Sunday, July 03, 2005

This is our moment?

I am despondent about the coverage of Live 8. This display of monumental hypocrisy is disgusting, but even the Daily Telegraph is swept up in the sentimental claptrap. The campaign of which the Live 8 concerts are the climax will NOT "make poverty history." That is not within the power of the G8 leaders, whether or not they are exhorted by Geldof, Bono and other rock has-beens.

The West has donated more money to Africa since 1945 than was given to Western Europe by the United States as Marshall Aid. We have given enough money in Tanzania to buy a farm for every family there. The money has been stolen. If we give more, it will be stolen again.

Not only is it a waste of money, we are actually equipping Africa's dictators with the resources to buy the weapons they need to keep their people in subjection. If we seriously care about Africans, then we should (a) dismantle our tariff barriers so their products can compete with ours, (b) stop dumping subsidised products on them as a by-product of such obscenities as the Common Agricultural Policy, and (c) embargo all arms sales to African nations.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. A couple of thoughts: In many ways I agree that the Live8 message was misguided and unhelpful. But the Make Poverty History campaign is actually a seperate entity, whose demands are not at all unlike your (a) and (b) (those who supported it would most certainly agree with your (c) as well).

Trade justice is one of the three central demands of the MPH coalition (the other two being debt relief and more and *better* aid - defined as aid properly targeted so that it does not line the pockets of the elite). I agree with you that we need to allow African companies access to our markets and stop unfairly protecting our own farmers. That's why I joined the march in Edinburgh yesterday. I also agree with you that the G8 leaders (much less a bunch of self-congratulating pop stars) cannot end poverty. But they can and must and this appalling rip-off relationship between the rich and poor countries of the world. If they do, it will not be an act of philanthropy, but simply giving what is owed. With a level playing field, Africa can look for the real solutions to poverty.

Behind the often woolly and over-optimistic rhetoric, that seems to me the message behind this campaign. It sounds like you broadly support it.

Tom Paine said...

I respect your view, but I find it optimistic. I certainly don't think it justifies further expenditure of taxpayers' money. Make your own donations, by all means. That's your choice.

Short of reviving colonialism (which no-one wants) there is no way to guarantee that Africa's rulers will not misappropriate further aid or loans. Any scheme which assumes they will not is a triumph of naievety over history.

Africans are not children and it is time to stop condescending to them. They need to overthrow their corrupt rulers and build their own destinies. The West should stop arming and otherwise cooperating with those rulers, leaving them weak enough to have their throats cut by the people they oppress.

We could perhaps even consider arming democratically-inclined rebels, although I am disinclined to interfere in the internal affairs of countries which do not threaten us. Besides, Africans have a habit of losing their enthusiasm for democracy when they get their hands on the levers of power.

Apart from the tariff barriers, I don't understand your reference to a "rip-off relationship" or to "giving what is owed". That's emotional language for which there is little or no historical justification. African despots will of course blame the colonial past for everything. It's a useful figleaf for their own outrageous behaviour. The fact is the West has put more into Africa than it ever took out. Even if the general belief that Africa was impoverished by colonialism were true, we cannot be expected to take the blame for the conduct of long-dead ancestors.

We are not Africa's problem, save insofar as our naieve generosity has been exploited by local tyrants.

Anonymous said...

I thought I was being pessimistic. Try not to lump me in with Geldof here! It sounds like we agree on quite a lot. Not many of your points seem to be against mine.

We may well differ on whether we have given or taken more from Africa (I would love to know what figures your claim on that is based on), but I don't think that's relevant to my point. I'll skip over the racism in your comment about Africans tending to become corrupted by power (they don't seem to me to be alone in this), and briefly try to clear up your confusion about those "emotional" comments I made.

My point about a rip-off relationship was a reference to the very same trade rules you were arguing should be changed. I do not need to talk about colonial exploitation in order to back up that point. Forcing poor nations to open their markets whilst continuing to protect our own is hypocritical and unfair. If we are to have a system of rules to govern international trade, there is a sense in which every participant is "owed" fair treatment.

I may have emotional feelings about poverty in Africa (as I hope you do), but that need not distract from the points I make.

Africa has many problems. They need to be sorted out by Africans. But we in the rich world can (as we have both described) and should (I believe) remove some unnecessary barriers to their doing this. I think we agree on that much.

Tom Paine said...

I am sure there's much we agree on and I entirely respect those of your views that differ from mine.

The reference to "racism" was a cheap shot though. It's a shame that no-one can talk about Africa (unless 100% in agreement with left-wing orthodoxy) without being accused of it.

Still I'll live. No-one (in his right mind) ever said that life is (or could be) fair...

Anonymous said...

Fair enough. One last small point though. Your response to the "r-word" was as predictable as it was paranoid. It is simply not true that I accused you of it as soon as you diverged from the "left-wing orthodoxy". I was referring to one specific point you made, which seemed to me arbitrary and unnecessary for the rest of your very sensible argument.

True, life isn't fair. Shame. I don't think you've been treated unfairly here though! Cheers.