Support for Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank is coming from the oddest place — a column by Jacob Heilbrun in the Los Angeles Times.

Arguing that Wolfowitz is “ExactlyWhat the World Bank Needs,” Heilbrunn notes:

“[The World Bank’s] origins are seldom remembered today, the bank was founded after World War II as a way of promoting New Deal-style state capitalism — a kind of Tennessee Valley Authority for the world, aimed at creating investment in risky countries south of the Equator.

“As the years passed, however, it became something quite different. First, in the late 1950s, development experts decided that socialist states would be the best at fostering development. Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal, later a Nobel laureate, said in 1956: ’The special advisors to underdeveloped countries who have taken the time and trouble to acquaint themselves with the problem…all recommend central planning as the first condition of progress.’ Such nonsense only ended up harming the countries the bank was supposed to assist, while enriching the Third World elites who skimmed off its loans.”

Heilbrunn, who is hardly a conservative, thinks that not only would Wolfowitz stop loans for useless dams, he might bring real change to the World Bank:

“Coming on the heels of his nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, it is clear that Bush hopes to challenge the giant international institutions that have for decades propped up Third World dictatorships. With his ideas and idealism, Wolfowitz could force the bank to promote democracy.”