The White Rocker's Burden

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I didn't watch Live8, but Timothy Burke did. Here's a piece of his review:

Bob Geldof responds that at least he's doing something, and that doing something is better than doing nothing….

No. It's not. Not when the entire event and most of the language surrounding it just encourages the ghostly recurrence of the white man's burden view of world affairs, that everything bad out there is somehow the fault of privileged white Euro-Americans and is somehow theirs and theirs alone to rectify. Not only were African artists almost entirely missing from the concert–a few pencilled in hastily at the end–but so were Africans as actors in their own ongoing drama. They're welcome as former victims thanking their saviors, but otherwise, it's not about them. That entire attitude is as much as–indeed, far bigger–a problem than the underfunding of development. It's the liberal mirror image of neoconservative interventionism, a refusal to face the world in its moral and political complexity, instead trying to make it something that people with good intentions and an exaggerated sense of their own power can remake.

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  1. Thanks for this article, it sums up what I’ve been thinking in a better way than I could ever express it. It really was all about how white people are better than everyone else, wasn’t it?

  2. Doing somthin’ is better than doin’ nuthin’!

  3. Not when the entire event and most of the language surrounding it just encourages the ghostly recurrence of the white man’s burden view of world affairs

    Can’t a good share of Africa’s problems be legitimately laid at the feet of its colonial history? *Shouldn’t* the white world feel some guilt over its past actions and obligation to the future of the continent?

  4. I caught about 5 minutes of it while the gang was gathering to go to a BBQ, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the ease with which principles of free trade were intermingled with fair trade rhetoric. Gwyneth’s hubby has an “=” on the back of his hand, which he explains is to support fair trade – like the lowering of tariffs. Eh? I mean, if you are really a fair trader, shouldn’t you have a “:=” or maybe an old school “>

  5. Short answer: No.

  6. How stupid. The tragically hip are shitting all over themselves in a race to proclaim how stupid it is to host benefits for the poor; how lame it is to try and foster altruistic feelings in others.

    As to the assertion that “we already know Africa’s poor” I’d say this: KNOWING things and DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THEM are two VERY different things. Benefit concerts may not save the world, but half-ass pundits making fun of everything they don’t participate in are a dime a dozen, and contribute far less to the overall good than efforts such as Live 8.

  7. As VH1 kindly reminded me, however, Live8 was not about the money. It was about awareness .

    Anon

  8. We care a lot about disasters, fires, floods and killer bees
    About the NASA shuttle falling in the sea
    We care a lot about starvation and the food that Live Aid bought
    We care a lot about disease, baby, Rock, Hudson Rock! Yeah!

  9. Mike,
    The “white world” may have a lot to do with Africa’s current problems, but I don’t see why I should feel guilty for them simply because I happen to be white. I never carried out or condoned colonialism and oppression–why should I feel guilty?

    As for Live 8, doing nothing would be better because the money raised is going to no one but the already corrupted leaders, who only continue to aggravate the problem. I think pundits should be criticizing celebrities as much as possible for demanding that American taxpayers foot the bill for such nonsense [aid].

  10. Can’t a good share of Africa’s problems be legitimately laid at the feet of its colonial history? *Shouldn’t* the white world feel some guilt over its past actions and obligation to the future of the continent?

    I don’t think the second sentence follows from the first, if “obligation to the future of the continent” means what Live8 seems to think it means. Western aid to Africa has done more to reinforce the legacy of colonialism than to undermine it.

  11. Even if one accepts the notion that western nations bear responsibility for Africa as former colonial powers there (which, of course, the USA was not), that doesn’t ratify the Geldofian solution of debt cancellation and pouring more money down the rathole. Doing that simply props up the existing rotten regimes and kleptocratic social orders on that continent, which are a big part of why Africa is the way it is.

    In that sense, the ‘tragically hip’ are doing more a service to Africa than the mass of naive rock’n’roll rubes, by pointing out the bankruptcy of existing approaches to helping Africa.

  12. Doing somthin’ is better than doin’ nuthin’!

    Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler. He did a lot. But don’t we all wish he woulda just stayed home and gotten stoned?

  13. The definitive statement remains, John Wesley Harding’s “July 13th 1985 (The Live Aid Song)”

    July 13th 1985 (The Live Aid Song)
    July 13th 1985 was the day we watched Live Aid
    The Global Jukebox came alive
    We fed the world that day
    We fed the world that day

    It was a day for a party we made a lot of food and we ate it sure as hell
    Vegetarian salads, they had no meat, there was leftovers as well
    Everybody laughed when I said
    Thinking of the people either dying or dead
    Let’s pick up the leftovers, send them to the starving children in Ethiopia
    My mother used to say that

    Sure I was pleased to give money, cause it was not a political cause
    I just remember the smiling faces, the music and the applause
    I spent 30 quid on coke
    I smoked a little too much dope
    I was wiped out from 5 til 7, I missed Spandau Ballet and U2

    July 13th 1985 was the day we watched Live Aid
    The Global Jukebox came alive
    We fed the world that day
    We fed the world that day

