Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Live 8 full of noise?

I didn't watch the concert, although I would have if I knew Pink Floyd was playing, but this seems to be a bunch of overemotional handwringing to make a bunch of a American and European liberals feel good about themselves, and bad about the evil capitalist west. Jonah Goldberg has an interesting article on this.

And the spectacle was impressive, so much so that Chris Martin of Coldplay declared it "the greatest thing that's ever been organized probably in the history of the world." (You've heard of the Normandy invasion, the Manhattan Project, the Marshall Plan, various moon landings, the 2,000-year-old Catholic Church? Impromptu flea markets! We've got a major-league telecast here.) Passing over Martin's slight overstatement, no harm will come from conceding that it was a very nice concert for those interested in such things.

But tell me, how exactly was Live8 a monumental demonstration of support for helping Africa?

Don Luskin goes one step further and links to an interview with an African economist, who maintains that this type of foreign aid actually hurts more than it helps.

SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. ..., and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa.... A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous [sic] politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.

You would think after decades of failure of the international aid programs it would somehow sink in that things aren't working right. Sure, some things can be done, but what Africa needs to lift itself out of poverty is political and economic reform, not just food shipments and pop concerts. This same thing happened in Somalia during the armed intervention in the 90s (see the book Somalia on Five dollars a Day for an excellent description of this). When the UN came in and passed out all the food, they did two things, they distrupted the local power structure, which is why Aidid attacked them, and they put the farmers out of business. Famine for the most part, unfortunately, is caused by politicians and generals, not by nature.