Remembering African Women When You Vote

I have a couple of diehard Republican friends, but they’re exceptions; most of my friends would no more vote for a Republican than they’d dine on a slow-roasted digital alarm clock. A more active controversy, among my friends, is whether to vote for a major party candidate at all; many feel that it’s wrong to vote for Bad Candidate when the opponent is Marginally Worse Candidate. Instead, they’ll be voting for third party candidates like Cynthia McKinney. (Edited to add: By the way, if you’re a leftist or a progressive, I highly recommend clicking over and listening to McKinney’s speech — if you’re a progressive who has been following mainstream politics, listening to McKinney really is like breathing fresh air for the first time in a long while.)

I have a lot of sympathy for that view. I was an ardent Nader supporter, and if there were a third-party movement going on right now that seemed vital and growing — a third party movement that I believed could eventually overthrow the USA’s appalling two-party system — I’d seriously consider working for it. I find the anti-democratic laws and tactics designed to keep minor party candidates off ballots disgusting and an insult to human liberty. And, if the vote in Oregon ends up being meaningless (which is often is), I probably will vote for whoever the Green Party candidate for president is.

Right now, however, the third-party movement doesn’t feel to me like it has much life to it. And the differences between a Republican and Democratic president — although much narrower than I’d like — can matter a hell of a lot. Which I was reminded of today by this post on rhrealitycheck, by Florence Machio, who lives in Kenya:

With a maternal mortality in my country high, the World Health Organization has introduced many strategies that could reduce the many deaths. What is often overlooked is the fact that African women are intelligent enough to make their own choices, if those choices are indeed available.

The choices begin from negotiating for sex, using contraceptives and carrying a pregnancy especially where incest and rape are concerned. One of the statements made by Dr. Jean Kaggia, an anti-choice advocate from Kenya, at the Congress was that we needed more money to change behavior. How does one propose that a married woman should change behavior when her husband is the one who makes the decision of whether to go to hospital or not or worse still whether to use a condom or not?

Kenya is a country with 42 tribes, which have varying cultural beliefs — meaning we can’t give a blanket solution to everyone.

I remember during the 2004 elections, many people in my country knew more about the politics of the US than knew what was happening in their own country’s economy. I cannot claim to know exactly why Kenyans did not particularly like the reelection of Bush. People like Dr. Joachim Osur and other doctors who deal with family planning issues in Kenya and Africa would have much preferred a Democrat to win the election. For me it meant that we had to suffer another four years of this policy, which, interpreted by the Bush administration, meant a cut in spending on family planning.

Thanks to the global gag rule, many organizations that provided family planning services had to denounce abortion in writing and also not provide post abortion care. Most of them refused for good reason — but that meant that they lost critical funding for their organizations and the eventual result was a close down of clinics in major districts in the country. This in itself affected many women and of course ended up reducing the gains that had been made over the years in family planning and reduction of unintended pregnancies.

I always say this — give an African woman or any other woman choices and that will go along way in reducing unsafe abortions that have taken away the lives of many of my sisters, mothers and daughters on the continent.

When it comes to reproductive health issues like the global gag rule, or funding UNFPA, the difference between having a Democratic and a Republican president will determine if countless woman get the medical care and reproductive choice they need to make their own choices, and — in many cases — if they live or die. Although I respect those who vote for third-party candidates, I’ll be urging people to vote for the Democrat — whoever the Democrat is — largely because of this issue.

This entry posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Elections and politics, International issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

31 Responses to Remembering African Women When You Vote

  1. 1
    Gilliebean says:

    Thanks for posting this. In my occassional forays over to your blog, I’ve seen you talk about these sorts of issues before — particularly UNFPA (I believe you once said it was one of your primary issues of importance, or something). But there has to be more to do than just electing a democrat. There has to be more to do in the case that a dem doesn’t get elected. I’ve become more interested in this issue and would really like to DO something — reading about it is great, writing about it and spreading the word is important, electing people who will see this as important is a good idea. But none of that is enough. There has to be more. So, what do you suggest? What do you do? Do you donate your money or time to somewhere in particular — I’m especially interested in the time, thing (I have an aversion to the “donate money in order to make yourself feel good and give the illusion you’ve actually made change while not doing any of the work” cliche). You seem so knowledgeable about this, you must be doing some good work in this area — I’d love to know what it is you do.

  2. 2
    EKSwitaj says:

    Why not encourage those who live in swing states to vote for the Democrat while encouraging others to vote for a third party?