    The music was fucking brilliant and that Madonna she sure can move
    By the time Paul McCartney’s microphone had failed yeah, we are all well into the Live Aid groove
    Paul McCartney, he sang…
    Which must have been a bit of an irony
    Cos if you ‘Let it Be’ nothing will ever improve
    But it was one of the first times I ever heard one of the real Beatles sing a real Beatles’ song live on television, I really wished Julian Lennon had turned up instead of his recently dead father, I was really moved

    July 13th 1985 was the day we watched Live Aid
    The Global Jukebox came alive
    We fed the world that day
    We fed the world that day

    Well the powerful voice of pop music, solve the problems, feed the world
    So what if there weren’t any blacks involved there was Everything but the Girl
    Bob Geldof has no ego that man should get the Nobel Prize
    By the time he sang the solo on Feed the World
    I thought he should be canonized

    I felt guilty about the starving but I felt good to be alive
    And I must admit I shed a tear or two in the very moving video for that great Cars song Drive
    Saint Bob made me feel like shit
    So I got out an envelope, opened it
    Put in a very crisp ten pound note
    It was the same one I used earlier to snort my coke
    And that made me feel good inside
    Sending the money, not snorting the coke

    July 13th 1985 was the day we watched Live Aid
    The Global Jukebox came alive
    We fed the world that day
    We fed the world that day

  14. “*Shouldn’t* the white world feel some guilt over its past actions and obligation to the future of the continent?”

    Pure racism. By the fact that my skin color is white, I should be guilty and carry the burden of those who are NOT white.

    What utter bullshit.

    Live free, fight or fall.

  15. I think some of you guys need to go down to your local mission and stand around jeering and laughing at all the priests and the volunteers while they tend to the poor and tell them they’re wasting their time because the stupid homeless people are just a bunch of drunks and nuts who can’t take care of themselves and never will, and all the “do-gooders” are doing is “enabling” and “reinforcing” their way of life and doing nothing more than making themselves out to be martyr-like heroes. While you’re at it, point to some economic statistics and summarize your boutique political-idea-du-jour just so you’ve correctly “branded” youself.

    That would really show how “cool” you are.

  16. That would be a good argument, IW, if it weren’t for three things:

    1. The mission volunteers are actually doing something to alleviate poverty. Live8 did not.

    2. None of the criticisms in this thread, or in the article I linked to, have claimed that foreign aid is “enabling” or “reinforcing” the bad habits of poor people. They have pointed out that foreign aid enables and reinforces brutal, corrupt governments that kill and steal from poor people.

    3. No one has said they’re trying to be “cool.” Please spare us the projection.

  17. Western aid to Africa has done more to reinforce the legacy of colonialism than to undermine it.

    So what do you propose then? Sitting on our hands? How’s this for a suggestion, from the Live 8 website:

    It’s an obvious solution – challenge and change the rules so they work for poor countries. Re-write them so poor countries can develop, build their own industries, grow stronger, and one day compete as equals. Rich countries used trade rules to protect themselves as they developed – which is how they got where they are now. Now we need to use trade rules to end world poverty as we know it.

    The guilt Bob Geldof seems to bear — and he does seem to feel guilt for Africa — obviously rubs some people the wrong way. But he does seem to have a good sense of why Live Aid failed and this version needs to be different.

  18. Can you make sense of that vague “obvious solution,” Mike? I can’t tell if they’re calling for eliminating western trade barriers (which I would support) or erecting new barriers in African nations (which I wouldn’t).

    Anyway, on the western side, I’m happy to back debt relief coupled with an end to our subsidies to the local governments, along with the removal of those trade barriers. On the African side, there are plenty of reforms that I think would be good for the continent, such as De Soto-style legalization of informal property ownership — though I think the push for them should come from Africans themselves, not western governments.

    The best book I know of on the topic of aid and Africa is Michael Maren’s The Road to Hell. Highly recommended.

  19. Mike,

    His understanding of the situation is incredibly naive. He seems to think that “doubling aid” (which has proven to be more harmful than helpful), forgiving the debt of the corrupt regimes who lord over these countries, and bringing about “trade justice”, will somehow “end poverty as we know it”. Awww, what a nice li’l fairy tale. But I simply don’t see how this is so “different” from Live Aid. Double the harmful foreign aid and completely forgive their debt…mmm hmm. I’m sure tyrannical regimes all around Africa will thank Bob Geldof.

  20. phocion

    it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it

  21. “It really was all about how white people are better than everyone else, wasn’t it?”

    Uh, no, it was all about how white people are richer than everyone else. But I can see how an economic conservative could confuse the two sentiments.

    “They have pointed out that foreign aid enables and reinforces brutal, corrupt governments that kill and steal from poor people.” Of course, there’s no need to consider that some African countries have made progress in democracy and transparency. All African governments are thieving thugocracies, and oh, it’s racist to claim otherwise.

  22. Click through the Make Poverty History site and read some of the actual text. Some of it will surely ruffle the Libertarian feathers, but underneath the We Are the World-style language, there is an obvious recognition that money needs to be spent wisely.

    I’m overplaying my hand here when it comes to Live 8. I don’t mean to suggest that Geldof’s project here is perfect — his guilt over the more distant past does seem to blind him to some of the failures of the more recent past. But to claim that this is more of the same ignores what he is actually saying, which is much more enligtened and reasonable than what has been done in the past.

