A very high-profile supporter of foreign aid to Africa has had his mind turned around upon learning what capitalism has done for the continent. Aid is a stop-gap measure, not a cure. See if you can figure out who it is before I spill the beans.

The anti-war movement has had its resolve tested by being given virtually identical scenarios about war-making; one with a Republican President and one with a Democrat. The outcry should be the same, if the stance they take is on principle rather than on politics. Listen in to see how they measure up.

Mentioned links:

“Capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid”

George N. N. Ayittey

“Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa’s Future”

Syria: Dozens protest outside White House

Where have all the flowers gone

Bozell Column: The Vanishing Anti-War Left

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Show Transcript

Here’s someone speaking at Georgetown University Global Social Enterprise Event. You may know this person, and he gives a hint of who he is in this little clip. But try to guess, if not a name, at least try to categorize him.

[Audio clip]

For starters, let me just say this isn’t a conservative pundit. Additionally, I will note that he didn’t used to think this way about aid versus capitalism. In fact, this guy has been one of the biggest proponents of aid to Africa. But now he says, “Aid is just a stopgap. Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid. Of course we know that.”

Well do we? Seems after reading the book “Africa Unchained” by George Ayittey, a research fellow at The Independent Institute, Bono, lead singer for U2, realized that aid, ultimately, doesn’t solve poverty. It’s only a band aid, if you will, but it will never be the solution. What we need to export is capitalism, entrepreneurialism. It starts with the rule of law, of course, and much of the problem can be laid at the feet of conflicts that go back generations. Africa can be an economic powerhouse. It needs to be, in order to break the chains of poverty.

There’s a link in the show notes to a short article describing Bono’s turnaround, and how his Christian faith ultimately informed this change.

The president was trying to make the case for attacking a Middle Eastern dictator. No, this isn’t a flashback to the Dubya administration; this is President Obama we’re talking about. And the response from the anti-war movement has been just the same.

OK, no it wasn’t. Oh, there are still the true believers, but whereas before thousands took to the streets in multiple cities against Bush going to war, the first sentence of an AP dispatch on anti-war protests against Obama begins with the word “dozens”. Code Pink, a group of those true believers, is, for some strange reason, finding it hard to get supporters. Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin told The Washington Times, “We’ve been protesting Obama’s foreign policy for years now, but we can’t get the same numbers because the people who would’ve been yelling and screaming about this stuff under Bush are quiet under Obama.”

But it’s not just the anti-war crowd. Brent Bozell ticks off a list of other social and political action groups that raised their voices when a Republican was President, and then just melted away, or declared victory and disbanded, when a Democrat got elected.

Remember this the next time a Republican is in the White House. All of a sudden protesting wars, or calling attention to the homeless, or whatever other causes come to mind, will suddenly be infused with a fierce moral urgency. But remember, the vast majority of it is just political. It’s not so much anti-war as it is anti-Republican-ism in sheep’s clothing

So what do you think? I understand that foreign aid can be important and help lift people out of poverty, but if all we do is give them money, and never encourage them and help them become income generators, where do we break this cycle of dependence on handouts? But rest assured, even if we’re digging this sort of hole by more and more aid, if we try to change tactics and, by doing so, lessen the need for it, how many folks would call it “evil” and “heartless” if the aid were to be diminished in the slightest? Given how those people react to welfare reform here at home, I think it would be just the same people raising a ruckus. They measure compassion in dollars and cents, even if those dollars are, in some cases, making things worse.

And I know that there are many folks who have been consistent in their positions on political and social issues, making their decisions based on principle. I admire and applaud that. But any thoughts that they have had about being part of a large majority of Americans have surely been dashed, if they’re keeping up with what’s going on. The news media have been rather muted in reporting this, so you can’t really blame them.

Filed under: AfricaCapitalismEconomics & TaxesForeign AidGovernmentPartisanshipWar