The Policy Game


To the Editors of The Crimson:

The Harvard community has many objections to President Bok's invitation to Arnold Harberger to become director of the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID), which coordinates Harvard's involvement in development programs around the world. Harberger's involvement in policy making in the repressive military junta of Chile, compromising as it is to the future of HIID, is not the only objection to his appointment. Harberger's participation in Chilean economic decisions is indicative of a viewpoint which ignores considerations of social costs in purporting to analyze the benefits and costs of economic measures. In Harberger's own words, quoted in the New York Times:

"those who do best in the policy game are those who know how to make those tools--price, monetary, international trade and public finance, theory--work. People who criticize this attitude for an alleged neglect of noneconomic considerations usually have in mind such things as morality, democracy and justice."

Such considerations as "morality, democracy and justice" are not values to be taken lightly. Harberger does not seem to recognize that massive repression, unemployment, hunger, and torture are social costs incurred by his Draconian monetarist measures. The ideal is not maximum possible efficiency within Harberger's limited econometric model, but the optimum degree of economic efficiency with the maximum freedom from suffering, persecution, and exploitation for everyone in the population.

Further, Harberger's comments and policies seem to disqualify him as director of a development agency whose professed goal is to increase the ability of developing countries to manage their economies in a self-sustaining manner. In Chile, for example, the regime has transformed formerly government-owned industries to so-called private investors, read multi-nationals, and has burdened Chile with one of the highest per capital foreign debts in the world.

A progress which benefits a few upper-class individuals and American multi-nationals at the expense of the majority of the nation's population, is not progress at all. Development, by its very nature, involves social as well as economic change. Economic changes presumably result in improvements in the economy of a country, but Harberger's policies neither seem to improve the economic well-being of a country nor accept responsibility for the social costs his programs demand. Can Harberger justify the number of victims of his development schemes by the far smaller number of beneficiaries. Rosalyn Lezberg   Grant Barnes   Kent A. Libbey   Peter B. Lundett   Andrew Liu   Erin M. Sheridan   Karin Wentz

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