    Again, it’s not perfect, but it seems good enough to applaud the idea, while arguing the details constructively.

  23. There’s an excellent article (written by Rothbard over 10 years ago) at Lew Rockwell’s site. Long read, but well worth it to understand the source of the problem of African poverty. Also contains many snippets from Maren.

    If we don’t know the history of the cause of the problem, we’re doomed to continue repeating it, especially the part about the “humanitarian with the guillotine,” as the current administration has so ably demonstrated.

  24. Of course, there’s no need to consider that some African countries have made progress in democracy and transparency. All African governments are thieving thugocracies, and oh, it’s racist to claim otherwise.

    Joe: You know very well that I didn’t say that. I’m happy to acknowledge that Botswana’s government is preferable to Sudan’s. But Africa has more Sudans than Botswanas — and aid has ill effects in relatively free countries as well as dictatorships.

  25. Joe,

    Are you here solely to proclaim your snarky moral superiority over others, or are you actually trying to have a dialogue with people here? The latter implies a belief that it might be possible one’s own ideas are misguided, and a willingness to accept the validity of those (or parts thereof) of one’s opponents. Judging by the snide remarks you’re constantly making, you don’t seem to possess either. And if you’ll simply be insulting the intelligence of your readers, I wonder what you’ll accomplish, besides feeding your own sense of superiority.

  26. OK, Joe, do us a plot of democracy versus poverty levels. I’d lay money on the correlation being negative.

    Countries that create and enable liberal social systems and institutions free their populations to support themselves, using their own resourcefulness.

    It’s the thugs and crooks who benefit from keeping their people hungry and ignorant. And the thugs and crooks are those who benefit most from direct aid.

  27. Jesse,

    1. In order to be able to conclude that Live8 didn’t do “something” to alleviate poverty, you would have to be able to prove an awful lot of things that can’t be proven. I believe the goal was not to hold a concert and have a magic *poof* moment where all African poverty disappears. Yet that appears to be the standard for success that certain critics are mesauring it by – an impossible standard.

    The idea of getting people involved carries with it the idea that there will be forward-momentum in the form of human capital. People who do get involved a year, two years, 10 years down the road, albeit even a small percentage, who do make a difference. Very hard to cash that out in numbers and economic figures; which is why a lot of the graph-paper brains around the blogosphere can’t understand its value.

    One example of this: there’s no way to ever know in precise terms the effect being 16 years old and watching Live Aid had on my thinking. Call it an oblique, attenuated effect, what have you. Yet now I’m in my mid 30’s and although I don’t devote my entire life to helping people, I have done pro bono work that has helped refugees from Uganda and Eritrea (and some non-African countries) gain asylum in the US. Can we say Live Aid caused my desire to help them? Not in any direct sense. Can we say it helped influence my perception of, increase my desire to participate in, helping these people? I think we can. So did Live Aid “help” anyone? I’d say it did help; maybe not the greatest event in human history, but throwing out the whole baby with the bathwater just because a few hyperventilating self important celebs say things on tv is just downright unreasonable.

    2. As for #2, it seems this is a distinction with no difference. What I mean by that is the fact that individuals and nations are different doesn’t ruin the analogy. I am directly comparing the individual problem to the collective problem; and showing that criticism of efforts to alleviate the collective problems are as ludicrous as criticism of efforts to aid individuals. Both are fraught with problems and neither carries with it a silver bullet solution; homeless people will often eat a free meal, then spend the money they beg on drugs. Corrupt governments will take the money they get and squander it, and find ways to take any attempt at help to line politicians’ pockets. This, in itself, is not enough on which to conclude that efforts to help either of them are stupid, or that bringing the attention of millions of people squarely upon the problem CAN’T/WON’T do ANYTHING to help.

    3. If saying something out loud in express terms is the only criterion for guilt, then by that standard it’s awfully easy to avoid being guilty.

  28. “It really was all about how white people are better than everyone else, wasn’t it?”

    Uh, no, it was all about how white people are richer than everyone else.

    STOP! Anytime people start arguing about what someone phenomenon is “about,” it’s a sure thing they’re gonna be talking past each other, for two (interrelated of course) reasons. One is that nothing, I repeat nothing, in the world is all “about” one damn thing. There’s nuance in everything. Ignore it at your own hazard. Two, talking about what something is “about” is just a fuzzy and ultimately unproductive use of language. Cause and effect, people, such as when they do this it says that or reflects whatever. In sum, I think what joe and the other guy said both have aspects of truth. I think something that’s worth considering, joe, is that a concern for those less fortunate, which at its root is a quite proper perspective, can easily turn into something else when people follow their natural tendencies for self-centric thinking. In other words, whatever the original intention, is the final result one that promotes African empowerment or African juvenalization? That said, I think for all these words the event will likely have very little effect on either.

  29. It seems to me that throwing money at some of the African countries so as to help the people who live there is counter productive. It’s like giving money to a brutal and vicious pimp in order to help the poor prostitutes who work for him.

