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Unformatted text preview: -A.J.., .-I-cJ,...JJ, k i 7 (; a.J. J G. C Uro ~ ,." f 6-G ')1~ C\ ~ tv.;. ~ : A~~ It./,..- Chapter 2- ~ 'rlJy . Politics from Nature Environment, Ideology, and the Determinist Tradition A "- 2. ~.I .) A- ~~ Mark Bassin Introduction In 1997, the Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs published a lengthy thinkpiece in the Economist under the rather unlikely title "Nature, Nurture, and Growth." The title was unlikely insofar as Sachs - whose international fame (or notereity) came from his work as the number-crunching patron saint of the "shock therapy" approach to economic reform in post-communist Eastern Europe - never seemed very preoccupied with environmental or ecological concerns. Yet as the essay makes clear, these latter have now moved to the very center of his analytical interests. In his essay, Sachs considers the current prospects for economic convergence and equalization between the various regions of the globe, now that communism no longer operates as a divisive factor and thus, "for the first time in history," almost all of humanity is bound together in a single network of global capitalism. Yet despite this circumstance- which Sachsobviously believes is a very good thing - his conclusions are not positive, and he speaks rather about the "limits of convergence;" that is to say the eventuality that despite capitalism's new universality, many developing countries are going to be left behind nonetheless. The reasons for this, he argues, are not only or even primarily political or ideological. Rather, they relate to the objective environmental or geo- graphic conditions within which less-developed countries find themselves. An entire range of countries, Sachs argues, are "geographically disadvantaged," indeed "cursed" with what he variously terms a "geographical penalty," a "geographical deficit," or ~'poorer geographical endowments." This is particularly true of countries in the tropics, where endemically poor soils together with climatic conditions favor- able to the proliferation of debilitating diseases act as "fundamental geographical barriers" to economic development and prosperity. The great geographical contrast, unsurprisingly, is offered by the countries of the "temperate zone," that is to say Europe and North America. Quite unlike the blighted tropics, these regions are geographically "blessed" with moderate conditions favoring industry and the [ L 14 MARK BASSIN expansion of agricultural production. And while Sachs is at pains to "guard against a kind of geographical determinism" that he apparently feels the manner in which he marshals his facts might suggest, he nonetheless concludes that in the short and medium terms, "for much of the world bad climates, poor soils and physical isolation are likely to hinder growth whatever happens to policy." Indeed, for the tropics in particular prosperity can only be assured through a sort of tenuous symbiosis with the developed world, through which the former will be fed chiefly by "temperate-zone...
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- Spring '08