Maybe I'm an ignoramus. But I'd never heard of Paul Collier who the Times identifies as a professor at Oxford and the author of The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. His op-ed is called "A Measure of Hope," and since I'm a sucker for hope I hastened to read it. I was reassured when I realized that he was criticizing the Millennium Development Goals. How could something so pompously named really help anyone?


"I applaud Ban Ki-moon," Collier says. Still, given the United Nations which he leads, this applause is not very loud. Yet the U.N. is what we have, and its character is best represented by the hundreds and hundreds of black limousines ferrying around the east side of Manhattan on the occasion of the annual autumn jamboree of the General Assembly. I cannot imagine a more vivid picture of indulgence, sloth, self-satisfaction, pomposity and waste than this fest of the representatives of the abysmally poor.  


Collier is stuck in a tight spot. He does not really have very much to say. But he does have, say, 900 words. So here are exemplars of his wisdom: "For all its manifest limitations, the United Nations must work." And another: "The U.N. must update its strategy to rescue the world's poorest nations."  And when should it do that?  Now.  "This session of the United Nations is an appropriate moment to get started." I bet you it won't. And Collier knows it. This is just blather.


In any case, the U.N. is convened to hear Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.