  30. IW:

    1. If your defense of Live8 is “Perhaps it will help inspire someone to do something useful someday,” then I guess I can’t argue with that. Perhaps someday my blog post will inspire someone to do some useful work too. Who knows? It still isn’t comparable to the actual work.

    2. I think the whole history of foreign aid, as actually practiced, undermines the comparison you’re trying to draw. If you have to make an analogy, I think Bobster’s is a lot closer to reality.

    3. Fine. Not only has no one here expressly said they’re criticizing Live8 in order to be “cool,” but no one here has said anything that any fair-minded reader could interpret as revealing such a motivation. To insist otherwise is either (a) a deeply dishonest attempt to change the subject from the facts of the issue to the motives of the people who disagree with you, or (b) an embarrassing example of projection. Or both.

  31. Dear Africa,

    Not murdering, enslaving and/or eating your neighbors or tribal rivals would be a start.

    Regards,
    Ed

  32. (By the way: Does IW’s defense of Africa’s aid bureaucracies mean he’s changed his mind about the Iraq war? After all, the Pentagon is doing something about the problems of the Middle East. Wars for democracy may not save the world, but half-assed pundits making fun of everything they don’t participate in are a dime a dozen, and contribute far less to the overall good than efforts such as Operation Iraqi…oh, fuck it.)

  33. They can wake me up when they get Hear N’ Aid back together.

    “Who Cares for the Children? I do.” — Ronnie James Dio.

    http://www.metal-reviews.com/var-hna.htm

    And

    http://home.online.no/~n-johano/fthearnaid.htm

  34. Jesse, not sure why this is so upsetting to you. Initially I ripped the blog entry. Then I ripped a few non-specified posters who were dismissing out of hand the possibility that Live8 could help anything at all. After that I pretty much just responded to the three points you made. That’s about it.

    It would be interesting to hear the pro-Iraq war contingent’s take on this. Perhaps there is a neo-con contingent that believes there is no way to help starving people in Africa than by invading their countries, occupying them, then installing US-friendly governments.

    What I think you’ve come to here is attributing to me the idea that I only think the value of something like Live8 “might inspire someone to do something useful one day.” True, that’s part of the good. But another part is this: it provides a visual demonstration — as say, a protest might — to politicians that the people want poverty alleviation to be a higher priority than it currently is. And from what I have seen, Live8 wasn’t about just dumping more money down the same pickets — people are today thinking about other ways to solve the many-faceted problems that lead to African poverty – disease, corruption and unstable markets chief among them. I don’t think Live8 was ever intended to be a simplistic “lets raise money and send a check” solution. The recognition of a need for different approaches is there; and maybe more importantly than that is the demonstration that politically, African (any any) poverty might have to move up to the front political burner, ahead of say, feeding tubes, the 10 commandments in courthouses, and a lot of the other cock-and-bull issues that don’t amount to much but which politicians get a lot of use out of.

  35. 3. If saying something out loud in express terms is the only criterion for guilt, then by that standard it’s awfully easy to avoid being guilty.

    lol. If interpreting what someone really means is entirely up to the interpreter without needing any particular evidence to support that interpretation, then by that standard it’s awfully easy to find anyone you please guilty.

  36. Jesse, not sure why this is so upsetting to you.

    When I impugne the motives of those with whom I disagree and they take issue with that, I am being reasonable but they are getting all bent out of shape for no reason. We see that a lot.

    Jesse actually makes a good point about the charge of “doing nothing.” There’s no reason why doing something is inherently morally superior or more beneficial than doing nothing.

  37. So the point is that celebrities are self-important asses, who generally do little more than reinforce their own sense of superiority? Alright, I can get down with that. And even if they called directly for Africa’s dictators to step down and economic freedom, it still wouldn’t change their pompous nature.

    Regardless, Live 8 clearly has raised awareness, at least for the time being. Even if Geldof’s proposed “solutions” are incorrect, we’re at least talking about them.

  38. fyodor, true. But bear in mind, it’s not like i was intending it to be the greatest observation in human history. Just one man’s opinion, based on what he’s seen floating around the blogosphere. A lot of people pointing fingers at Live8 and making fun of all the people trying to do good and gleefully pointing out that they’ll fail or not accomplish anything. All I did was ask myself: “now why would a man say such things.” The answer i came up with, albeit after only brief reflection, was that such a man must feel he’s too hip or too cool to be lumped in with the silly do-gooders, and that it’s safer on the outside looking in. Whether that observation amounts to a hill of beans or not isn’t of any great consequence to me or anyone else (though i’m getting the impression i might have been hasty in concluding the latter); others might share that view, others will not. Like I said, one man’s opinion.

  39. fyodor, also, i never singled Jesse out or impugned his motives or any other such thing; so I can’t understand his reaction. I think he might THINK i did, but in criticising the intitial thing being linked to, I criticized it on its own terms. Hell, Jesse didn’t even annotate the entry, so how could I have been remotely saying anything to/about him? By the time i’d made my second post, all Jesse had said was a brief line to the effect that foreign aid reinforces colonialism, a position I don’t take to be controversial. Somewhere, something I said he took to be directed at him. I dont’ get it, but I’m not gonna worry about it.

