Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

What The West Must Do

Gordon Brown has said that the coming year offers a 'once-in-a-generation' chance to eradicate global poverty. He says a new approach is needed to improve aid. Britain takes the presidency of the EU and G8 in 2005, and he wants donor countries to double their international aid budget and to eliminate the debts owed by the poorest nations.

Despite all the sweet sentiments and the high-minded rhetoric, the Chancellor has a big task ahead of him if he wants to Make Poverty History, as one umbrella group committed to ending global poverty call themselves. Even if his idea of progress is to eliminate debt and to offer charity to the poorest of the world, he must realise that that alone is a policy that would set the poverty-stricken up for a fall.

What is imperative is that poor nations and poor communities have the means to help themselves, not just to be helped for evermore by the rich nations and the rich communities. An individual does not get rich through charity, but only can stay poor. The same is true of these poor nations that the Chancellor talks of.

I would like to quote a passage from Niall Ferguson's recent book 'Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire':

"Most poor countries stay poor because they lack the right institutions - not least the right institutions to encourage investment. Because they are not accountable to their subjects, autocratic regimes are more prone to corruption than those where the rule of law is well established. Corruption in turn inhibits economic development in a multitude of ways, diverting resources away from capital formation and the improvement of human capital through better health care and education. According to the African Union, the costs of corruption are equivalent to around one-quarter of African GDP. Moreover, poor countries are more likely to succumb to civil war than rich ones, making them poorer still. In the absence of nonviolent means of bringing dictators to account, political violence is of course more likely to occur... Besides extreme poverty and (in nearly every case) average life expectancy of little more than forty years, all these countries fall far short of being liberal democracies, and all have experienced in the recent past, or continue to experience, some form of war. In most cases, their only hope for the future would seem to be intervention by a foreign power capable of constructing the basic institutional foundations that are indispensable for economic development."

This passage explains not only the real background to this huge problem of international poverty but also the daunting prospect of what the west may have to do one day to bring hope to the poorest of the world.


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