Thursday, June 07, 2007

The real cause of African poverty

The Ayn Rand Institute has an excellent press release describing the true moral status of the claims of those who want the G8 to bail out Africa's poverty. Africa is not poor because we made it so.
It says:
"Africa is poor because it is rife with bloody tribalism and superstition--ideas that in the Dark Ages kept the Western world as poor, if not poorer, than today's Africa. If aid advocates were genuinely concerned with helping Africans, they would campaign for political and economic freedom, for individualism, reason and capitalism, for the ideas necessary to achieve prosperity."
Indeed, but what happens when Tony Blair meets Thabo Mbeke, a practitioner of superstition and backer (by deed if not word) of the murdering destructive Robert Mugabe? He says very little. South Africa is slowly but surely sliding down the path that destroyed Zimbabwe and did little for the rest of Africa. Talk of promoting property rights, individual freedom and rights is seen as "culturally inappropriate", when it is fundamental to human development, growth and prosperity.
Reason will save Africa, superstition, ethnic squabbling and corrupt kleptocracies will continue to milk Western aid for the benefit of few, whilst the majority scratch out a living.
Similarly, removing barriers to free trade to and from Africa (which means the West opening up and Africa opening up) will greatly reduce costs of doing business in Africa and open markets to African goods and services.
Most of those who say they care for Africa only demand money, money and more money, ignoring the families of African politicians who jet into Heathrow to go shopping at Harrods, staying in 5 star hotels. Wiping debt, only for new debt to be borrowed. Why not? It will be wiped again. As the Ayn Rand Institute points out:
"advocates barrage wealthy nations with reproaches and accusations of stinginess. Such abuse is necessary to induce the unearned guilt which impels Western leaders to do penance by sacrificing billions more in aid."
There is nothing wrong with private aid, donations through voluntary agencies who do genuine benevolent good work in such things as disease prevention, installing wells, education programmes and the like - directly helping those in need. However, the agenda that should be pursued should be primarily:
- Liberalise trade. The West can open up markets and stop subsiding exports into other markets that African countries cannot compete with;
- Isolate brutal regimes. Don't supply intergovernmental aid to those that do not reform, treat them with contempt and starve them of aid, debt and arms, so they can no longer persecute their people or live the high life off of them;
- Promote friendly relations with those who do work towards less corruption, transparent and independent judicial systems, enforcement of property rights and the advancement of reason.


Hans Versluys said...

Not that there is any tribalism or superstition in the west holding us back becoming a rational, secular, prosperous society

duckenvy said...

Why don't we have free trade, stop supporting brutal and corrupt regimes, and give more goverment and private aid?

Unknown said...

Ok. Firstly let me say that Mbeki is a great leader but he has some flaws and not having a back bone to stand against an "a$$hole" like Mugabe is one of them...

I do however believe that South Africa is in no position to help out other countries and I'll tell you why.

1. Unstable economy... You'll see this by the fluctuations in both our rand and interest rates
2. Crime rate that's higher that any other country in Africa
3. 40% unemployent rate is rediculous.

Until we sort out our own intenal issues, we cannot sort out anybody elses.

That's my view point.


Libertyscott said...

Uroskin, quite right of course. However, it largely doesn't result in armed conflict. It is a matter of degree.

Duckenvy - giving more government aid, in many cases, is a transfer from middle classes in rich countries to the rich in poor countries.

Wizardman - Indeed a lot needs fixing in South Africa, but it wouldn't take much to shut down the border with Zimbabwe and impose sanctions. It would bring it down.

sustento said...

Let's not forget the exploitation of those tribal divisions by western nations stripping the place of resources. How many corrupt dictators have been tolerated, nay encouraged, by the west in order to keep the oil and minerals flowing? As long as the dictator was "our man" in wherever.

The West may now be pushing for democracy and institutional reform and civil society blah blah but to say Africa is responsible is really nonsense.

And democracy cannot be parachuted in anywhere, it must be grown over time. Forget aid? Sure but scrap the debt first and help them build the institutions they need instead of paying the top brass off for mining contracts.

Libertyscott said...

Sustento, yes there was some of that for sure, but the Soviet bloc and China did the very same. Part of the Cold War nastiness.

However, most of sub Saharan Africa did fall under the rubric of the USSR and China, and followed Marxist prescriptions (the major exception being Cote D'Ivoire). Much the same happened in Asia and Latin America, but the former is vibrant, and the latter is making progress by and large.

Why scrap the debt? That rewards the worst performers, but institution building needs to be tied to easing repayments.

Anonymous said...

I wish Bono (the people's moaner) and Bob (I know about poverty because I've been dining out on one song for 20 years) Geldof would read this and shut the f*ck up.