Bob Geldof’s approach to political issues contrasted with his stated ambitions regarding world poverty is the equivalent of putting chicken in a baking dish and expecting steak pie: misconceived. He expects to deal with a problem (poverty) using a certain key solution (socialism) and looks to that solution to straighten out the problem. Unfortunatley, he is using the wrong solution. As computer geeks used to say, GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

In today’s press conference, Geldof announced Live Eight, an encore of the 1985 Live Aid concerts to be held in five cities around the West shortly before the G8 meeting of world leaders in July, and talked about the Make Poverty History campaign. According to Geldof, “It will be just like the Ban the Bomb protests in the Sixties….” (sold). He said that Africa, in the past 20 years, “….has gone into economic decline by a factor of 25 percent. The result of that is we see people dying on TV screens every night. This [event] is to finally, as much as as we can, put a stop to that.” I’ll admit to being slightly confused on this point, since Geldof admits that the African situation has gotten WORSE since the first Live Aid, so its still not clear how having another one will help matters. But the wheels are in motion, and the upcoming event is, according to Geldof, “not for charity but for political justice.” This is a Make Poverty History buzzword: ‘trade justice’ and ‘political justice’, and is certainly vague. What does he mean by political justice? Well, Make Poverty History intends the events to “…place maximum pressure on the world leaders to sign up to a debt relief and aid package for Africa.” Okay.

But aren’t both debt relief and government aid packages examples of a certain kind of charity? In this age of collectivism, social democracy and welfarism, it seems that charity is no longer a private matter – it is up to the government to TAKE from us to give to others in charity. Sort of a Robin Hood deal, except in bulk. So it is, again, a socialist solution to the problem of poverty supported here – as we would expect from left-wing Geldof. He (and Make Poverty History) has abandoned private charity, maybe BECAUSE he thinks it didn’t work well enough, in favor of redistribution of wealth. Private charity is a drop in the ocean, perhaps – socialism is a pure utopia of equal sharing! In an excellent essay by Stephen Pollard, he describes the “…sheer wrong-headedness of the campaign’s proposals to eliminate poverty”, and that the campaign “…should be called Make Poverty Permanent, such would be the effect of its proposals being implemented.” Why is this? Why are Geldof’s attitudes to the issue incorrect?

Well, aside from the obvious breach of good principal that involves stealing the fruits of one man’s labour in order to give it to someone else, there is a very simple reason that this is the wrong approach to the problems of third world poverty. Geldof admits that poverty is a political problem. Indeed it is. The primary difference between the West and the third world is that we are rich and they are poor. The cause of this is not difficult to attribute. Its not related to any lack of natural resources in Africa. Their land is not more void of value in its natural state – even The Guardian admits that it is “…rich in oil and diamonds”. Their climate is no more inhospitable than some parts of the United States (even if agriculture WAS their only means of supporting themselves). No – the primary difference is political. A political problem needs a political solution, and by that I do not mean the transfer of money (which is a short-term patch) or cancelling of debt (although a limited version of the latter could perhaps accompany some effort to sort out the primary problem first).

The difference is that the political background of the West has rewarded private enterprise, protected private property and defended individual rights – the political climate in the third world has not. Rewarding private enterprise leads to wealth creation, which leads to job employment, which leads to wealth distribution and eliminates poverty in everything it touches. The system I am describing may be familiar – its called CAPITALISM. The tyrannies, warlords and corrupt governments of Africa do not permit capitalism. They line their own pockets while their citizens starve – all because they do not permit a fair, capitalist system of government.

And this is Geldof’s GIGO moment; this is the reason that the solution of Make Poverty History does not produce the desired result; the reason that their politics will not fulfil their ambitions for the third world. Observe that the rich nations of the world share a common political background: capitalism. In general, the more political freedom a nation permits its citizens, the more wealthy, stable, peaceful and secure those citizens will be. What is the best thing we can do for the third world? Teach them to fish. Capitalism is the only promise that Africans can finally say goodbye to poverty, yet Bob Geldof and Make Poverty History still think plying them with cash (forceably taken from others) and cancelling their debts (just a good head-start) is the way to solve their problems.

Socialism will not provide Africans with reliable power, clean water, secure housing, modern medicine, good agriculture, healthy commerce, sound education, or the incentive to succeed. Neither, unfortunately, will rock music. Only capitalism will achieve, and has ever achieved, such a thing.

Now, will someone PLEASE tell Bob Geldof? We could do with someone having his powers of persuasion.

For the complete article by Stephen Pollard, see www.stephenpollard.net/002152.html.

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John Wright

johnwright@softhome.net