Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wasted Charity

Here is an excelled op-ed from an ex-PCV in the NY Times regarding the futility of African charity:
Africa has no real shortage of capable people - or even of money. The patronizing attention of donors has done violence to Africa's belief in itself, but even in the absence of responsible leadership, Africans themselves have proven how resilient they can be - something they never get credit for. Again, Ireland may be the model for an answer. After centuries of wishing themselves onto other countries, the Irish found that education, rational government, people staying put, and simple diligence could turn Ireland from an economic basket case into a prosperous nation. In a word - are you listening, Mr. Hewson? - the Irish have proved that there is something to be said for staying home.
Mr. Theroux recognizes that throwing money at African countries has only worsened their problems - on multiple levels. I whole-heartedly agree with his assessment. It makes me wonder, though: why do so many of the true-believers in the omnipotent power of government and its ability to implement spending-cures to social problems, on the left (and the right nowadays...), recognize the destructive nature and horrid failures of this policy on the African continent, but maintain the necessity of big-G at home? Just this morning I heard an NPR commentator express the need (in his mind) for the Feds to purchase all of the "devastated properties" that have been abandoned in New Orleans. This reasoning was based on the assertion that without a federal buy-out, many of the properties will remain in disrepair and the neighborhoods will dwindle into non-existence. Well, let's examine just why these "neighborhoods" will "remain in disrepair." Could it be the direct result of government-subsidization of irresponsible behavior in the past? Could it be that the property-owners (or "rent-seekers") in question expected such a bail-out from the get-go? Just as Mt. Theroux explains with respect to Malawi, once a populous grows accustomed to outside intervention and the interpersonal gap-filling of some problem or need, that populous will indefinitely divert its resources away from that now-subsidized gap. Why should a local Malawian become a school teacher when the country enjoys a steady stream of western volunteers who are willing to take on the task for free? I am no utilitarian, to be sure, but from a policy standpoint - this is nothing short of crystal clear. Yet, the braniac, do-gooders, atNPR and beyond keep on keepin' on.
Have a nice day,
the Grinch.