Celebrities

George Clooney Leaves Free Market Solutions Out of Proposals to Fight World Poverty

Private enterprise helps global economic development in ways besides simple charity.

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George Clooney Attends Good Money Gala
ROBIN UTRECHT/EPA/Newscom

Actor and activist George Clooney took to the Wall Street Journal editorial page last week to propose unconventional solutions to global humanitarian crises. Clooney's "plan" has three basic components: Recognize those trying to implement change from the ground up, work to address corruption, and involve charitable behaviors from businesses.

The commentary, "Let the Private Sector Help Tackle the Migration Crisis," initially sounds compelling, but despite what is suggested by the headline, Clooney fails to discuss how the free market can solve problems.

His mention of the private sector as a humanitarian solution highlights the role of philanthropy, not free enterprise. Wealthy individuals (such as Clooney himself) donating time and money to the developing world is admirable, but does not have the same effect as entrepreneurship.

Consider the example of Azuri Technologies, which provides solar energy to households in Sub-Saharan Africa on a pay-as-you go basis. The company has sold 100,000 solar units since their launch in 2011. Solar can help the 600 million Africans who live without access to electricity, many of whom still rely on kerosene lamps.

Also take a look at the high-profile company Bridge International, which builds "schools-in-a-box"—standardized schools and curriculum with tuition less than $1 a day. While Bridge is often tainted by controversy, mostly from fights with teachers' unions and governments, their standardized model and use of technology address many shortcomings of public education in Africa and Asia. In Kenya, the World Bank estimates that 47.3 percent of public school teachers have failed to show up for work on a given day. At a Bridge school, the teacher absentee rate is less than 1 percent.

In comparison with the remarkable benefits of free enterprise, Clooney's strategy is much less impressive:

"We need to harness the power of business to advance humanitarian solutions. With ample resources and less bureaucracy, the private sector can play a much more important role in addressing famine, providing health care and education, and delivering clean water.

Business leaders increasingly want to incorporate humanitarian efforts into the work of their companies. The international yogurt manufacturer Chobani, for example, not only helps resettle refugees but also employs and educates them so they can enjoy a better life. This needs to become the norm, not the exception, for 21st-century businesses."

Chobani is, first and foremost, a producer of yogurt. Founder Hamdi Ulukaya then donates to benefit refugees in Europe and the Middle East and employs refugees in the U.S. By providing jobs, Ulukaya, may help settle some refugees. Yet by only including this business-first, charity-second approach in his plan, Clooney fails to fully harness the power of free enterprise.

In highlighting charity as part of his solution, Clooney seems to forget that customers' willingness to pay for products that improve their lives is not a Western phenomenon. In the developing world there are no perfect solutions. Yet free enterprise provides measurably better alternatives.

Tales of philanthropy are more glamorous than profit-seeking businesses, but also more rare. So, Mr. Clooney, if you desire to incorporate the private sector into your humanitarian solution, embrace its problem-solving ability, not just the generosity of a few of its members.

NEXT: An interview on "Know-Nothing Politics"

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  1. Oh Clooney, you’re too pretty to talk about these things.

    “We need to harness the power of business to advance humanitarian solutions. … Business leaders increasingly want to incorporate humanitarian efforts into the work of their companies.”

    How embarrassing.

  2. Tales of philanthropy are more glamorous than profit-seeking businesses, but also more rare.

    Philanthropy is great for keeping people alive and dealing with crisis situations. But the pursuit of profit has done more to improve lives than all of the charity and philanthropy in the world ever has, and by a long shot. Any plan to fight world poverty that doesn’t include encouraging local profit making enterprise isn’t going to solve any of the actual problems.

  3. Clooney fails to discuss how the free market can solve problems

    Answer me this, if the free market is so awesome at solving problems then why are there so many problems? Huh? Why? And don’t give me any of your crapitalism, laissez-faire nonsense.

  4. I assume Nespresso is going to take the lead on this initiative.

    1. Airdrop 1 million Juiceros to fight global obesity.

  5. ‘Ol George no Cloo…ney.

    Someone once said he was a Libertarian. I laughed and laughed….and laughed.

  6. The last time George Clooney involved himself in the matters of nation-states, he midwifed a new violent government that oppressed its citizens that he later regretted.

    Perhaps Mr. Clooney should stick to things he understands.

  7. Clooney is just as qualified to lecture people on the best ways to help the world’s poor as the world’s poor are qualified to lecture Clooney on the best ways to make a movie.

