Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sunbeams from cucumbers

"It is doubtful whether the G-8 leaders themselves believe all the gaseous rhetoric that emanates from their meetings. But a sort of fifth estate, composed of actors and aging rock stars, has emerged, determined to hold the prodigal statesmen to their word. The new Africrats include pop empress Madonna, actress Angelina Jolie, and U2 singer Paul Hewson, better known as Bono, who has emerged as Sachs’s leading promoter and enforcer. After attending this year’s G-8 summit at Heiligendamm, Germany, Bono pronounced himself “skeptical” of the pledges made at Gleneagles. The skepticism was reasonable, given that the document in question was not intended to be credible. But Bono, who wrote the foreword to Sachs’s The End of Poverty, has made it his life’s work to force the G-8 to take its oratory seriously. At Heiligendamm, he got into what he called a “huge row” with the Germans, whom he accused of “playing a numbers game” with their aid contributions.

How did today’s prosperous nations create the embarrassment of riches that they now enjoy? No benign magician descended, à la Jeffrey Sachs, on London or Washington to shower its inhabitants with money. Instead, the rich nations developed laws and freedoms that enabled people to take their futures into their own hands. As Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has argued in The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, the world’s poorest countries remain poor in part because they lack legal protections—property rights foremost among them—that enable people in the West to tap the potential of “dead” capital and invest it in wealth-generating enterprises." (Thanks D.)

A scathing critique of foreign aid ("paternalism") from an ultra capitalist perspective: wealth generation will cure the world, and Thatcher-Reagan were right. But extremely well written, hilarious at times, and soooo true in its description of "The Africrats". An enjoyable read.

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