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For Harberger's Economics



To the Editors of the Crimson:

I have been reading with some dismay your coverage of the proposed appointment of Arnold Harberger to head the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID).

My dismay derives from several factors. First, it appears to me that, in adopting opposition to the appointment as a "cause," the Crimson has lost some journalistic objectivity. The opposition seems to get vastly more coverage than the support. It is the sort of journalism which I would expect from William Loeb in my home state of New Hampshire, but from Harvard I look for more. How about giving someone who favors the appointment a column or two to present that viewpoint to your readers?

Second, I believe it is wrong to suggest that Harberger's market-oriented politics are obsolete. After the pendulum has swung from the "trickle-down" to "basic human needs," experience now suggests that poor people can suffer as much from excessive reliance on the one as on the other as an absolute in development strategy. It appears that neither equity nor growth can be assumed as an inevitable product of the other, that both must be explicity planned for in relation to one another, and that the Harbergers as well as the Galbraiths can contribute in striking that appropriate balance.

Third, I am dismayed by the sort of naivete or ideological partisanship which determines "guilt" of an international development adviser by the regime with which he "associates." In my career in the Agency for International Development (AID), I have worked with such motley regimes as those of Torrijos in Panama, Velasco in Peru, Banzer in Bolivia, Burnham in Guyana and Somoza in Nicaragua. Like most Third World countries, none of them were models of participative democracy. However, they were all serious about development; and in each of them there were people with whom I and our AID mission could work with a clear conscience in ways which might strengthen the prospects for democratic institutions while improving the living level of the poor. In like manner, HIID's list of clients includes such countries as Indonesia, Bolivia, Kenya, Pakistan and Tanzania. None should suffer under the illusion that these are democracies as we know democracy. One has only to read the State Department's human rights reports to recognize that even Nyrere's Tanzania has a one-party system with but limited tolerance for dissenters, some of whom are in jail for their views.

I suppose that we who deal with the Third World could limit ourselves to the few Costa Ricas of the world and thereby avoid the contamination of guilt by association. However, the real challenge, the real opportunities to change the world into a better place through advice and influence are in those countries which need it most. I would hope that HIID would continue to operate in that philosophy under its new director, and, while recognizing that there are some regimes of such questionable legitimacy as to call for complete dissociation, be generally available to Third World countries, as responses to requests from the market-oriented regimes of the right as to socialist-oriented regimes of the left.

Let us not then castigate Harberger for his neo-classical economics; as an intellectual community Harvard needs men of stature with diverse viewpoints. Neither let us attribute guilt by association for the regimes with which he works; even the Pinochets of the world can be influenced for the better by well-reasoned arguments from advisers of Harberger's stature. Rather let us be concerned more for Harberger's intellectual and personal integrity, his tolerance of differing viewpoints, the ways in which he used his influence in Chile, and in other countries. To me these are the issues which deserve airing and should determine whether a nominee is best qualified to head the HIID. Arthur Mudge   Fellow, Center for International Affairs

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