Friday, March 11, 2005

Could $150 Billion Per Annum End Global Poverty?

Daniel Drezner says he's 'slightly appalled' that there hasn't been more buzz about a proposal by Jeffrey Sachs, the director of Columbia's Earth Institute, to 'end' severe poverty, globally, with $150 billion in annual aid. I haven't read the details in depth, but I must say I'm dubious.

Direct payments without strings are a subsidy of failure. The misery of the truly poor is heartbreaking, but sentimentality and noble purposes can't mask the stench of failure and corruption surrounding many of the world's least prosperous nations. One shouldn't have to die because of accidentally being born in the wrong country, and there is a definite place in a civilized society for humanitarian aid. No nation should turn its back on starving children, but a rising tide lifts all boats, and it's no accident that the most industrialized nations are the richest. Capitalism and democracy are the only lasting answers to the ailments of Africa and Latin America.

�Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime." So goes the old saying, and I think it's applicable here. Yes, there is much we can and should do, like fully funding President Bush's bold commitment to combat AIDS in Africa, and working to ensure that extreme poverty doesn't preclude treatment with the appropriate drugs. Private donors, too, can work wonders; just look at the response to the tsunami's victims. We can't be cold-hearted, but we can't be empty-headed, either. We are blessed; the best way to share the blessing is to promote the market. If only those who protest globalization and outsourcing understood global economics and such concepts as Purchasing Power Parity and the maximizing benefits of allowing goods to be produced in areas that hold competitive advantages, such as lower wages, without interference, the effect on global poverty would far exceed $150 billion per year.

I think it is incumbent upon the U.S. and other industrialized nations to aid the less fortunate among us. The best help we can give them is to continue to support freedom and transparency in word and deed.

UPDATE 8:50 pm central: I don't want to sound too cynical; I'm not saying Sach's proposals are without merit, I just prefer to see the private sector do as much heavy lifting as possible. In that spirit, here's a link to a page on the 'End Global Poverty' website that has all sorts of good links for the philanthropically inclined.

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