As a longtime U2 fan—and someone who shelled out hundreds of dollars to take my kids to see Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, featuring music by Bono and The Edge—I must acknowledge that the group's lead singer is a major jackass.
Via Andrew Kirell of Mediaite comes this latest pearl of wisdom from tha artist formerly known as Paul Hewson:
Bono spoke to the crowd about Europe's debt woes, conceding that "we're broke." He continued on to explain that during these tough economic times, when he goes busking for foreign aid in Western capital cities, "the word 'aid' sounds like an expletive. It's like you brought a bad smell into the room." But despite the resistance, Bono insists, "we need aid."
"Of course we still need aid. Of course we do," he declared. "Does anyone disagree? Anyone apart from brain-dead, heart-dead ideologues or professional controversialists? Come on. Every sensible person knows that."
U2 famously bases some of its business dealings in Holland to reduce its tax bill. Nothing wrong with that, but it gets a bit rich when Bono, who admits that Europe is broke, pushes for more overseas aid. What's especially galling, I think, is that such aid hasn't worked so well so far. As Kirell writes:
World Bank economic studies confirm that foreign aid actually does great harm because "higher aid levels erode the quality of governance."
In the past 40 years, Western governments have given Africa more than half a trillion dollars in aid. Yet Africa is even poorer than it was before the money started rolling in. A study from the London School of Economics further confirms the failure of foreign aid. By reviewing the aid given to more than 95 countries, the study finds that "aid does not increase investment and growth, nor benefit the poor as measured by improvements in human development indicators, but it does increase the size of government." Another comprehensive study by the IMF also found no relationship between aid and growth.
Foreign aid hasn't accomplished its goals. Instead it has financed mostly authoritarian governments, whose destructive policies — trade protectionism, insurmountable licensing schemes, price and wage controls, nationalization of industries — have all been supported in some fashion by our foreign aid programs.
Kirell points to some things that actually do work. Read his piece here.