I’ve just finished Graham Hancock‘s 1989 classic “Lords of Poverty” and recommend it to anybody interested in the working of the international aid bureaucracy. Hancock is scathing in his assessment of international aid agencies such as the United Nations, bilateral aid agencies (eg US AID), development banks (eg World Bank), and the IMF, and concludes that they haven’t just made a few unfortunate mistakes but they are irredeemably broken and need to be abandoned.
I found a few of his examples to be overly harsh, but found his thesis to be generally persuasive. Instead of trying to review his themes, I think it best to provide some extended quotes, and then encourage you to read the rest…
“This is how the game works: public money levied in taxes from the poor of the rich countries is transferred in the form of ‘foreign aid’ to the rich in the poor countries; the rich in the poor countries then hand it back for safe-keeping to the rich in the rich countries. The real trick, throughout this cycle of expropriation, is to maintain the pretence that it is the poor in poor countries who are being helped all along. The winner is the player who manages to keep a straight face while building up a billion-dollar bank account”
….. Read more…
The problem with irresponsible gamblers is the word “irresponsible” not the word “gambler”. The same is true with “irresponsible drinking” or “irresponsible drug-use” or any other irresponsible action. It is not the existence of gambling or alcohol or drugs that create irresponsible behaviour. And yet the nanny-state campaigners want to punish the product instead of addressing the underlying problem. With wowsers Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie in parliament, and the government in trouble with the carbon tax, the pressure is growing for the government to “do something” about poker machines.
It’s easy to attack poker machines. I don’t like them. I enjoy playing texas hold’em poker for the judgement, excitement and social element… none of which I get from poker machines. But personal preference is besides the point. In a free society, people should be free to pursue their own hobbies and activities, and I shouldn’t force my preferences on others. People who use poker machines (like smokers and shooters) are the new whipping boys of politics. While “progressive” politicians love to wax lyrical about defending minorities, they only seem to defend fashionable minorities. And while trendy lefties will advertise the moral superiority of their tolerance, they only seem to tolerate groups which they actually like.
People who enjoy playing poker machines are seen as the “wrong sort of minority” and therefore they apparently deserve no tolerance.
Child subsidies are a vexing issue for me. Especially concerning is the idea of subsidising mothers and parents to have children when those mothers and parents are unable to even look after themselves. It seems to me undesirable to give child subsidies to long-term unemployed people, but at the same time concern for the child means that there will be popular support for some sort of welfare.
Last week I gave a talk on community welfare for Consilium. This is a summary of what I said.
In the long and complicated debate about welfare systems, there is one element that I think is of particular interest and yet is under-appreciated and unknown to many people: community welfare societies.
By “community welfare” I do not mean private charity, or help from friends, or even social business. All of those are important and positive elements of civil society, but when talking of “community welfare” I mean the coming together of people into mutual societies where everybody contributes and everybody benefits. In effect, I mean a collection of non-government societies that work very much like a mini welfare state.
In the courier mail today it was reported than LNP federal candidate for Dawson (ie Townsville), George Christensen, has suggested drug and alcohol tests for welfare recipients. An interesting idea.
A few years ago I would have been opposed to this. My reason was that people are generally best at looking after their own situation, and so it’s best just to give people money and then give them the freedom to manage their own affairs. This is the argument given by Milton Friedman against food stamps. But my view has changed.