African origin within its ranks.

A 1998 World Bank diversity report admitted the presence of “serious” and “systemic race-based discrimination” that rated Africans as “inferior” and segregated them in the Africa region of the institution. The 2015 World Bank diversity report revealed that black employees regard the work environment as a “kind of apartheid.”

The World Bank is the longest-running liberal institution that has managed to free itself from competing conservative ideas and ideals. This institution is the closest thing for a social petri dish to help answer the following: What will happen if one provides a liberal establishment with trillions of dollars, grant it immunity from legal accountability, and leave it alone for three-quarters of a century to do good in the world? Tragedy and institutionalized racism at the expense of the American taxpayer.

Shermichael Singleton is a CNN political commentator and a Republican political strategist who has worked on the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and Ben Carson. Follow him on Twitter @Shermichael_.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Ben Carson Bernie Sanders International Liberalism Politics Poverty taxpayers World Bank

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