The methods of the poverty aid industry reflect their prejudices against faith in God, freedom and entrepreneurship – the very things that have created the wealth of the West. The effects of this hypocrisy is catastrophic both culturally and economically for the poor countries of the world.
I have just returned from the Acton Institute annual conference, called Acton University. The Acton Institute exists to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.
It is easy to believe that groups that convene to discuss free markets and business are all well-to-do business people talking about how to make lots of money. This couldn’t be further from the truth at Acton. The focus is almost exclusively on how to help the poor and how to promote a society in which all people flourish and all ways. There were many talks on the promotion of a culture of beauty for the good of the souls of all, for example. These are things that are effect rich and poor alike and are vitally important.
What struck me this year is not just that Acton not only offers a solution to poverty and human flourishing around the world; but that it might well offer the only way. This is a solution that trusts in the abilities of all people to solve their own problems if they have the environment in which they can flourish.
The opening address by Senegalese entrepreneur Magatte Wade who was urging people to stop giving money to NGOs and charities that channel fund to the developing world. They are (usually) well intentioned, but their effect on the developing world is to make the problem worse. Magatte was scathing, also about the influence of celebrity philanthropists who parachute into a situation, have the photo shoot with smiling children and then disappear. The effect is damaging to the culture because the paternalism that drives it tends to tell the people themselves that they can’t create wealth themselves and need handouts from the West.
The evidence on the hopelessness of the West in their paternalistic approaches to fighting poverty in the last 50 years is overwhelming. Haiti, for example, has about the lowest standard of living in the world, and yet it has more NGOs (and I’m guessing, more high profile celebrity visits from nearby USA) per head of population than any other country in world.
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