  40. big worm:

    Regardless of whatever mental processes led to your little revelation about our need to be “hip”, and regardless of whether it’s an “opinion” or not, the fact remains that you made assumptions about the motives of the people you disagree with, simply because you couldn’t think up any other reason why someone would have a different take on this issue than you do. It was a dumb thing to do, simply enough.

    I think many a good case has been made for disagreeing with the efforts of Live8, and not just here on this comment thread.

    I think the most important of those cases was made in part (clarified, really) by Radley Balko. In short: private aid has been shown to have some success, because it has a better chance of targeting the people who need it directly, rather than going through corrupt beaurocratic channels. Gandolf & Live8, however, aren’t trying to raise private aid funds; they are trying to get people to rally their governments to increase aid, which, besides being immoral (steal from people and give it to others), has been shown to not work as well as private aid. In this sense, it’s not just unproductive, which I could handle…it’s counterproductive. Which is a valid criticism, and all the people who sit around and say “well, at least we’re talking about it” should step back and take that into account.

  41. Jeopardy answer:

    “We’ve got to do something, even if it doesn’t work.”

    So what’s the question?

  42. Did anyone at live 8 mention even mention the government sponsored genocide in Zimbabwe and Sudan?

    Those on the “don’t just stand there do something” side neglect the fact that aid money has helped prop up regimes who consistently destroy any chance their citizens might have to improve their lives. It is not cold heart that causes opposition to aid without reform it is a realization that aid has often at best done no good and it frequently makes the conditions on the ground worse.

    If the concert promoters really wanted to do something useful they would ship a bunch of guns to the oppressed citizens of Zimbabwe and Sudan.

  43. Self-righteous white people scolding other self-righteous white people into infinity. The white man’s burden weighs heavy indeed. You’d think Africans were incapable of delivering a perfectly adequate bitch slap to all of us. A snippet:

    Nearly a millennium since our disastrous encounter with Caucasian barbarism (read slavery and colonialism), Westerners still don’t get it.
    We do not trust them to act in our best interest. Any solution to Africa’s problems, that sidelines us, the people, and our history doesn’t interest us at all.

    In addition to smacking of the arrogance, condescension, and paternalism that influenced Blair’s and Geldof’s own ancestors to always claim some spurious moral high-ground even when fleecing, kidnapping, raping, lynching, and murdering Africans, talking of making poverty history in Africa without involving the people is an inexcusable act of historical amnesia.

  44. independent worm,

    Fair enough, up to a point. It’s been my observation over many years that the sense of being in the right is very important to most members of the human species, which I beleive cuts across the political spectrum and across POV’s about any one issue. When any particular individuals seem especially caught up with this “glee” and especially removed from the concern with what’s actually happening “out there,” I think it’s worth pointing that out. If you were focusing your comments on those who needed such reminding, you were right to do so. I interpreted your comments myself to be applied to all who took the POV you with which you were disagreeing. Due to a combination of time limitations and laziness plus my belief that it’s actually besides the point to a large degree, I’m not bothering to re-read your post to see which interpretation is more accurate. But FWIW, that was my initial interpretation. Anyway, I personally believe it’s always best to address one’s opponents at their best, and even if you were only criticizing certain individuals elsewhere in the blogosphere, the result might show why it’s better to simply ignore the overly gleeful and rather limit your comments to the best arguments being made against your own.

    Not that my own shit don’t stink, mind you….

  45. For the talk about how uneven foreign aid has been at promoting reform, it’s easy to ignore the huge successes that have been achieved by the strategy of starving countries with authoritarian governments into political reform.

    When are we going to have another Cuba thread, anyway?

    Of course, there’s a big difference between ending the Cuban embargo and forgiving the foreign debt of African countries. The Cuban embargo has resulted in people driving crummy cars, having to take the bus, living in small apartments, being surrounded by buildings that are in poor condition, and having their consumer options curtailed.

    Forcing countries like Burundi and Togo to send 2-15% of their already-puny GDP to overseas banks, on the other hand, actually causes thousands of people to die of starvation.

  46. Wait a minute, I’m confused.

    Are the Live8ers wrong because they’re ethnocentric, and involving themselves in Africa’s problems from afar, and thus reinforcing a pattern of the West imposing its control over Africa by using humanitarian concern as a Trojan horse?

    Or are they in the wrong because they aren’t making enough demands for political reform as a condition of their aid?

  47. Some distinctions for Joe:

    Embargo: Blocks trade between me and the citizens of a dictatorship, making them worse off.

    Aid: Transfers my money to the dictatorship in question. Again, it usually makes the citizens worse off.

    Debt: One of the destructive byproducts of that aid. I’m for debt relief myself, because I don’t think a dictatorship’s citizens should be responsible for the debts incurred by their government. But like ending aid, it’s rather different from an embargo; I can’t see any point to conflating them.

  48. “starving” “forcing”

    Obviously no one here is for forcing anyone do to do anything. Rather we’re for free trade, whether it’s with Cuba or African authoritarian regimes. It’s you who wants to force people to support the policies you consider benign with tax money against their wishes.

