Tyler Cowen on the World Bank presidential race

A few questions:

1. It is widely recognized that the Bank’s board “interferes” in WB activities too much, often meeting two times a week and also pushing through contracts which should be stopped or reexamined.  Who can best stand up to that board when necessary?  Can that be done at all, while keeping the contract-addicted major economic powers still interested in the Bank?

2. The WB is financially fairly dependent on China, which for whatever reason prefers to borrow from the Bank rather than use its reserves to finance projects.  What should a president do if China starts seeing itself as “graduating” from this relationship?  Or what if China falls apart economically?  Will the World Bank end up like the UN, losing some of its talent and being hat in hand, asking for funds?

…Maybe, maybe, maybe — if you knew the major candidates well — you could have some sense who would perform better at those tasks.  And at about fifty others.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

More important and unanswered questions from him here.

It is a good point: in choosing a candidate, focus on the strategic challenges ahead.

I think you could come up with a slightly longer list of strategic questions that are easier to answer, such as “The new President will attempt to steer the Bank in one new direction in the first year. What is that direction?” This may be easier to predict. And more within the President’s usual role.

The big worry about Kim is that he will take it in a health direction, which is odd for a Bank. On the other side, supporters point out this is one of the areas where the Bank has historically been successful.

These are all what we call instrumental rationales–we make our decision on the ends that matter.

I would like us to keep the focus on the means. That an illegitimate process will tend to deliver poor ends in general, even if the present end doesn’t look that bad.

Also: the best way to get the world asking these strategic and instrumental questions about who should lead the world’s financial institutions is to take the decision away from the American Presidency.