Dartmouth Undying

The World Bank got better than it deserves.

Jim Yong Kim is that rarest of all administrators: a bureaucratic entrepreneur. When he was in his 20s he co-founded the charity Partners in Health, which shook up the foreign aid establishment. At Dartmouth he work tirelessly to bring in world class business, academic, and political leaders to speak, write, and broadcast from Hanover. He resolved a financial crisis brought on by a poorly structured investment portfolio and an ill-considered spending formula. He cut jobs, taking on the faculty and employee union in the process, not through direct confrontation, but by building his own political base.

He brings none of the traditional finance, political, banking, or policy credentials to the post of World Bank President. That is to say, he is perfect for the job. He’s an outsider there, just as the Brown and Harvard graduate was an outsider at Dartmouth. He brings an outsider’s perspective, and will quickly be able to see that the World Bank, long a sinecure for Keynesian mandarins, has no mission, no mandate, and no credibility. The last reformer to head the Bank ended up with a knife in his back. But Kim is a different kind of leader.

As his forays onto the “Dartmouth Idol” stage make clear (check out the You Tube videos), he’s not afraid to mix it up with the crowd. Rather than confronting incompetence, he became such an enthusiastic and winsome advocate for excellence that opposing Dr. Kim was like opposing sunshine. He didn’t bend high standards, but he didn’t beat people with them, either.

President Kim is an inspired choice to head the World Bank. Hanover’s loss will be H Street’s gain. This will be interesting to watch.

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