Economist Jeffrey Sachs has been at the forefront of global economic policy for close to four decades. He’s helped countries transition from communism to capitalism—with varying degrees of success—and advised the United Nations on programs promoting sustainable economic growth and the alleviation of poverty. He’s also directed the Earth Institute at Columbia University and is the author of eight mass-market books on poverty, wealth, and sustainability. In his latest, A New Foreign Policy, he focuses on America’s international relations. Alongside an angry condemnation of Trumpism, Sachs offers a set of progressive policy solutions that he believes can put all people, not just Americans, first.
—Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
AAA: You’re an economist. Why foreign policy, and why now?
JS: Foreign policy is at a point of complete crisis with Trump’s deliberate attempt to smash international rules and to start a new Cold War with China. It’s an attempt at a fascist-like type of American exceptionalism, and it’s extraordinarily dangerous.
AAA: This notion of national sovereignty comes up over and over again in Trump’s speeches. What does sovereignty even mean today?
JS: Sovereignty, for Trump, is like a child having a tantrum saying, “You can’t tell me what to do.” He doesn’t care about or pay attention to America’s attacks on other countries, or the fact that we have the CIA and other military operations in many parts of the world, or that our greenhouse-gas emissions are contributing to the ongoing wreckage of the planet. Clearly, he’s a man who does not believe in rules. That’s applied to his personal life, and it applies to his ideas about sovereignty.
AAA: You compare Trump’s “short-termism” to the likes of Hugo Chávez. What does that look like in practice?
JS: I’ve been watching Latin American populists for a long time, and governments repeatedly go broke because they spend their reserves, then borrow heavily, and then they can’t repay. Trump has the [same] incapacity for delayed gratification. This is basically what he’s doing with the United States right now: He’s living on the high of a $2 trillion corporate-tax cut.
AAA: As an internationalist, is there any movement you’re excited about?