Quick Roundup 203

Monday, June 11, 2007

How Aid Hurts Africa

Trey Givens points to a fascinating interview in Spiegel Online with James Shikwati, a Kenyan economist who holds that Western aid to Africa is undermining its economic development. Here is just one highlight:

[A]t some point, this [United Nations World Food Program] corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unscrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle. [one minor edit]
Shikwati describes here how foreign aid is reducing positive incentives for the people of Africa to develop into self-reliant individuals and for its nations to promote their own economic development by protecting individual rights.

Readers of this blog will remember that this wholesale thwarting of the economic development of Africa goes even deeper than that: The West, by keeping kleptocracies afloat is also helping them gut Africa's moral infrastructure. Recall the following excerpt from "undercover" economist Tim Hartford's commentary on Cameroon:
There's no point investing in a business because the government will not protect you against thieves. (So you might as well become a thief yourself.) There's no point in paying your phone bill because no court can make you pay. (So there's no point being a phone company.) There's no point setting up an import business because the customs officers will be the ones to benefit. (So the customs office is under-funded and looks even harder for bribes.) There's no point getting an education because jobs are not awarded on merit. (And you can't borrow money for school fees because the bank can't collect on the loan.)
On reflection, I was far more correct about Darfur than I realized when I wrote that,
[Promoting] the protection of individual rights ... would do far more to mitigate atrocities such as those in Darfur and Zimbabwe (if not avert many of them altogether) than any amount of charitable donations made while doing nothing to end such regimes.
Why? Because we see here that massive charity obscures the relationship between the exercise of reason and man's survival and thus, of the nature of individual rights and the need to protect them.

They're Back!

Kudos to Wayne Graham and Company for their successful return to the College World Series this year!
"I think we all understand that winning a super regional against a great team like A&M, that's huge," [Tyler] Henley said. "But we all want rings that say 'National Champions' not 'Omaha' or 'World Series,' like the ones that we already have.

"There is something more than just winning a super regional. We want a national championship." [bold added]
I must say that I like the focus of this team.

The pairing of Rice and A&M at the super regional level seemed odd to me, given that the Owls and the Aggies were both ranked among the top ten nationally (2nd and 7th, respectively) and so arguably should have met later.

The Freedom to Marry

It is hard to believe, but only forty years ago, seventeen states had anti-miscegenation laws on the books!
Born Mildred Jeter, she's known by the name she took when she -- a black woman living in segregated Virginia -- dared break the rules by marrying a white man named Richard Loving.

The union landed the Lovings in jail, then before the U.S. Supreme Court, and finally in the history books; 40 years ago Tuesday, the court ruled in favor of the couple, overturning laws prohibiting interracial unions and changing the face of America.

Mildred Loving hardly considers herself a hero -- just a girl who once fell in love with a boy. [bold added]
Given that I often blog bad news and frequently lament how quickly things seem to be going to hell in a handbasket, it is worth it to step back and consider stories like this one, and remember that things can also change drastically for the better in a short amount of time, too.

Binswanger on "Anarcho-Capitalism"

I am very glad that Harry Binswanger has decided to post to the web his argument against "anarcho-capitalism" -- that contradiction in terms foisted on the marketplace of ideas by certain libertarians.

I was about to excerpt it here to give a taste, but the piece is short enough and so tightly written that to do so would make the meaning of any excerpt unclear and so do the entire piece an injustice. I will say that I think that if you read it, you will have to agree with his conclusion: "To cooperate with either [the religious conservatives or the libertarians] is to betray capitalism, reason, and one's own future."

-- CAV


Jennifer Snow said...

Is there another article where Dr. Binswanger talks about religious conservatives? Because that last bit about the conservatives seems almost smuggled in at the end unless it isn't referring to some other argument elsewhere.

Gus Van Horn said...

By Binswanger? Not that I know of off-hand -- but read on....

I think he's fine bringing in the conservatives since (A) they (1) so frequently and openly make such claims as that rights "come from God" and (2) base their whole notion of jurisprudence on the claim that all law is based on Christian precepts (e.g., the prohibition against murder); and (B) Binswanger refers explicitly to Ayn Rand's essay "The Nature of Government", which plainly states the relationship between man's rationality and the proper role of government, and is easy-enough to come by.

Adrian Hester said...

Yo, Gus, thanks for posting the reminder on the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia (which is a great case name, doncha think?). I was reading some of the literature around the decision a couple of years ago, and it's quite amusing in a sick way the legal details of anti-miscegenation laws. For example, it was up to the states to define the races, so you ended up with different standards in different states--one-drop rules in one or two states up to I think one-eighth African ancestry in others (and contrary to what you might expect, South Carolina, if I remember correctly, actually had the loosest standards for white)--which meant couples who married in one state might not have been allowed to marry in another state, though under the Constitution their marriages would have been recognized in all states, of course. Did this result in people crossing the state line to get married under easier standards? Well, that's what the Lovings did (they went to Washington, D.C., to get married); but Virginia declared that a violation of the aniti-miscegenation law (I think because they were still legally residents of Virginia and thus under the purview of the law) and ordered them to serve jail time unless they left the state.

