4662Re: [ujeni] Call Bush Today to Cancel African Debt
- Jun 10, 2005thank you dan, kathy, eric and vyrle for elevating the dialog about debt
forgiveness above the bombast and bile i was engaged in.
vyrle, i really liked the religious arguments in favor of forgiveness.
the idea of allowing 'our better angels' to aid governance is a good
one. problems arise in determining exactly which set of angles we are
talking about. but, as is pointed out, usury will get a hit in nearly
every religious convention.
then again, we return to a few fundamental problems, eg. the truly
rotten people that control some african countries. they will range from
the merely irresponsible to the downright dangerous. does it even
matter? maybe not. if the practice of forgiveness provides a blood
thirsty tyrant the means to extend his grip on power, that is something
the forgivers should be willing to accept responsibility for. does that
offset the 'goodness' of the act of forgiveness?
as eric says, better maybe to wield the debt itself as an instrument for
shaping the poor nations into something we feel is more representative
of their citizenry. ahh, but who better than 'us' to decide? there is a
colossal conceit in that sort of thinking. but we are drawn into those
thoughts whenever we contemplate how to help people. and poor nations
encourage us to do so when they request assistance. it's much harder to
help people than most people would guess. the act of accepting
assistance is an act of surrender, a diminishing freedom. i suppose that
is what is meant by 'neocolonialism'. however, in too many cases the
alternative is to look away from humanitarian horrors. so, i can't
condone the sort of name calling that surrounds this issue. both parties
are responsible for the state of affairs.
dan and kathy (and me and paul i suppose), are analogies to personal
finance appropriate? maybe. the debt forgiveness is certain to affect at
least one person profoundly, the leader of the nation being forgiven.
the elite in poor nations are such a small group, but they are the
interface with the west. even as peace corps, i spent much more time
speaking to good english speakers, who tended to be relatively well off,
if not completely elite. it's only natural. i guess that i'm trying to
get back to the idea that this act of forgiveness is really just an
agreement between two very small groups of people, and is of almost no
consequence to the vast majority of the poor. as such, it is an
enticement for certain individuals to behave irresponsibly (or
opportunity to behave well, depending on your point of view).
one thing that isn't mentioned is that the nations are always free to
quit making payments on their debt. they chose not to do that. i assume
that this is because they'd like to remain in the good graces of the
imf, so they can borrow more. this, in turn, makes me think that debt
relief will be very short lived. but, i'd be delighted to be wrong.
finally, a lot of energy is being devoted to this issue. that's been one
of the biggest problems for me. there is a great deal of interest in
seeing africa improve its lot, but not very many ideas about how to help
them do that. the ones that get a lot of play on the left generally
involve forking over a hefty sum of cash (but trivial in terms of gdp,
blah, blah, i know). those on the right generally fall into the
'liberalizing markets' plans. those are the plans that are probably
responsible for much of the change in malawi dan mentions.
i think that the cash assistance programs display a naivete about human
i think that the market driven solutions are all too often guided by the
narrow self interest of people that are selling something.
we are a group keenly interested in seeing africa benefit. what policy
choices should we really get behind. that's the real question.
i don't know the answer. if i did, maybe i'd start writing to the list
in CAPITAL LETTERS, urging you to CALL BUSH TODAY.
but i doubt it.
thanks to all for the engaging discussion.
- << Previous post in topic Next post in topic >>