    What ever happened to economics being “the dismal science” to be avoided by all but wonks who study it for a living? Why are so many people suddenly interested in sharing their pronouncements on economics despite having no training, no experience in that field, and even less of a clue?

    What will be the next hot subjects for public figures to speak out about despite zero knowledge?

    My suggestions would include: the Pope dispensing medical advice and demonstrating surgical techniques; Noam Chomsky doing a cable show that gives ordinary people advice about what to wear to up their fashion game and look their best; home remodeling with host Neil DeGrasse Tyson; and last but not least, fitness training with Michael Moore.

    1. Don’t forget the climate change lectures by Leo di Caprio.

  8. So when is Clooney going to turn his villa on Lake Como into a refuge for Syrian orphans?

      1. Fury: Chauffeur Santi, 26, told MailOnline: ‘It is good for Switzerland that they have closed the border to migrants but it is bad for Italy. ‘We simply don’t have the resources to deal with all these new people.

        Okay then.

      2. Haha. I find Dailymail more in depth articles compared to the US media.

  9. Ask these idiots why do they think we are not poor and starving like other countries. Yup, nothing to do with economic development.

  10. Here’s a guy who has devoted his entire career pretending to be someone he’s not and getting very rich as a result.
    And we’re to suppose he’s worth listening to regarding the poor and hungry.
    Nope; suck it, George. You’re an ignorant blowhard.

  11. Would be lovely if he at least acknowledged how the wonders of (semi-) free market capitalism have enabled him to become ridiculously rich and therefore have tons of time, money, and influence for charity.

  12. Somebody should point out to Clooney that Monsanto has done more to feed the hungry than Mother Theresa, even though they’re greedy bastards who only care about making money and could care less about hunger. Yet that’s how the free market works, turns Monsanto’s greed to the benefit of the hungry.

    1. Those evil corporations that find ways to create hardier crops and to grow them more efficiently don’t count because they have selfish intentions! Only good intentions matter! Even if the results are terrible! Because intentions! Magical intentions!

  13. Wait a minute! If the world’s poor start to work on their own because they are trained to do or make something that other people want to buy, then will not need Mr. Clooney.

    What would he do with himself if this comes to pass? His bragging rights about he “cares more than you care” will be worthless.

  14. Is this the guy from The Facts of Life? What a hunk!

  15. I believe you’re playing a game of semantics because you simply don’t like Clooney. I’m not a fan of him myself, but his movies are generally good and he’s a good actor.

    So how about this: [“”We need to harness the power of business to advance humanitarian solutions. With ample resources and less bureaucracy, the private sector can play a much more important role in addressing famine, providing health care and education, and delivering clean water.”]

    The power of business is not always good, but it remains an example of Free Enterprise nevertheless. Unless you what to make up your own definitions, in which case you playing with semantics.

    At the very least Clooney is on the right side of the argument — at least as he’s portrayed here. He is not another “famous person” without a clue advocating more government being the solution to everything that’s wrong. I’ve never heard a leftist or a pro-Hillary type advocate anything close to what Clooney is advocating.

    Have you?

  16. The thing is, why do people expect Actors to be good economists, or smart political analysts, or well versed in environmental science? I mean, acting is a full time job when you are on Clooney’s level. It requires a set of talents that doesn’t have a lot to do with scholarship or (for that matter) rational thinking. And Clooney’s good at it. So why do people expect him to be good at something else?

    Why do we expect Noam Chomsky, an expert Linguist, to also be good at political science? Why do we expect somebody who is near the top of ONE demanding field to be able to manage two or more? OK, it happens. But it doesn’t happen all that often.

  17. ” The international yogurt manufacturer Chobani, for example, not only helps resettle refugees but also employs and educates them so they can enjoy a better life.”

    Yeah sure, but what part of that helps developing countries? Are they better off because people leave? Did giving them a job in a yogurt factory in the USA help the poor children left behind? Will one billion people suddenly have access to electricity because someone got a job in an American yogurt factory? Most of the parts of sub-Saharan Africa where I have worked subsist by raising goats and live in little temporary dwellings made of sticks and grass Refrigeration consists of wetting a little grass mound and letting the evaporating water keep the milk from spoiling. Guns tend to be the only modern technology they own, thanks to the Russians, but bullets are hard to get. Maybe we need to eat more goat meat. Clooney here’s an idea for you, help them find a market for organically grown goat meat!!!!

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