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Friday Morning Reflections at the World Bank: Essays on Values and Development.

For more than a decade, personnel of the World Bank (and a few outsiders) have gathered on Friday mornings for coffee and conversations about values and economic development. An extraordinary variety of religious and cultural traditions have been represented in these conversations.

David Beckmann--longtime staffer at the bank, Lutheran pastor, and recently installed president of Bread for the World--was a founder of the Friday group. Joined by three other authors, Beckmann has pulled together four essays that draw on the group's discussions of the ethical and spiritual dimensions of poverty and development. His own testimony is that "the power of the Spirit in a secular bureaucracy is real and powerful."

An Indian economist, Ramgopal Agarwala, offers a "Harmonist Manifesto," emphasizing a "needs-based" approach to development in place of a "wants-based" approach. "Harmonics," he says, is the study of the well-being of societies. Agarwala's paradoxical (incredible?) strategy is to combine "the market mechanism of Adam Smith and the value system of Mahatma Gandhi," which he ventures to call the Adam Gandhi philosophy.

Humanist Sven Burmester, a Dane and deputy secretary of the bank, argues that rich countries must strictly economize on resource exploitation, avoid irreversible pollution, assist poor countries in slowing population growth, curb consumption, and provide more substantial economic assistance, perhaps through a global tax. Burmester pleads for a revival of the practice of fasting, for "fasting can enhance feasting" and help prevent "the Twilight of the Gods."

Ismail Serageldin, an Egyptian Muslim and technical specialist on African economies, acknowledges a "dual skepticism" about the market's "invisible hand" (contra Adam Smith) and the "heavy hand" of central planing. Drawing inspiration from the Qur'an, Serageldin is equally reproachful of gross economic inequities and "the absolute lack of an ethical dimension in the ideology of nationalism."

The particular ideas in this small volume range from the startling to the platitudinous. Both the volume itself and the conversations that generated it offer models well worth emulation in other governmental and intergovernmental bureaucracies.

Alan Geyer is Professor of Political Ethics and Ecumenics, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.
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Author:Geyer, Alan
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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