Making Poverty Permanent

June 27, 2005

Let me tell you what a pile of crap The Girl in the Café is. Never mind that the story was derailed by a political message half-way through (or maybe I just didn't know which track it was on), the politics themselves were just idiotic. I guess the movie is supposed to be part of this larger campaign to Make Poverty Permanent. Here's the gist of their collective message:

  • Poverty is caused by anyone who doesn't live in it
  • The wealthier nations can eliminate poverty (if only we cared enough) and therefore, they should
  • The solution to poverty is… presents. Don't you see, Kyle? Presents.

Wrong, wrong and wrong again. I'm not going to try to sum up the causes of poverty in a couple of sentences, but it should be fairly obvious that there was poverty before the United States even existed. There was poverty before the British Empire. Go back into history as far as you want. Poverty will only become more common as you progress. I understand why those in poverty may resent us, but how their condition came to actually be our fault is a mystery.

Could we eliminate poverty if we tried? No. With massive and perpetually recurring outlays of cash, we could alleviate the symptoms, but only in theory and this would do nothing to address the underlying causes. In reality, aid to African countries passes through the hands of their authoritarian governments. If Germany, the United States and Japan give money to an African nation, it doesn't purchase food for the starving. It purchases German cars, American movies and Japanese DVD players for government officials and their friends.

Not only do these liberals insist that providing "aid" is the answer, but they go on to make everyone in the room dumber by suggesting that this aid come with no strings attached. Strings that ask awful sacrifices of African governments, like returning power to the people, or allowing them to sell goods and services to their neighbors. Let me ask you something. Why would the governments of these countries ever change the behavior that makes their people poor if it guarantees them continuous infusions of cash? (Hint: They won't.) Ignoring for the moment that we can't fix Africa's problems, what's the justification for doing so? The United States government doesn't have any money to give these other nations. The only way they can provide aid is to take money from their own citizens. They do not and should not have the authority* to do that, so why are we even talking about it?

* They have the power, maybe, but not the authority.

I'm not suggesting that charity has no role to play, but it must be from wealthy private citizen to poor private citizen. Lobbying the G8 for large government-to-government handouts is a waste of time. It will cost more and accomplish less. For one thing, aid can be far more effective if it bypasses corrupt state agencies. More importantly, the type of aid I'm talking about is voluntary, which is the only type that can be justified. I also want to be clear about the role of charity. It should never be permanent by design. The goal should simply be to alleviate some of poverty's immediate symptoms while the affected people work to improve things for themselves in the long run.

I also don't mean to say that the United States has no permanent solution to offer the impoverished nations in Africa. We do, in fact, have the answer to their problems and — good news — all of the hard work has already been done. Our founders took a huge risk by creating a type of government that the world had never seen and had yet to be tested. Even more impressive, they did so knowing it would lead to a confrontation with the invincible British army. That took balls, but it was done, and we now know this new type of government not only works, but it allows its citizens to become filthy rich. The only thing you other countries have to do to raise the standard of living for your people is follow our example. This isn't something the United States can do for you. It has to be something you want. If we were willing to go to war in the eighteenth century, not even knowing for sure if freedom was going to last, then what excuse could you possibly have, in this day and age, for rejecting freedom? You can accept help from liberals who's policies would make poverty permanent, or you can change. The choice is yours, but if you decide to stay on your current course, I don't what to hear your whining. Got it?

Speaking of the recent campaign against poverty, there was an embarrassing story about the bracelets they're selling to support the cause. It was discovered that the bracelets were being manufactured in sweat shops. Ironic? Yes, but the real irony in this story comes from the liberals' response to the discovery. Bob Geldof was quoted as saying "The charities should pull out of the deals with those companies immediately or set a firm deadline for improvements and pull out if the improvements are not met." Ha Ha! Really? You're suggesting that behavior should improve or the money will stop coming? Where did you get such a novel idea? Seriously, why would they apply behavioral standards to bracelet manufacturers but not to African governments? You know why. To liberals, companies are always evil and governments are always good. And just when you thought the irony could get no thicker, there's this: the derided "sweat shops" around the world are probably doing more to actually improve the lives of the poor than stupid liberals in wealthy countries. Socialists love to pressure people around the world to close down factories that are unacceptable by their First World standards, then they pat themselves on the back for helping the poor workers and go home on their private jets. Meanwhile, the people (supposedly being helped) that were working in those factories are like "Great. What the fuck do we do now?"

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