Joseph Stiglitz: Borlaug and the Bankers

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If neoclassical economic theory were correct, Norman Borlaug would have been among the wealthiest men in the world, while our bankers would have been lining up at soup kitchens.

Here is our monthly installment of Joseph E. Stiglitz's Unconventional Economic Wisdom column from the Project Syndicate news series. Stiglitz is a professor of economics at Columbia University, and recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, is co-author, with Linda Bilmes, of The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Costs of the Iraq Conflict.

By Joseph E. Stiglitz

NEW YORK – The recent death of Norman Borlaug provides an opportune moment to reflect on basic values and on our economic system. Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in bringing about the “green revolution,” which saved hundreds of millions from hunger and changed the global economic landscape.

Before Borlaug, the world faced the threat of a Malthusian nightmare: growing populations in the developing world and insufficient food supplies. Consider the trauma a country like India might have suffered if its population of a half-billion had remained barely fed as it doubled. Before the green revolution, Nobel Prize-winning economist Gunnar Myrdal predicted a bleak future for an Asia mired in poverty. Instead, Asia has become an economic powerhouse.