  3. 3
    RonF says:

    I have a couple of diehard Republican friends, but they’re exceptions; most of my friends would no more vote for a Republican than they’d dine on a slow-roasted digital alarm clock. A more active controversy, among my friends, is whether to vote for a major party candidate at all;

    More active than what? Plenty of conservatives are asking the same question. So are many Republicans.

    Just so you know.

    But there’s something else to focus on if you are thinking third-parties; Congress. It takes a lot fewer votes to get a third-party or independent Congresscritter elected than it does electing a third-party President. There actually are independents in Congress. Not many, but it’s a start.

  4. 4
    RonF says:

    You know, lots of people deplore the conditions that the U.S. has put on some of it’s aid packages. When the aided organizations suffer funding problems because of that, the problem is laid at the U.S.’s feet.

    But why? What’s happening is that the U.S. is withholding cash. But then, so is the rest of the world – they just haven’t given a reason for it. Where’s the aid from the EU countries? Apparently their economy is doing well. I’m curious to know what their share is in this. What percentage of the funding for these guys is American and what percentage is EU? For that matter, the OPEC states have money rolling in. Where’s Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. in all this? Where’s their share of the responsibility?

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    One of the statements made by Dr. Jean Kaggia, an anti-choice advocate from Kenya, at the Congress was that we needed more money to change behavior. …
    Kenya is a country with 42 tribes, which have varying cultural beliefs — meaning we can’t give a blanket solution to everyone.

    True. Consider, though, that we have cultural beliefs in the U.S. as well. And we have every right, and even an obligation, to base how we distribute aid on our culture. If we see cultural practices that we don’t approve of, we are under no obligation to fund them. And trying to bribe people to change them (giving people money to change their behavior to something they don’t otherwise want to do is pretty much the definition of a bribe) and making them dependent on us is unlikely to work and is quite likely to engender resentment and anger, it seems to me.

  6. 6
    Gilliebean says:

    Ron, I’m curious to know where you are basing your assumptions of foreign aid on. Because I’m not sure if you’re being fed false information, or if you are simply making assumptions based on what you think is going on in other countries.

    The fact is, among the 22 wealthiest countries in the world, the US ranks 16th (out of 22) when measured in per capita government funding, and 22nd (out of 22) when measured as a percentage of GNP.

    From a Feb. 2005 article (and please don’t try to say things have improved since 2005) in Foreign Policy:

    When U.S. foreign aid is measured on other scales, however, a different picture emerges. For example, the United States provided about $51 per citizen in official development assistance in 2002–03. That ranks it in 16th place among other major donors, behind Norway ($381 per citizen), the Netherlands ($203 per citizen), France ($96 per citizen), and the United Kingdom ($89 per citizen), among others. When aid is measured as a share of national income, the United States ranks dead last at 0.15 percent. Top givers include Norway (0.92), Denmark (0.84), Belgium (0.60), and Germany (0.28).

    Moreover, foreign aid constitutes only a small share of the U.S. federal budget—much smaller than most Americans think. Surveys show that most Americans believe the federal government devotes 15 to 20 percent of the country’s expenditures to aid. The actual figure is far less than 1 percent; that’s less than one fourth of the budget share of 1965.

    Additionally, according to by Derek Heater & G.R. Berridge, in their book Introduction to International Politics:

    US aid, which acquired an increasingly military flavour during the Regan years, is now concentrated on a relatively small number of countries of special political importance.

    According to the CRS Report for Congress: Foreign Aid: An Introductory Overview of U.S. Programs and Policy Updated January 19, 2005:

    1. Israel 2.58 Billion
    2. Egypt 1.84 Billion
    3. Afganistan 0.98 Billion
    4. Pakistan 0.70 Billion
    5. Colombia 0.57 Billion
    6. Sudan 0.50 Billion
    7. Jordan 0.48 Billion
    8. Uganda 0.25 Billion
    9. Kenya 0.24 Billion
    10. Ethiopia 0.19 Billion
    11. South Africa 0.19 Billion
    12. Peru 0.19 Billion
    13. Indonesia 0.18 Billion
    14. Bolivia 0.18 Billion
    15. Nigeria 0.18 Billion
    16. Zambia 0.18 Billion

    As for UNFPA specifically, the EU not only continues to fund this, but under the Sandbaek Report, increased funding to UNFPA in 2003 in response to the US pulling their funding out.

    And finally, I hope that you don’t really think that we should base whether we provide humanitarian aid on whether countries that practice Sharia law. For that matter, I would think one should base the concept of giving on the moral basis of helping people, not as a competition or response to other what other countries are or are not doing.

