Monday, June 13, 2005

The folly of Live 8

The issue of foreign aid is back in the news. I wrote a blog entry back in March called Foreign Aid Follies that explored the dark side of foreign aid that originates from government, and provides a couple of informative links that go into more detail about the misuse and corruption associated with foreign aid. Some good news is that, as I discovered via Thomas Knapp, is that $40 billion in African debt has been forgiven. The bad news is that people still clamor for more foreign aid and seemingly have no wish to address root causes of poverty. Knapp does a good job of explaining why some people are missing the point.

With the G8 summit coming up next month, people are pressing the powers that be to do more than just begin cancelling some debt. More specifically, what is being demanded by many is more aid. At the forefront of such activism is Bob Geldof and his Live 8 concert. There's no doubt that the people behind this concert and the musicians who'll be a part of it are filled with good intentions, but it's disappointing to see people continue to cling to shoddy and counterproductive band-aid solutions instead of acknowledging root causes and focusing on getting rid of them. Knapp's piece, as well as my previous entry on aid, show how foreign aid winds up being wasted much of the time, and how it seems to serve the interests of big business and Third World despots more than anything else.

Drizzten did some research on the Live 8 concert and their American affiliate known as The One Campaign. The One Campaign advocates that the USSA government spend an additional 1% of it's budget on aid efforts. The Live 8 organization no doubt wants similar efforts to be undertaken by the other seven countries that make up the G8. Here's an excerpt from Drizzten's post about this:
What I'm not for, however, is the use of a government's power to tax it's population in order to provide for others. Even if TOC is perfectly cool with reducing spending elsewhere in the federal budget to free up the $25 billion they say they want, I still wouldn't support it. There may be millions of Americans who are OK with being taxed to have some of that wealth redistributed to others. I am not and opting out of the tax system (i.e., just ignoring the IRS) means facing some nasty consequences. A fraction of my income is either taken without my permission or handed over under threat of violence; in these circumstances, I'm pretty pissed at anyone who wants more.

What's worse is that both TOC and Live 8 make the following claims:
LIVE 8 is calling for people across the world to unite in one call – in 2005 it is your voice we are after, not your money.


LIVE 8 is about justice not charity.


We don't want your money - we want you!

Well where does this increased aid money come from? Does it fall from the sky? Does it grow on money trees? Nope, it comes from you and me when the government partakes in it's annual theft of peoples' wealth. Here's Drizzten's reaction:
If I wanted to be polite, I'd say this is disingenuous. If I wanted to be honest, I'd say this is open-faced bullshit.

Governments acquire their resources from the people they govern. Without non-governmental production, states wouldn't be anything like what they are now in power and scope. The Live 8 organizers aren't being honest with you. They do want your money; they just consider it to be the state's cash, available to hand over for a worthy purpose. The organizers are attempting to spin this as something we individually won't have to sacrifice for, when it is that very act of voluntary individual donation and effort that would make this more than charity.

I don't consider something justice when unjust means are used to obtain justice. Would any of the organizers or supporters condone stealing from their neighbor (the cranky guy next door who hates taxes) and then giving that money to pay for the economic harm inflicted by American cotton subsidies on poor farmers? Where is the justice in that? I say far from taking the proper steps to compensate legitimate victims, it creates new victims.

This reminds me of a couple of quotes from Gandhi about means vs. ends and charity:
"Pure goals can never justify impure or violent action."

"No action which is not voluntary can be called moral."

There's no question that poverty is a brutal and unnatural condition that we should focus on alleviating. There's no question that the cancellation of debts is a good first step in that direction and should continue until all such debts are forgiven. Any additional steps, however, need to take Gandhi's words into account, which means refusing to rely on crooked institutions that provide inefficient services while benefiting from the world's current political and economic structure. I would have more respect for groups like TOC and Live 8 if they were honest about wanting financial support while rejecting political means of action. Rejecting the use of foreign aid, turning to private alternatives and asking for voluntary donations is the pure and moral approach to helping those in need. Those who wish to go further than that can address root causes of poverty, such as the state capitalist system we all live under, and strive to get rid of it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You gotta be happy about the Pink Floyd reunion...

8:05 AM  
Blogger freeman said...

Yeah, that's pretty cool. That and the fact that the money raised through ticket sales will likely be put to good use.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ive heard rumors about a follow-up tour, possibly a new album...

4:18 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

Wow. I hope there's some truth to those rumors.

Honestly, I never really got into their live performances. I thought that their emphasis on eye candy (the lights show and whatnot) sort of compensated for the music in a live setting. That's why I was more excited about Cream's reunion than Floyd's. If they do tour, I bet ticket prices will be outrageous, and I don't see myself plunking down a lot of money to see them.

I've always loved their studio material though, and I think that they're at their best in the studio. I hope they do go into the studio and work on new stuff.

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, especially some of their later tours in the 70's, there wasnt as much inspiration maybe. I really dont care for the Wall at all. Ive recently acquired some of their early seventies and late sixties shows, and they go into some far-out jams.

9:23 PM  

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