Thursday, July 07, 2005


Unless you were under a rock this past weekend or out fishing, which wouldn't have been a bad idea, you've heard of the Live8 Concert which is being called the greatest concert ever. Now I have listened to Bono talk about this effort and his heart seems to be in the right place. He seems to genuinely care about Africa, and unlike lots of people, is willing to do something about it. However what he is doing about it is just plain wrong. The concert was not a fundraiser, they actually denied charities requests to canvas the crowds. Instead it was a big big feel good protest, an effort to get the world leaders meeting at the G8 Summit this year to increase the aid money they send to Africa and to forgive African debts. Now that sounds well and good, right? But think about it, instead of appealing to the compassion and good will of people around the world to give of their own free will they want to pressure goverments to use taxpayer money to support Africa whether the taxpayers want to or not.

It makes me sick to hear the Linkin Park singers complain that the US government pays such a low percentage of the GDP to foreign aid. I saw Bono on PBS saying passionately that if the US would increase it's aid from $9 billion to $12 billion then it would make a huge difference, save Africa, and go a long ways towards repairing our damaged repuation around the world. He sounded like the sleeziest televangelist ever, "If you give just three hundred dollars the Lord will heal your cancer, praise Jesus". The United States is the most charitable nation in the world, bar none, period, end of story. And the giving of private citizens dwarfs the aid given by the government. If these people want more of the GDP why aren't they going to the people who are benefitting most from our economy?

But back to Africa. Instead of asking for charitable donations the entertainers are planning to march on the conference to insist the world leaders give more money and forgive debt. But will that even help? Monetary aid hasn't worked so far, will more billions actually help? Lots of people don't think so, like this economist from Kenya:
Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.
Read the whole thing if you want to understand why they are having so much trouble in Africa. Basically, and don't tell the hippies, the problem is a lack of capitalism. The aid money actually puts Africans out of business while filling the pockets of foreigners and corrupt politicians. Another big problem in Africa is something that is known as the "Brain Drain". Basically educated Africans such as doctors and buisiness men along with many skilled workers are immagrating. They can make a better life in Europe or America. These are problems that Africans need to solve, and pumping billions in to corrupt beauracracies will NOT help.

So while the Live8 Concert may have seemed like a nobel endeavor on the surface, in reality it was just an exercise in self gratification, just a bunch of beautiful people trying to make themselves feel good.

Dan Flynn agrees that Live 8 was a racket more than a charitable event.

Captains Quarters also has a good rundown of the situation with many good links.

Also check out Josh Trevino's experinces reporting from Edinburgh:
I skipped this morning's Live 8 press conference on the theory that canned news isn't news. But I was wrong in this case. My hard-left journalistic companion related with disgust the things that were said by our American volunteers: They're here because we've done so much to screw up the world. They're here because we are uniquely guilty of afflicting Africa. They're here because they have to make up for the crimes of the Administration. They're here because the Cold War was a fraud used to oppress Africans with debt. They're here because governments incur debt, not nations, and America is immoral to demand repayment. This man is no stranger to acid critiques of his nation, and his fellow-countrymen of Live 8 made him recoil into patriotism.
More here and here.

One irony worth noting however is that the Middle East would probably be in the same situation if not for oil. Middle Eastern nations have resisted modernization just as much as Africa has. The only difference is that they are rich enough in natural resources to support their own corrupt governments via controlled capitalism. Just something worth thinking about.