  49. Except that the debt represents money that is not paid back after being “forced from people…against their wishes.”

    If you support debt forgiveness, you support taking money from the American people, and shipping it to Africa. You are arguing for the forced transfer of wealth, in the cause of allowing African governments to have more resources at their disposal than they otherwise would have, and thus taking the pressure off of them to reform – timelines notwithstanding.

    Any distinction between cancelling a nation’s $100 million annual debt payment, and sending them $100 million in aid while continuing to collect that payment, is purely semantic.

  50. “Obviously no one here is for forcing anyone do to do anything.”

    Yes, fyodor, I realize how central it is to libertarian philosophy to deny the concept of sin of omission. Am I my brother’s keeper? and all that.

    But as intellectual as you all are, I’m counting on there still being a spark of conscience.

  51. No, Joe. If you support debt forgiveness and continued aid, which I gather is the Live8 position, you are arguing for the forced transfer of wealth. But if you support [some forms of] debt forgiveness and a cessation of aid, you simply do not want to compound one injustice with another. Under the existing system, a foreign government first extracts wealth from the west, then extracts wealth from its citizens to pay off its loans.

    I recommend Patricia Adams’ book Odious Debts.

  52. No joe, libertarianism has snuffed out all my conscience. KILL THE LIBERALS!! lol

  53. Perhaps there should be a Hit & Run musical with one particular number based around a refrain of, “No, Joe!” Anyone got a cane and top hat?

  54. OT, but an interesting factoid I heard on an NPR discussion of the debt relief issue Saturday AM.

    It seems that 40% of African owned capital is invested in Europe and the US.

    It seems that Europeans and Americans are not the only ones suspicious of the motives and practices of African governments.

  55. Yes, fyodor, I realize how central it is to libertarian philosophy to deny the concept of sin of omission. Am I my brother’s keeper? and all that.

    But as intellectual as you all are, I’m counting on there still being a spark of conscience.

    Joe, if you stopped equivocating, people might take your points of view more seriously. Instead you think it’s more productive to your argument to presume opposing arguments carry no merit and guilt your opponents by suggesting they’re evil for the mere act of disagreeing with you.

    My experience with ‘libertarian philosophy’ is simply that moral decisionmaking is beyond the scope of government. It makes no judgment about whether or not helping thy fellow man is a virtue or vice. But everyone I’ve seen opposed to it thinks that, because the government IS NOW in this business of deciding virtue and vice, to remove government from this task is to remove all capacity for virtue as the reader sees it – to paraphase that idiotic PBS tagline, “if the government doesn’t do it, who will?” I find this to be an odious indictment of human nature, but one that dovetails quite nicely with the rest of the intellectual miasma of the whole people-can’t-make-it-on-their-own crowd.

    What does this have to do with Live8 and Africa? Not much, directly. But I think the whole point is not that people shouldn’t be trying to help out Africa, just that in Live8’s case, they’re going about it the wrong way. Pouring more and more money into the continent (more particularly, into gangs and juntas that call themselves ‘governments’), and hoping some good comes of it is not an effective solution. Yet this is the one that Geldorf et al are hoping will work. And I think Jesse’s original point was that the logic underlying this “solution” is so facile and so demonstrably ineffective, that the only explanation for why someone would support it is some sort of guilt for being rich, and a nagging desire to ‘do something’ without thinking about the best way to spend one’s resources on the problem.

    These points are view don’t seem extremely difficult to grasp, at least when you cease ascribing sinister, eeeeeevil motives to anyone who disagrees with you. That in itself is an easy task, though daunting to someone without the self-confidence to think they might have something to learn from people they disagree with. As haughty as you are, I’m counting on there still being a spark of common sense.

  56. Don’t mean to come across all cynical

  57. Beyonce was lookin’ pretty good y’all!

  58. Debt forgiveness would make sense in a context of some kind of bankruptcy procedure for the failed states in question. This would include discovery of the whereabouts of previously embezzeled aid, and its disgorgement from the kleptocrats’ offshore accounts, along with such physical wealth – land, cars, jewels, etc. that the thieves have purchase with the stolen funds. Unfortunately, the typical IMF/World Bank restructuring plan isn’t as concerned with visiting justice on the peculators as in ensuring the collection of tax revenue, the better to meet the interest payments on restructured and extended loans. Of late there has been more emphasis on transparency, but what many of these countries really need is a working land-title system, as those citing de Soto’s work have pointed out, access to markets in the developed world, and the ability of citizens to depend on the courts and law enforcement for the settlement of disputes and the keeping of public order. Trying to turn a profit when you have sketchy property rights and not much in the way of a rule of law is difficult if not impossible, unless you are one of the Big Kahuna’s cronies.

    Kevin

  59. If you support debt forgiveness, you support taking money from the American people, and shipping it to Africa.

    That horse wandered out of the barn years ago. We’re not getting it back. Why make Africans who never got so much as a horsehair to “pay us back”?

    But as intellectual as you all are, I’m counting on there still being a spark of conscience.

    You do a mighty job of pretending you’re the only one here talking morality, conscience, or helping people. You really have a talent for this sort of thing, Joe.