  7. 7
    Gilliebean says:

    Oops — must have forgotten to close something. Can one of the moderators please fix this, if you get a chance?

    [Fixed! --Amp]

  8. 8
    Kevin Moore says:

    I was an ardent Nader supporter, and if there were a third-party movement going on right now that seemed vital and growing — a third party movement that I believed could eventually overthrow the USA’s appalling two-party system — I’d seriously consider working for it.

    Guess who’s ba-a-a-ack?! :-)

  9. 9
    Sailorman says:

    Gillibean,

    Personally, I think that foreign aid makes sense in general. And I think that this particular example also makes sense. And I would like us to give more foreign aid.

    But your response is not very accurate. Let’s start with this: “when measured in per capita government funding.” Why do you think this is the best measure? Don’t you think that we should also consider the total amount we give?

    Ah… I think see why you didn’t cite that. Looks like in 2005, we gave about 27.6 billion, directly from the US Government. (numbers are from the Index of Global Philanthropy 2007, published by the Hudson Institute. The general link to the Hudson institute is http://gpr.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=globalPhilanthropy_index
    and the direct link to the PDF executive summary is
    http://www.hudson.org/files/publications/Index2007ExecutiveSummary.pdf)

    To put that in perspective, the next three countries gave 13.15 (Japan), 10.77 (U.K.), and 10.08 (Germany) billion.

    Doesn’t seem like enough?

    Well, we also gave another 95 billion or so privately. “Yes,” you may say, “but that doesn’t count!” I’m not sure about that. Capitalist countries have fewer government dollars per citizen.

    In a capitalist country, you would expect that the private/government funding ration would be hihger than in a socialist country like, say, Norway. It’s just a different model: do you give the money to the government, who then passes it on to donees? Or do you give directly to donees?

    In support of that fact, a cite from that same paper notes:

    Compared to other countries’ government aid to poor nations, U.S. foundations gave more than 11 of the 22 developed-country governments each gave in 2005. American private and voluntary organizations alone gave more than the governments of Japan, the U.K., Germany, and France each did in 2005.

    That’s more than one would expect, is it not?

  10. 10
    Charles says:

    Sailorman,

    No, per capita and as a percentage of GDP makes more sense than total as a way of comparing. This is obvious. Otherwise, you have to decide what aggregating unit to use. The population of the US is much larger than the population of any particular other wealthy country, so comparisons between what the US spends and what Belgium spends in raw terms are obviously going to make Belgium look like a piker. If we compare the US to the EU in raw terms, the EU will (obviously) win hands down.

    The reason gilliebean didn’t compare raw numbers is not because she was trying to make an unfair comparison. She didn’t use raw numbers because raw numbers are the wrong numbers to use.

    By the standard you are advocating, I think you will find that the city of Lagos, Nigeria has a much greater total personal income than most small towns in America. As with the gross aid numbers, all this tells us is that Lagos is much bigger than Chapel Hill, NC.

    To my mind, per capita private giving (not the raw numbers you cite) are a reasonable thing to include in this analysis, as long as you do it for all countries you are comparing.

    The fact that the US aid money is huge simply because the US is huge (although, as gilliebean cites, much of that aid money is military aid to strategic countries rather than humanitarian aid) does actually figure into the problem, since it means that when the US imposes a gag rule, a lot of money does get stripped from aid agencies that won’t obey the stupid rule.

  11. 11
    Sailorman says:

    To my mind, per capita private giving (not the raw numbers you cite) are a reasonable thing to include in this analysis, as long as you do it for all countries you are comparing.

    Sure, I agree, include away.

    I don’t think gross is the only thing that should be considered.

    I do, however, think that it is improper to fail to consider gross donations; they should be some part of the analysis. Which is why I said “we should ALSO consider…” instead of saying “instead, we should consider.”

  12. 12
    RonF says:

    And we should also consider overall giving, not just government giving. When considering how much aid the U.S. gives to other countries, I see no reason to distinguish between aid that our government provides and aid that the individual citizens and non-governmental agencies they support give. It’s all from the same citizens of the same country. The country should get credit for all of it.

