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End Poverty Now
Jamais Cascio, 16 Feb 05

James Traub wrote an excellent and brief essay in this last Sunday's New York Times entitled "Freedom, From Want." In it, he asks why it is that the United States, source of the Marshall Plan, is so reluctant (even now, post-9/11) to spend money on economic development assistance. The US ranks last among donor nations in development aid, at 0.15 percent of gross national income (compared to Scandinavian countries, for example, which are close to 0.7 percent of GNI now). It's not a happy article, but it does lay out the issues at hand clearly and succinctly.

A similar piece appears to be found in yesterday's Financial Times, by Martin Wolf. "The Elimination of Poverty" starts out with two hard to dispute propositions: first, the elimination of destitution, disease and deprivation is taking too long; second, additional assistance to the world's poorest countries is easily affordable. I'm told that the column makes a strong statement in support of rich country aid for development, but unfortunately getting to the article requires a FT subscription. Any subscribers willing to summarize Wolf's arguments in the comments?

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Comments

What silly crap.

While the United States might only give out .15% of it's GNI, that's still an ENORMOUS amount of money -- especially when you compare it to SWEDEN of all places. Of course, let's also not forget that Americans give billions to international charities. It isn't the place of the government to take from its citizens and give to non-citizens. Get real.

Secondly, the U.S. isn't a bank. With our national debt higher than ever, the last thing we need to be doing is handing out more money to poor people in Ethiopia or wherever. While I'm sad that they're poor, that's just the way the world works. We have plenty of poor in America, and nobody is (thankfully) out to just hand them money either. People need to work for to better themselves.

Thirdly, money isn't going to solve our problems. Anybody with half a brain can figure that out. Poverty doesn't beget terrorism, radical fundamentalism does. Even if everybody in the world had full bellies and a roof over their heads there would still be terrorism and war.


Posted by: Jesse Hill on 17 Feb 05

Just to make one of my points more clear:

.15% of the U.S.'s GNI is $15.17 billion USD

.7% of Sweden's GNI is $332 million USD

Ridiculous.


Posted by: Jesse Hill on 17 Feb 05

Hey Jesse, I've got half a brain and I disagree with you :) A better comparison would be USA and Europe, who, IIRC, gives about 0.45% of GNP. That equates to approx 3 times the per-capita giving of the USA. Also, (again IIRC), about 80% of US aid is tied to buying US products and services; I don't know the figure for Europe but I expect it's a lot less :)

You seem to ignore a possible link between poverty and radical fundamentalism. Surprisingly (to liberals) the poor of the USA seem keen to embrace the radical fundamentalism of the Conservative Right, even when it's against their economic interest to do so. Interesting world, no?

-- John


Posted by: John Norris on 17 Feb 05

errata: for Conservative Right read Christian Right. Although arguably neither label fits :)


Posted by: John Norris on 17 Feb 05

So Europe gives more than us? Yippee.

The ties between radical fundamentalism and poverty are extremely tenuous, as you should well know. Africa is the poorest nation on Earth, and yet international terrorist do not spring from there.

Why not?

The answer should be clear:

Because international terrorism requires money, and a great deal of it. Domestic terror is easy and cheap (one of the reasons why Africa has so many problems).

Declaring that pouring money into impoverished nations will help makes about as much sense as saying pouring more water into a hole-filled bucket will fill it. It won't. At its best, "international aid" helps to prop up semi-socialist regimes. At its worst, in third world countries who are not politically or economically free, it helps to prop up dictatorships.

Money won't solve other nations' ills anymore than they have stopped our own. You guys need to look at reality.


Posted by: Jesse Hill on 17 Feb 05

Jesse, let me get this straight: when the US spends more on aid as an absolute number than much-smaller Sweden, that's worth trumpeting, but when it's pointed out that the US spends much less than roughly-equivalently-sized EU, it's no big deal.

Uh huh.

Fascinating how assertions that people should "look at reality" always boil down to rationalizations for short-sighted selfishness. The world is more complex than that, of course; there are myriad examples of aid providing the boost that makes working to better oneself possible. Telling people without clean water to go get a job isn't just insulting, it's asinine.

And, as an aside to anyone who only started paying attention to the world post-9/11: "radical fundamentalism" is hardly the only source for terrorism out there.


Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 17 Feb 05

Fascinating how assertions that people should "look at reality" always boil down to rationalizations for short-sighted selfishness. The world is more complex than that, of course; there are myriad examples of aid providing the boost that makes working to better oneself possible. Telling people without clean water to go get a job isn't just insulting, it's asinine.

The world is more complicated than that? Since when. The world is short-sighted and selfish, is it not? Of course it is! If it wasn't, we wouldn't have wars or poverty or any of that nastiness that comes with human civilization.

The fact is, you want to give our wealth, to somebody who isn't a a citizen. I can only support that in the most dire of circumstances (such as the tsunami) distaster. Why? Because I know how the world works, my friend, and I know that 9 times out of 10 that aid is going to end up in the hands of either a tyrant or an ineffectual berueacracy and will do nothing.

And, of course, when we try to add terms to aid to make sure it gets to the right people we're accused of being Imperialists.


Posted by: Jesse Hill on 18 Feb 05

You just keep on believing that, Jesse.


Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 18 Feb 05

The United States is an empire, Jesse.


Posted by: John Smith on 21 Feb 05

Hmmm. Maybe the legal demands for $777 thousand billion in reparation for enslaving Africans actually makes sense to the Jesse's of the world?



Posted by: Zaid on 25 Feb 05



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