Also appalling are the decisions of the Supreme Court that allowed anti-miscegenation laws--the decision that Loving v. Virginia overturned actually stated that God had created the races separate! It's quoted at Wiki: "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." Some would say that was an arrant abuse of religion, but I prefer to say that it meant the only reason the segregationists could offer for prohibiting miscegenation wasn't reasoned at all but rather a loogie spat into the face of reason.

(And then there was the question of intermarriage between other races than black and white that varied widely between states, I believe. This was a lot like the situation that caused a bit of a hullaballoo I heard about some time ago in Virginia in the 1920s or 1930s, when the state wanted to pass a law discriminating against non-whites of any ancestry, with strict standards for whiteness. This had a great deal of support until somebody realized this discriminated against the many Virginians with Indan ancestors, after which the law sank without a trace. When you keep all this in mind, you can see how much bite Schuyler's Black No More actually had--and the fact that it might seem outrageous and contrived to many people now just shows how much this country has changed since the days of Jim Crow.)

And it's not like the anti-miscegenation laws hadn't been challened before, but the Supreme Court upheld them on specious grounds. I think it was Pace v. Alabama (1883) that I have in mind: There were stiff penalties under the Alabama law in question for marriage between the races, but the Court upheld the law on the grounds that since the penalties were the same for blacks and whites the law did not violate the equal protection clause. (Truly equal protection would have meant that two whites or two blacks getting married would have been sent to jail just as long as the spouses in mixed marriages, of course, but then separate but equal never really did mean equal.)

The anti-miscegenation laws weren't the worst example of legalistic sophistry in the service of white supremacy--probably the most galling (though at root just as irrational) was the whole question of black citizenship. Before the Civil War, national citizenship was taken by the Court as not implying state citizenship (this was used by Taney in the Dred Scott decision), which led in the early 19th century to black sailors in the US navy serving on warships docking in southern ports being arrested by state governments for violating the laws restricting movements of blacks! (Which is why the 14th Amendment defined citizenship as it did.)

Gus Van Horn said...

You're welcome, and thank you for posting that very informative comment.

Sid said...

From the Speigel interview:

...jobs that were created artificially in the first place and that distort reality.


These days, Africans only perceive themselves as victims. On the other hand, no one can really picture an African as a businessman.

He's right.

The millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts are simply the logical end of the aid given to Africa.

Gus Van Horn said...

For any lurkers, the first quote from Sid ends as follows: "... So you end up with some African biochemist driving an aid worker around, distributing European food, and forcing local farmers out of their jobs. That's just crazy!" and the second starts out with, "There must be a change in mentality. We have to stop perceiving ourselves as beggars."

So go read up!

Jim May said...

Some would say that was an arrant abuse of religion,

ANYONE who says such a thing should be laughed at long and hard, for it is a contradiction in terms.

"Abuse" or "misuse" implies that something has a purpose for which its nature is adapted. Using a hammer to slice bread would be misuse; trying to race a Mustang with a Festiva would be abuse of the Festiva.

Specific religions (as opposed to the concept of "religion" as a type of philosophy), on the other hand, are completely arbitrary. Their content is utterly mutable -- it has no "nature", no real identity -- and therefore adaptable to ANY PURPOSE, and thusly merges in practice with its purported opposite, subjectivism. I always laugh when I see someone saying that religion had nothing to do with some particular evil action, that the perpetrator just made up some BS to rationalize his choice. I just say "And your point is....?"

Check out Diana's blog post referencing the various "rules" for murder followed by the Islamists for a textbook example.

Any religion can be used to justify anything you want. Just be selective in your reading of the (contradictory) scriptures until you find the combination you want. If you need to convert a lot of the religion's existing followers to your goal, but the prevailing conventional interpretation gets in your way, it's no problem -- your BS is as good as theirs! You can simply take over with some charisma, or perhaps a convenient "miracle" or two in your grilled cheese sandwich or your fish sticks.

Not grandiose enough? Just start a schism to take over from within. Or follow L. Ron Hubbard's wildly successful example and start a whole new religion -- the tax benefits alone are impressive.

Gus Van Horn said...

Good points on religion, and thanks for linking to Diana's post. I read that article on jihadist etiquette in the pub the other day and considered blogging it, but had forgotten it by the time I had the chance.

Your point on being able to twist religion to whatever your purpose is is quite profound. All I would add to it is that if you look at the way it is usually done, it (1) requires "authority" to get away with it and (2) frequently among religions in the West will employ the methods of logic (i.e., misuse reason) in order to legitimize itself to the partially-rational believer.

In short, it's "subjectivism on steroids" for the religious leader: He gets what he wants and he gets his followers to do the dirty work for him.