  13. 13
    Gilliebean says:

    I’m sorry if you feel that I was trying to be deceitful or hide information, that was not my intention. To be honest, I answered the way I did (not discussing the total amount) out of habit — I’m used to simply rebutting the idea that the US is “so generous” with foreign aid simply because the US gives the most overall. Had I taken more time, I would have pointed out that despite the fact that the US gives the most overall $$, we simply aren’t as generous as some would like to think we are. I realize that there are a number of people (usually wealthy, white americans) who think overall amount counts for more than percentage (why else would the wealthy pay about half as much — as a percentage of income — in taxes?). But the fact is, I simply don’t think that you can claim that Americans are “more generous” (or even “generous enough”) because they give more money than a county a 1/10th its size. Even bigger, to my mind, is the fact that we rank dead last (of the 22 wealthiest nations covered) when looking at the amount given as a percentage of GNP. When you have more GNP, you should be giving more money. If someone makes $10 and donates $1, and you make $100 and donate $2, that doesn’t make you a better person. I’m not saying you shouldn’t donate that $2 — it’s needed. But it still doesn’t mean you’re a better person for giving “more money.”

    Even worse, the amount the US gives in foreign aid, when compared to what the US gave in foreign aid in the past, it gets even more appalling. In 2003, the US gave $11.6 Billion. This is the equivalent of .106% of the GDP and .55% of the US Budget Outlays. Compare this to what the US gave in 1962, where not only was the amount equivalent to .576% of the GDP and 3.06% of the budget, but when compared in 2003 dollars, the total amount given was $17.3 billion. That means that even if you look at the total amount spent (both in 2003 dollars), we spent $5.7 billion less in 2003 than in 1962.

    It should be noted, though while the US spent less in foreign aid as a % of GDP in the last several years, we have spent more in foreign aid as a % of the US budget in 2004-2006 than we did under Clinton (so, depending on you measure these things, Democrats aren’t necessarily better; although, the money was spent, IMHO, more wisely under Clinton — so…well, it’s not all good or all bad under any particular party, I’m sure we can all probably agree on that).

    And that’s even before you start looking at the issues of where the money is going and what the strings are to get the money, and the things like trade barriers that cost poor countries more money that aid we give them.

    RonF said:

    And we should also consider overall giving, not just government giving. When considering how much aid the U.S. gives to other countries, I see no reason to distinguish between aid that our government provides and aid that the individual citizens and non-governmental agencies they support give. It’s all from the same citizens of the same country. The country should get credit for all of it.

    Great! I agree. And, yes, Americans are pretty good at making private donations, I’ll give you that. Especially right after a disaster (the tsunami, for example).

    However…

    “America Is the Most Generous Country in the World if You Include Private Donations to Charities.”

    No. Americans certainly rise to the occasion in times of crisis, as the outpouring of charitable giving to tsunami victims demonstrated. According to U.S. government figures, private donations to low-income countries through American churches, charities, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and college scholarships was at least $6.3 billion in 2003. And such data almost certainly understate the actual amount of private aid. Some organizations do not respond to the government survey used to collect the data, and some important forms of contribution are omitted, such as volunteer time. Alternative estimates vary, with the upper-end figure (including gifts to more developed countries such as Israel and Russia) at $17.1 billion for 2000. By this estimation, private charitable donations per American total $58 per year—or about 0.16 percent of U.S. income—ranking the United States second among major donors in private giving (the first is Ireland at 0.22 percent).

    Combining public and private donations puts total U.S. development assistance in the range of $35 billion per year, or about 0.32 percent of U.S. income. In other words, for every $3 of income, the United States provides about one cent in development assistance. Even with this broader measure (and using the larger estimate of U.S. private assistance without making a similar adjustment for other countries), the United States ranks, at best, 15th among the top donors.

    (That is from the source I posted earlier — Foreign Policy [Emphasis added]

  14. 14
    Gilliebean says:

    cost poor countries more money that aid we give them.

    cost poor countries more money than aid we give them.

  15. 16
    Robert says:

    In 1962, we were engaged in a global war against communism. Foreign aid was principally a carrot to use to bribe unfriendly governments into neutrality, or to keep countries out of the Soviet economic orbit. Those considerations are gone, or at least, heavily modified. Thus the decline in aid.

    In any event, government-controlled development aid is almost without exception destructive to local economies and disruptive of local political systems. The people who end up getting the benefit of the aid are wealthy elites in the “beneficiary” nation. There is reason to hope that private aid might be less pernicious, but the case against government aid is compelling and clear. Low levels of American aid represent the United States harming other countries less than our developed-world peers do, for a change.

