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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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July 06, 2005

Live 8: Mostly Feelgood

The idea of “saving Africa” through aid is mostly a feel-good program for people in rich countries. Our aid cannot give Africans honest judges, clean cops, non-predatory politicians and the rule of law. They must create these things. Our aid cannot give them competitive economies; indeed, it has hurt such industries as wheat farming (because we give away free grain) and textiles (because we give away donated clothing.)

Aid has helped countries get through a short-term crisis, like the tsunami, but no country has ever made it out of poverty through long-term aid. And over the long term, aid tends to make the recipient weaker. Africa is the best example of that: it has absorbed more economic aid than any other part of the world in the past 40 years, and its performance is the worst
.
Except countries that are sitting on oil—which is the ultimate freebie—all rich countries have gotten rich through work.

And that means that the best way for Americans to help Africans is to buy their products, and to ask our legislators to remove trade barriers to African products—quotas on such things as sugar and peanuts, and subsidies on products that compete with African products, such as cotton.

Debt cancellation means turning debts into gifts. That is the lender’s decision, because it’s his gift. Let the lender decide on a case-by-case basis. And let each G-8 country decide how much African aid is in its own interest—if any. It’s easy to be magnanimous with the other fellow’s money.

All the best commentaries I've seen on this topic have been from foreigners: Mark Steyn, a Canadian, writing in the Daily Telegraph; Simon Jenkins, an Englishman, writing in the Times of London; and Niall Ferguson, a Briton working in the United States, writing in the Sunday Telegraph.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at July 6, 2005 02:12 PM



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