  60. There is plenty of people in the libertarian leaning world who not only have a conscience but are doing a whole lot of good. I guess Dave Berry isn’t as sexy as Bono though.

    I would suggest a starting point for “Joe” and “Independent Worm” take a look at: http://www.aworldconnected.org/

  61. god damn Dakota, how am I getting lumped in on this now?

    While joe may be suggesting some of you don’t have a conscience, i think i need to suggest some of you learn how to fucking read. I must have really hit close to home with that “tragically hip” comment I threw at the guy who authored the blog post that Jesse linked to and the “go make fun of priests” comment I directed at the people doing nothing more than making fun of other people’s efforts to help the starving.

    apparently a lot more people than just those to whom it was directed felt the sting of it. I’ll leave the psychology of why that is to “projection” experts like Jesse who seem to know all about these things.

  62. But as intellectual as you all are, I’m counting on there still being a spark of conscience.

    Thanks for the reminder, joe. I was starting to think that combining debt relief with reform of institutions in the nations affected might be a humane thing to do. After all, it might actually have a chance at lifting billions of people out of poverty, in the long run. Set things up so that Africa can succeed, rather than keep on failing because of all the bad institutions.

    But then I realized that that’s just me being rapacious and greedy, since I’m a libertarian, and we don’t care about other people; all we care about is ourselves.

  63. “that “tragically hip” comment I threw at the guy who authored the blog post that Jesse linked to

    Ah, OK. So pointing out that some celebrities are dumb and fond of useless “helpful” gestures is tragically hip, now? Dang, they’ve lowered the bar for that

    “comment I directed at the people doing nothing more than making fun of other people’s efforts to help the starving.”

    Who was doing that, as opposed to mocking ineffectuality and mindless appeals to sentimentality over actually thinking and trying to help people?

    how am I getting lumped in on this now?

    I dunno. Joe doesn’t generally go on the defensive when called on BS. He usually successfully sticks to a consistent, unperturbed tone of smug superiority or faux shock that libertarians think differently from liberals.

    You’re not there yet, but you could make it, one day…

  64. I must have really hit close to home with that “tragically hip” comment I threw at the guy who authored the blog post that Jesse linked to

    We need some sort of Godwin’s Law for people who think “touched a nerve, didn’t I?” is an argument. By the way, you may be the only person on the planet who believes Timothy Burke is “tragically hip.”

  65. You’d think Africans were incapable of delivering a perfectly adequate bitch slap to all of us.

    I don’t immediately see where that article’s points are alien at all to the ones raised here.

  66. Good call, Jesse!

    the “touched a nerve” argument is as about as good as people who try to come up with some sort of “gotcha” triviality when discussing with libertarians.

    (and “straw man” is probably the most overused “insult”)

    it’s finally time to mention that geldof and boono should both be beamed out of here. ugh. absolutely fucking hate both of them.

  67. We need some sort of Godwin’s Law for people who think “touched a nerve, didn’t I?” is an argument.

    Well said. It’s not exactly a novel rhetorical flash to make a snide comment with enough plausible deniability to wriggle out of, and then return with an armchair psychologist’s analysis of what it means when someone gets upset at a smear that was intended though not explicit: “gee, just because I said ‘seems like there’s a lot of pedophiles here’ doesn’t mean I meant YOU. Have some unresolved issues, do you?”

  68. We need some sort of Godwin’s Law for people who think “touched a nerve, didn’t I?” is an argument.

    Evidently we also need one for people who won’t faithfully note the difference between an observation (“touched a nerve”) and an argument.

    Anyway, the only point i’ve had this whole time, and whoever feels like actually reading back thru it will see, I can summarize by going back to an argument I put out a while ago, to which point #1 in JW’s 3 point reply a while back was “The mission volunteers are actually doing something to alleviate poverty. Live8 did not.” To which i would reply: Live8 happened a couple of days ago. To say it “did not” actually do anything to alleviate poverty is premature.

    My point about the volunteers was as follows: people have been mocking Live8 using the notion that Live Aid was 20 years ago but Africans are still starving, so therefore it was a failure.

    I compare that to the parallel point that one could just as well laugh at homeless advocates and volunteers by saying “Ha ha! You idiots, all those years you’ve helped homeless people, but we still have all those homeless. What a bunch of failures.” THAT I think is the difference between my formulation of the situation and how others have characterized it.

    Furthermore, I think a lot of people here are missing the point or simply are not aware that the Live8 folks AREN’T JUST asking for aid and debt relief. They are also asking for changes in trade regulations, to help stabilize African markets so that more African nations can be self-sufficient. Presumably this means they’ve caught on to things like the need for property rights, fair courts, and all the other indicia of fairness and predictability that make investment possible. Which specific treaties, regs or rules do they want changed? I dont know. I don’t know if they know. But this was not a repeat of “empty your pockets for Africa.” Bob Geldof might be too politically correct to say “Mugabe is a reckless murdering thug who we can’t trust with a plug nickel” but I think what he’s learned in 20 years is…. something like that. And I think there is a subtly couched recognition of this realization, in the way that Live8 has taken a different tack this time around. To my mind, that’s a sign of progress, and of intellegently responding to what worked (raising awareness) and what didn’t work (handing out the money) last time around.