  16. 17
    Gilliebean says:

    Do you have any evidence other than simple conjecture for your statements, Robert? Because numerous studies have shown that foreign aid plays a key (but no, not sole) component in increasing the well-being in developing nations, primarily in the areas of health and education. Where there are harms from foreign aid, those are primarily created by the bureaucratic overhead, the restrictions and regulations placed on the aid, and not aiming the funding at the right countries and the right people rather than where we can make the most money, and the effects of trade barriers and other such things that offset any amount of aid we provide. The US does all of this far more than other Western countries, and does create more problems. But, the other countries that provide more funding (at least, as a percentage of GNP and per capita) also have less of those problems, and can show better results. So, it’s not that government foreign aid is bad, it’s that the way (and where) the US does it makes it so. That’s not an argument against government foreign aid, though, that’s about changing the way we handle that government aid.

  17. 18
    Gilliebean says:

    FTR — I wrote my post before Robert edited his with the link to the article; hence my asking for any sort of source. (I can’t edit my posts because I have to use an anonymizer if I want to post here from work.)

    Nonetheless, I stand by my last post — yes, there have been some people who have argued that foreign aid is harmful, nothing new there. But the fact is, the studies don’t back that up. These same studies do, admittedly, also show that foreign aid is not the saving grace of developing nations, as some would think. They are not the only, or in some cases even the primary, component in improving the health and education in developing countries, but they are a key component — and we have actually seen the evidence of what happens when you remove that key component (just look at the results of defunding UNFPA, even with the increase from the EU which still didn’t make up for what it lost from the US’ withholding).

  18. 19
    Robert says:

    Because numerous studies have shown that foreign aid plays a key (but no, not sole) component in increasing the well-being in developing nations, primarily in the areas of health and education.

    Sure. Giving me a check for $50,000 a year for ten years will increase the well-being of people in my home, too, because we’ll start eating organic produce and I’ll stop working so hard and will instead go back to school and get the history degree I’ve always wanted.

    But that doesn’t improve my family’s ability to support itself. It just makes our “well being” look better. Organic veggies instead of Safeway, happy fun school instead of grinding on clients. For now. While you’re writing the checks. But in ten years, or whenever you decide the Support Robert In Luxury program is a bad idea and it ends, I’ve lost my ability to generate new clients because I’ve spent ten years hanging out with stoner undergrads instead of networking. Cf, what has happened to (as the African economist in the linked article attests) agricultural and textile industries in countries receiving “help”.

    Help gets you over a rough patch. It doesn’t usually improve your ability to advance your own cause. Subsidize me, and I don’t think “I better use this money to invest in my earning potential”, I think “whee, I don’t have to work this month!”

    I agree that changing the way we deliver aid would make a positive difference, but I disagree that it would make a NET positive out of development aid. Beating someone with a club is less damaging than submerging them in acid, but do either one long enough, and the beneficiary dies.

  19. 20
    nobody.really says:

    I agree that changing the way we deliver aid would make a positive difference, but I disagree that it would make a NET positive out of development aid. Beating someone with a club is less damaging than submerging them in acid, but do either one long enough, and the beneficiary dies.

    Gee, I’m feeling sorry for the US’s poor agriculture and energy industries, being saddled with so much burdensome US aid. They’re putting on a brave face as they endure their robust death.

    But in ten years, or whenever you decide the Support Robert In Luxury program is a bad idea and it ends, I’ve lost my ability to generate new clients because I’ve spent ten years hanging out with stoner undergrads instead of networking. Cf, what has happened to (as the African economist in the linked article attests) agricultural and textile industries in countries receiving “help”.

    After 10 yrs of the SRIL program, Robert and his family will have had the benefit of 10 yrs of good education, nutrition and health care. Those benefits don’t disappear by Year 11. What does disappear by Year 11 is a substantial portion of those people who spent the previous 10 years without education, nutrition or health care. Yes, the SRIL program will tend to undermine the teaching of self-reliance. I don’t mean to overlook this cost, but pretty much every aspect of civilization imposes the same cost. Civilization’s a bitch, eh?

    Is some portion of the aid dollars skimmed off? Sure; that’s true of all kinds of organizations, public or private, and I see no reason to expect otherwise from foreign aid organizations. Is some of the food/clothes aid later sold on the black market? Inevitably. But even then, the effect is to increase supply and therefore reduce price. Thus they achieve their purpose.

    And who knows? Maybe the African economy would be better off in the long run without foreign aid. But in the short run I suspect many individual Africans would suffer and die without it. The fact that people at the top of the heap benefit from foreign aid does not refute the idea that people at the bottom benefit as well.

