Friday, July 24, 2009

From the Annals of TV Tropes...

...comes something that should make me sad, but instead makes me feel decidedly cynical.

It's a site called You can see it here:

The TV Tropes entry on the thing can by found by scrolling way, way down here:

As you can probably guess from the URL, the poverty site is supposed to evoke tears. Well, for me, it hasn't.

Ignore the fact that the photos presented are composite and stock, and that the names are essentially randomized. Ignore, as one commenter on the TV Tropes entry noted, that the names do not match the ethnicities and that the problems seem confined to South America, the Indian Subcontinent, and Central Africa.

Instead, take a long look at the sidebar to the left of the screen. Specifically, under solutions: "International Aid" is the only entry.

Thus, the problems of international poverty, and all its attendant death and suffering, are reduced to a question of "money" or "more money", ignoring that (a) that poverty is likely a result of poor economic decisions as much as anything else, and (b) we've been giving out the aid for at least fifty years with not much to show for it.

Here's a (somewhat old, contemporary with first Live Aid broadcasts, but it does demonstrate for how long this "international aid" business has been debunked) couple of lines from P.J. O'Rourke, from an article titled "Fiddling While Africa Starves":

"...these musical riots of philantropy address themselves to the wrong problems. There is, of course, a shortage of food among Africans, but that deosn't mean there's a shortage of food in Africa...According to hunger maven William Shawcross, 200,000 tons of food aid delivered to Ethiopia is being held in storage by the country's government...
"The African relief fad serves to distract attention from the real issues. There is famine in Ethiopia, Chad, Sudan, and...Mozambique. All these countries are involved in pointless civil wars. There are pockets of famine in Mauritania, Niger and Mali--the result of desertification caused mostly by idiot agricultural policies. African famine is not a visitation of fate. It is largely man-made, and the men who made it are largely Africans....
"Bumbling and corrupt central planning stymies farm production. And the hideous regimes use hunger as a weapon to suppress rebellion. People are not just starving. They are being starved."

Further, if India and China are any indication (see Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell), the fastest way to bring people out of poverty is not external aid, but internal reforms and free markets. Once those two countries began to make economic reforms (although political reforms in China are somewhat lacking), large swaths of population began to come out of poverty: "It has been estimated that 20 million people in India rose out of destitution in a decade and more than a million Chinese per month [emphasis original] rose out of poverty".

Further, with prosperity comes health and cleanliness, and knowledge--which defeats dysentery (effectively unceasing diarrhea, leading to dehydration) and any number of water-borne diseases, curtails the spread of AIDS, and allows greater access to anti-malarial and pneumonia treatments. There is a reason why deaths due to dysentery, malaria, etc., are so comparatively rare in the U.S., Europe, and those countries like Japan who have chosen economic liberalism.

None of this is mentioned in the poverty site. The only given solution reduces poverty-stricken countries to victims stricken by fate, and not man, effectively suggesting that "only with the assistance of their betters can they rise out of poverty".

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