Jeff Sachs: There Is No Alternative…?

To a massive public stake in the economy? It sure seems like that’s what the eminent free-marketeer of yore is saying. From The Guardian (the first paragraph excerpted):

There is plenty of room for blunders, to be sure. Government activism can founder on the shoals of massive budget deficits, tax-cutting populism pushed by the right, politically motivated investments such as corn-based ethanol rather than science-based public investments, and more. Yet Obama is absolutely correct that we have no choice but to try.

Rewriting the rulebook for 21st-century capitalism
Technology is at the core of Obama’s plans for a sustainable future. In this new era of public action, the US is back in the lead

Jeffrey Sachs
The Guardian, Wednesday 28 January 2009

One of President Barack Obama’s historic contributions will be a grand act of policy jujitsu–turning the crushing economic crisis into the launch of a new age of sustainable development. His macroeconomic stimulus may or may not cushion the recession, and bitter partisan fights over priorities no doubt lie ahead. But Obama is already setting a new historic course by reorienting the economy from private consumption to public investments directed at the great challenges of energy, climate, food production, water and biodiversity.

The new president has taken every opportunity to underscore that the economic crisis will not slow, but rather will accelerate, the much-needed economic transformation to sustainability. He made this clear again on Monday with new commitments on climate change. The fiscal stimulus, soon to go before Congress, will lay down the first steps of a massive generation-long technological overhaul–embracing the power sector, energy efficiency in buildings, public and private transportation, and much more. The US has lagged behind the world in such efforts for 30 years. Yet with America’s technological prowess, and Obama’s pivotal commitment, it is likely to jump to the lead.

Obama has started with the most important first step: a team of scientific and technological advisers of stunning quality, including two Nobel laureates (Steven Chu and Harold Varmus), and longstanding leaders in climate, energy, ecology and cutting-edge technologies. He has also focused on two core truths of sustainable development: that technological overhaul lies at the core of the challenge, and that such an overhaul requires a public-private partnership for success. Taking shape, therefore, is nothing less than a new 21st-century model of capitalism itself, one which is committed to the dual objectives of economic development and sustainability, and is organised to steer core technologies to achieve these twin goals.

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