McNamara's Other Debacle
McNamara’s time at the World Bank is as much his lasting infamy as his Vietnam record. A World Bank biography noted that during McNamara’s tenure, “the previous Bank strictures against lending to public sector banking institutions or enterprises were relaxed.” The official sketch of McNamara’s presidency noted that “his reliance upon government intervention sometimes meant turning a blind eye to coercive practices ... and could lead the Bank to ignore the inefficiency and economic cost of government policies.”
McNamara’s favorite foreign leader was Julius Nyerere, ruler of Tanzania, which received more bank aid per capita than any other country in that decade. In the early 1970s, with World Bank aid and advice, Nyerere sent the Tanzanian army to drive the peasants off their land, burn their huts, load them onto trucks, and take them where the government thought they should live. The peasants were then ordered to build new homes “in neat rows staked out for them by government officials.”
Nyerere wanted to curb his countrymen’s individualist and capitalist tendencies and make them easier to control. He even outlawed people’s sleeping in their gardens at night, which meant that monkeys were free to help themselves to their crops. In many cases, the new government villages were far from the farmers’ own lands, and so they simply gave up tilling the land, with the result that hunger in Tanzania soared.