By Bryan Caplan
Apparently I’m not the only guy who teaches economics using cartoons. Larry White uses South Park to score a damning point against Jeff Sachs:
One of the all-time greatest episodes of South Park is “Underpants Gnomes,” wherein the coffee-addled character Tweak finds that his missing underpants are being stolen by — you guessed it — a group of underpants gnomes…
When asked to explain why they are stealing underpants, the gnomes offer the following as their business plan:
Phase 1: Collect underpants
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit
The gnomes themselves don’t understand Phase 2; the underpants are simply piling up. The lesson…: profit doesn’t appear by magic. You have to do something appropriate that actually yields a profit.
Now consider Jeffrey Sachs’ plan for enriching sub-Saharan Africa:
The rich world should offer impoverished regions like sub-Saharan Africa more economic support to break out of poverty. Of course, aid should be directed to specific needs – for example, malaria control, food production, safe drinking water, and sanitation – whose fulfillment can be measured and monitored to resist corruption. By raising living standards, we would also be empowering both civil society and impoverished governments to defend the rule of law.
Or in essence:
Phase 1: US taxpayers give (more) money to sub-Saharan African governments or multinational aid agencies, “directed to specific needs”.
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Africa embarks on cumulative growth.
As Cartman says, “Sweeeeet!”