    Has foreign aid damaged African agriculture and textile industries? Probably. But foreign competition was likely to harm these industries with or without foreign aid; after all, I don’t think anyone blames the death of the US’s textile industry on foreign aid. In the meantime, everyone who consumes food and textiles has benefitted from their low cost.

    Admittedly, agriculture and textiles have traditionally been early rungs on the ladder of economic development. Can economies develop while bypassing these industries? I don’t know why they couldn’t, but I acknowledge I don’t know of any good examples. It’s worth noting that in the State of the Union Address, Bush proposed changing US policy to permit/require food aid to be purchased from near the areas where it would be delivered. So maybe there are ways to improve aid distribution without ending aid itself. (Of course, getting such a proposal through committees controlled by ag. state legislators will be tough….)

    No doubt a quick way to increase Africa’s per capita gross domestic product would be to “decrease the surplus population.” But not everyone measures the value of an African life in terms of agriculture and textiles. And at least some people who hold this contrary view command the resources to indulge their hobby. For better or worse.

  20. 21
    Sailorman says:

    nobody.really Writes:
    February 1st, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Gee, I’m feeling sorry for the US’s poor agriculture and energy industries, being saddled with so much burdensome US aid. They’re putting on a brave face as they endure their robust death.

    They’re not dead. But if we immediately stopped aid to ag and energy corporations, many of them would die. And in fact, the manner in which subsidies and locked-in government contracts work has meant that many previously feasible means of production (small farms, for example) have often become unviable.

    I don’t agree with the “always fatal” idea. But certainly it is true to some extent that subsidies can cause an industry to lose the qualities that make it able to survive without subsidies. Subsidies can also mean that industries will make different cost/benefit decisions that may not benefit the public. (example: If the government did not and had never subsidized oil costs, one probable example would be that overall energy efficiency of cars sold in the US would have risen faster than it did.)

  21. 22
    Daran says:

    And who knows? Maybe the African economy would be better off in the long run without foreign aid. But in the short run I suspect many individual Africans would suffer and die without it. The fact that people at the top of the heap benefit from foreign aid does not refute the idea that people at the bottom benefit as well.

    Africa would probably be better off without foreign involvement. Period.

  22. 23
    Daran says:

    Africa would probably be better off without foreign involvement. Period.

    I just came across this article which argues that foreign aid primarily aids the donor countries.

  23. 24
    Robert says:

    Nobody.Really:
    Gee, I’m feeling sorry for the US’s poor agriculture and energy industries, being saddled with so much burdensome US aid. They’re putting on a brave face as they endure their robust death.

    Our ag and energy industries get support from the government in terms of direct subsidies (for ag anyway) and special treatment in law. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

    I’m talking about having a country with an economy a thousand times the size of yours dump free stuff on your markets, and destroy your native industry. If the Xrxians from Pluto arrive and offer to give every American free magical air-powered cars, that may well be great for the Americans who get the cars. It’s not so great for the world’s automotive industry, which dies.

    Is some of the food/clothes aid later sold on the black market? Inevitably. But even then, the effect is to increase supply and therefore reduce price. Thus they achieve their purpose.

    If reducing prices is the net effect of aid, then how are local capitalists – who do not have Western efficiencies to cut their costs – to develop local industry? How are local people to work and have the human dignity that comes from producing one’s own livelihood? How is the nation to develop its ability to stand on its own?

    And who knows? Maybe the African economy would be better off in the long run without foreign aid. But in the short run I suspect many individual Africans would suffer and die without it.

    In the long run, your somewhat dim but hard-working child will be better off if you teach her to read and do her own homework. But in the short run, I suspect she will get a lot of Ds and Fs if you don’t do her homework for her.

    You recognize instinctively that doing her homework for her, rather than being a kindness, is a monstrous act of irresponsibility on your part. Now extend the logic.

    Has foreign aid damaged African agriculture and textile industries? Probably. But foreign competition was likely to harm these industries with or without foreign aid

    How? They don’t have any MONEY. “Foreign competition” has no interest in opening a market where nobody can buy their material. My cousin the cotton farmer didn’t sell his bales in Lagos; they couldn’t pay for it.

    Admittedly, agriculture and textiles have traditionally been early rungs on the ladder of economic development. Can economies develop while bypassing these industries?

    If someone is doing everything for them, probably. But the result will be a Potemkin shell that collapses at the first external shock.

    A nation must be able to take a reasonable stab at feeding and clothing its people, in order to have anything resembling an independent existence.

