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4662Re: [ujeni] Call Bush Today to Cancel African Debt

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  • Jesse Johnson
    Jun 10, 2005
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      thank 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.
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