    What cant be as easily generated as a pile of money, and what the Live8’ers were successful in, is generating the kind of political capital needed to actually achieve the end-goals they have. Yes, the debt relief/aid/market-building strategy of achieving that goal is going to need to undergo some changes, but I think even the Live8 folks reccognize they themselves aren’t going to be the ones who figure it all out.

    But generating political capital and political will could prove invaluable in creating the incentive for those with the ability to prioritize getting parts of Africa stabilized and self-sufficient. Therefore I find it quite surprising, the knee-jerk reaction among SOME (no names named, implied, or otherwise) to just dismiss it out of hand as a useless exercise in self gratification. *** and note, this is different than me saying “All people who don’t think Live8 will be a smashing success that will save everyone in Africa by 5 pm tomorrow is a jackass without a heart.” No, just the people who make fun of it for no reason besides hating concerts, hippies, fun, human beings, or any other such thing. Sucks I have to qualify a statement like that, but here we are.

  69. (and “straw man” is probably the most overused “insult”)

    Only because it’s the most over-used “argument”!

    Sorry, you touched a nerve there! 🙂

    Cf: Recent posts by trolls.

  70. Zimbabweans are eating zoo animals because white farmers have been kicked off their lands and nobody else knows how to farm. Real embarrassing for all those rock stars who pushed for things like ending apartheid and favoring black rule.

    Of course, the G8 is really about introducing an international tax.

  71. “Nearly a millennium since our disastrous encounter with Caucasian barbarism (read slavery and colonialism), Westerners still don’t get it.”

    A curious shifting of blame here re slavery.

    Europeans had for all practical purposes abandoned slavery when they arrived in Africa. There they found Africans falling all over each other trying to sell them slaves.

    Europeans are hardly blameless on the slavery issue, but this saying slavery was introduced by Europeans is off the mark.

  72. Passingthru: Uh, did you just stick up for apartheid?

    IW: I could ask a dozen questions about your last post, but I’ll stick to one: Who are the “people” who “have been mocking Live8 using the notion that Live Aid was 20 years ago but Africans are still starving, so therefore it was a failure”? If they’re key to your “point about the volunteers,” which may or may not be identical to “the only point I’ve had this whole time,” then you’d think they’d appear either in the blog post I linked to or in this thread. Was it the John Wesley Harding song?

  73. http://www.aworldconnected.org/

    Thanks for the interesting link, Dakota.

  74. Someone with a better memory for these things correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t an organization-trying-to-raise-awareness-of-a-problem-so-that-someone-will-do-something what got our ass handed to us in Somalia under Clinton?

  75. Your assertions of the purity of your hearts would be a lot more convincing, were it not for the omni-credulous, critical-thought-suspending eagerness with which certain (wholly unnamed and unimplied) people grasp at easily refuted excuses to conclude that humanitarian efforts of any sort should be condemned. You know, they’re all about liberal guilt, they’re just “dumping money onto corrupt governments,” none of the Live8ers are pushing for reform in Africa or more effective models for aid delivery.

    Also, if the adherents of a wholly unnamed and unimplied political philosophy didn’t display so much affection for Ayn Rand, or fall back so comfortably onto quasi-Calvinist equivalencies between poverty and lack of virtue. Defining the urge to assist those in need as, in and of itself, a character flaw, doesn’t make your protests that you’re also concerned about the poor’s well being particularly credible.

  76. I was unaware that The Tragically Hip played Live8, but apparently they were at the Barrie, ON gig.

    I checked out Geldof & crew’s website. They aren’t exactly pushing free trade. Besides complaining about things like agricultural subsidy policies in the developed world and other barriers to selling exports, they seem to be in favor of blocking certain kinds of investment in developing countries, such as getting “public utilities” out of the hands of the crooks who run them and into private management. They also seem to be all for “supporting farmers” in the poor states.

    One of the classic Third or Fourth world scams is the government cartelizing exports of commodities such as chocolate or coffee. Farmers are given a crummy price, the goods are sold at the world market price, and the kleptocrats skim the take. If that’s preferable to an open market in agricultural products, I wouldn’t waste my breath defending it.

    Kevin

  77. As P.J. O’Rourke once noted, anytime you see that many musicians that satisfied with themselves you’re in for a pretty bad show. And let’s face it: except for Stevie Wonder, everybody pretty much sucked.

  78. Defining the urge to assist those in need as, in and of itself, a character flaw, doesn’t make your protests that you’re also concerned about the poor’s well being particularly credible.

    Despite your sophomoric caveats about “wholly unnamed and unimplied” people, you quite obviously have someone in particular in mind when you suggest that people around here categorically “define the urge to assist those in need, as a character flaw”. It’d do you well to actually name and imply such a person, so that then you can quote and show exactly where they stated or implied such a position.

    Or are making false statements, and ascribing them to whole groups of people you’ve never met or spoken with, things that really suit you? Judging by the wholly unnamed and unimplied implications you lob around here, they seem to.

  79. fall back so comfortably onto quasi-Calvinist equivalencies between poverty and lack of virtue.

    libertarians = Calvinists now? That is a hilarious stretch dude.

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