    Bush proposed changing US policy to permit/require food aid to be purchased from near the areas where it would be delivered. So maybe there are ways to improve aid distribution without ending aid itself. (Of course, getting such a proposal through committees controlled by ag. state legislators will be tough….)

    Bush is slightly less clueless than previous presidents on the topic. Of course, there are less damaging ways we could be doing things. You could have your daughter do the first 1/3 of her homework assignments, too. Still a disaster in the making.

  24. 25
    Ampersand says:

    I’m talking about having a country with an economy a thousand times the size of yours dump free stuff on your markets, and destroy your native industry.

    Except for rare, extreme cases of current ongoing famine (or other forms of immediate crisis response), are any significant NGOs or governments advocating this sort of relief? I agree with you, but you’re attacking a straw man.

  25. 26
    Ampersand says:

    Two brief points:

    1) The measure of success implied by Florence Machio’s argument was not “move towards eradicating poverty” or “move towards eliminating any need for any further aid” — both of which are legitimate measures — but “save lives and provide women with more reproductive choice,” which is also a legitimate measure. By that measure, I don’t believe that funding local, high-quality reproductive health care in developing countries is a failure.

    2) The article Daran links to, which is interesting, does not argue that aid is always counterproductive; the author, a professor in Singapore, believes that aid was an important factor in Singapore’s “economic miracle.” However, it does argue that the ways wealthy nations run aid is usually counterproductive.

    His views, by the way, do significantly overlap with the conclusions the Paris Declaration came to in 2005. I don’t think it’s yet been long enough since the Paris Declaration to judge it a failure.

  26. 27
    nobody.really says:

    Is some of the food/clothes aid later sold on the black market? Inevitably. But even then, the effect is to increase supply and therefore reduce price. Thus they achieve their purpose.

    If reducing prices is the net effect of aid, then how are local capitalists – who do not have Western efficiencies to cut their costs – to develop local industry? How are local people to work and have the human dignity that comes from producing one’s own livelihood? How is the nation to develop its ability to stand on its own?

    Could we run down the list of nations that stand on their own? Cuba, Myanmar, North Korea…. In contrast, Western nations have been enjoying the highest standard of living in history for decades, fueled by oil mostly imported from non-Western nations. Which types of nations provide the better formula for promoting human dignity?

    Now, how are local capitalists – say, US citizens selling rival fuels such as firewood or whale oil – supposed to compete with petroleum? However they can. And sometimes they can’t.

    To be sure, if the US banned the importation of foreign goods, the US might indeed achieve greater “independence.” This policy might indeed promote the interests of US citizens working the the firewood and whale oil businesses, as the US’s economy came to resemble more closely those of other “independent” nations. You wouldn’t get any dispute from me, unless you also wanted to suggest that this policy would promote “economic development” or the general welfare.

    And who knows? Maybe the African economy would be better off in the long run without foreign aid. But in the short run I suspect many individual Africans would suffer and die without it.

    In the long run, your somewhat dim but hard-working child will be better off if you teach her to read and do her own homework. But in the short run, I suspect she will get a lot of Ds and Fs if you don’t do her homework for her.
    You recognize instinctively that doing her homework for her, rather than being a kindness, is a monstrous act of irresponsibility on your part. Now extend the logic.

    Indeed, I do let my kids do their own homework. Yet I also feed them for free. Admittedly, if I stopped doing this, I expect that they would develop a much greater sense of independence. The ones that survived, anyway. Nevertheless, I continue to provide them with free food. Kind policy? Monstrous irresponsibility? Time will tell, I guess.

    Has foreign aid damaged African agriculture and textile industries? Probably. But foreign competition was likely to harm these industries with or without foreign aid

    How? They don’t have any MONEY. “Foreign competition” has no interest in opening a market where nobody can buy their material.

    I’m not following this. You are suggesting that there exists some nation that has no resources (“money”), yet somehow has industries, and that these industries could be harmed by foreign aid or foreign competition. Could you name an example?

    I agree that people who have no money or credit will not be tempted to buy anything from foreign competitors. But neither would they be tempted to buy anything from domestic competitors.

    Admittedly, agriculture and textiles have traditionally been early rungs on the ladder of economic development. Can economies develop while bypassing these industries?

    If someone is doing everything for them, probably. But the result will be a Potemkin shell that collapses at the first external shock. A nation must be able to take a reasonable stab at feeding and clothing its people, in order to have anything resembling an independent existence.

