The Struggle for the Third World

The Future of the World Economy

by Wassily Leontief
Oxford University Press, for the United Nations, 110 pp., $15.00

The Evolution of the International Economic Order

by W. Arthur Lewis
Princeton University Press, 81 pp., $2.45 (paper)

Rich and Poor Nations in the World Economy

by Albert Fishlow and Carlos Díaz-Alejandro and Richard R. Fagen and Rogert D. Hansen
McGraw-Hill, 288 pp., $6.96 (paper)


If we survey the relations of the rich and poor countries not over the last two to three years but over the last twenty to thirty years, there is no doubt about the magnitude of the changes. That may be a platitude, but it is necessary to say it in order to put the apparent setbacks or stagnation since 1975 into perspective. By seizing the initiative at the first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in 1964 the developing countries put the Third World on the map, and the rich nations are not going to be allowed to forget its existence.

Thirty years ago no one was visibly concerned about the plight of the world’s poor. It was almost as though it was accepted as ordained by divine providence. At Bretton Woods the needs and interests of the underdeveloped peoples were notoriously ignored, and Asia and Africa figured scarcely at all in the postwar planning of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, except that it was assumed that China would take Japan’s place as the leading power in the Far East. It is only necessary to compare the declaration issued at the close of the Bonn summit conference last July to see the difference. Here, out of a total of thirty-one numbered paragraphs, no less than six refer directly, and a further five indirectly, to the need “to help” and to work “even more closely” with the developing countries.1

But it is precisely at this point that doubt creeps in. As one correspondent put it, “a gesture towards the developing world is nearly always made by the industrialized countries when meeting to discuss the problems of the world economy.”2 The first question anyone reading the Bonn declaration in detail will ask is how its protestations of good will are going to be implemented in practice; and here it has to be said that concrete proposals are singularly vague. Meanwhile, it is perhaps significant, in view of President Carter’s explicit commitment to launching an attack on world hunger, that an attempt by a group of doctors and scientists to set up an International Disaster Institute to help countries faced by earthquakes, drought, flood, and other calamities has collapsed through lack of support.3 This is perhaps a practical touchstone of Western concern.

Much has been made of President Carter’s human rights policy, and it is easy to see the attractions of a foreign policy grounded in compassion and morality for Americans still smarting under the revelations of Watergate and Vietnam, the invasion of Santo Domingo, and the counterrevolution in Chile. There is no doubt that the initiative of Congress in tying aid to minimal standards of human rights performance is popular. But before we conclude that the leopard has finally changed his spots, it might be well to take a look at recent, and not so recent, happenings in Zaire. It is here, as I suggested earlier,4 that we come face to face with the realities of so-called…

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