    There’s that whole “independence” thing again. How many nations produce enough food to feed all their citizens? Japan? Saudi Arabia? UAE? Israel? Vatican City? These Potemkin shells have proven reasonably durable. To be sure, maybe they won’t survive the next depression/world war. The same may be said of many other nations as well.

    I perceive two points of distinction between our viewpoints:

    First, we have different understandings about commodity prices. I sense we both recognize the “creative destruction” that comes from economic change, including changes that come from beyond a nation’s borders. When people can import something cheaper than they can produce it domestically, domestic producers generally have to get out of the one business and get into something more productive. I don’t distinguish between cheap imports that come from trade and cheap imports that come from foreign aid; the consequences seem pretty similar to me.

    In the 1970s oil prices increased. In the 1980s oil prices fell. The 1970s were a boom time for people in the US oil business; the 1980s were a bust time for people in the US oil business. But the rest of the US economy moved in a mirror image to the economy of the US oil industry. Would the consequences for the US economy in the 1980s have been any different if oil prices fell as a result of foreign aid rather than market forces?

    Second, what is best for nations is not always best for individuals, and vice versa. By maintaining “independence,” Cuba, Myanmar and North Korea have rendered themselves resistant to most foreign influence, at some cost to the citizens of these lands. Similarly, the current US administration has emphasized a unilateral approach to many matters, resisting foreign influence, even when this results in US citizens having to bear greater sacrifices than they otherwise might have. Whether or not “independence” makes a nation more durable, it does not make the life of any specific citizen more durable. It is not obvious to me that the welfare of nations, rather than the welfare of people, should be the focus of foreign aid.

  27. 28
    RonF says:

    Indeed, I do let my kids do their own homework. Yet I also feed them for free. Admittedly, if I stopped doing this, I expect that they would develop a much greater sense of independence. The ones that survived, anyway. Nevertheless, I continue to provide them with free food. Kind policy? Monstrous irresponsibility? Time will tell, I guess.

    The habit of Westerners to draw an analogy between the Westerner/non-Westerner relationship and parent/child relationship has done horrific things to non-Western nations. Through the years, the left has (out of a misplaced idea of how to implement compassion) done huge damage with this.

  28. 29
    Robert says:

    That’s a good point, Ron. My bad.

  29. 30
    Lucy says:

    There are going to be a lot of people in third-world countries who die horrible, preventable deaths REGARDLESS of whether there is a Republican or a Democrat in the White House simply due to the callously barbaric nature of U.S. military and economic foreign policy.

    Why the hell am I supposed to care more about women dying from back alley abortions in Kenya than, say, indigenous farmers in Mexico kicked off their land by NAFTA; Palestinian children crippled by weapons paid for by the U.S.; or girls sold into prostitution in Thailand by their debt-ridden parents, who contract AIDS and can’t afford medication because of the prices set by American pharmaceutical companies?

    As the days go on in this election, I am starting to realize that I cannot in good conscience reconcile myself to this “establishment feminism” (and basically all mainstream liberalism) that cherry picks issues and votes accordingly. Of course there isn’t a strong third party opposition…BECAUSE YOU WON’T GET OFF YOUR ASS AND WORK FOR IT!

  30. 31
    Gilliebean says:

    I apologize for not having responded in many days, I have been away from the computer.

    Robert, if all foreign aid was doing was the equivalent of providing organic food over the food these countries could have provided on their own, you’d have a point. But that’s not what foreign aid does (especially when looking at foreign aid from other countries other than the US). Health care and education are things that will allow people to become independent and self-sustainable more than any subsistence- and survival-based plan. That’s not to say that I don’t believe foreign aid policies can’t or shouldn’t be modified — by all means, I think they should. Especially the U.S.’s policies. They should be modified so that they are actually going towards people who need it, not towards who is most militarily and economically beneficial to us. Additionally, we should be doing other things to make sure that aid is actually making a difference, like changing many of our trade barriers that cost these countries more money that we give them in aid. But modification is different than reduction or elimination.

    Lucy, I completely agree with you. It can be harmful to base your voting decision on one issue — it may help those effected by that one issue, but it can just as easily harm others. It’s like the 2000 election where the liberals and many “establishment feminists” took the left hostage over the issue of abortion. Don’t get me wrong, I think foreign aid, particularly UNFPA is a very important issue. But it’s not the only issue. Let’s face it, Bush did more for funding anti-human trafficking measures than any democrat before him (not enough, and sometimes in fucked up ways, but he did address it more than most Democrats even attempt to do).