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What America Owes The World...

 
 
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 02:24 pm
Scrat wrote:
OB - If you are ever in Raleigh, NC, I'd love to buy you a beer, cup of coffee, etc..
If I'm ever in Raleigh, NC; I'll hold you to that. :wink: I reciprocate the offer if you're ever in Palm Beach.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 02:31 pm
Jim wrote:
About a year ago I saw a report about South Africa on the BBC. They showed a township with dilapidated wood houses and dirt streets, now turned into mud due to heavy rains. The reporter said that malaria was rampant in the area, and hoped that international aid would come in so that proper drainage could be dug. And during the entire report, there were hundreds of able bodied men standing around doing nothing, because there were no jobs.

I admit I'm not a civil engineer, and have never designed a drainage system. But if my family was at risk of malaria, I believe I'd grab a shovel and start digging a drainage ditch, instead of hoping for a handout.


Jim, i consider your remark about the men just standing around to be à propos. Several things immediately occur to me in thinking about that situation. The first is not really siginificant-that we do not know why they are "just standing around," but i don't think that carries much weight, as i personally think that your inferential conclusion that they are unemployed and habitually stand around doing nothing is valid. (If that is not what you meant, don't consider that insulting, because that is what i think is most likely the case.) The second thing which occurs to me is that one cannot abate malaria, or eliminate, by the use of intelligent drainage if one does not know two things to begin with: that mosquitoes are the vector of that disease, and that mosquitoes need standing water in which to lay their eggs. Which is to say, the man may be standing around doing nothing to alleviate their problem with malaria because of sheer ignorance that they can do anything-and I'll tie that into the foreign aid issue shortly here. What next occurs to me is that, even if they knew, or were informed about the value of drainage, can we assume that they know enough about the hydraulic topography of their area to do this intelligently? These second and third considerations lead me to point out that were this a question of foreign aid, it could be intelligently and very usefully deployed by simply providing some expertise and some temporary employment wages, to help these men to help themselves, and give them a little cash in the pocket at the same time. However, i would not consider South Africa a deserving client for foreign aid for such things, as they are sufficiently affluent, and their society well provided with sufficient expertise, to have arrived at such a solution without foreign aid payments. A final consideration, which i consider as unimportant as the first consideration i offered, is that local authority may prohibit them from taking such an action. I consider that unlikely, and so i say it is not an important consideration. However, if that were the case, it would be a scandalous indictment of the African National Congress, which has ruled South Africa for the last ten years.

So, my conclusion is that you have a good point about people helping themselves, and that it is even more appalling in a nation such as South Africa, which shouldn't have these types of problems. As for whether or not the Beeb ought to have aired such considerations (and i don't, of course, know if they did), i would point out that the ideas might not have occurred to the producer of the piece (duh-uh), or they may simply have been pandering to what they believed would move their audience-something which would not be at all farfetched for the broadcast media.

When the specter of starvation faced tens of millions of people in Africa in the 1970's, western aid organizations mobilized very quickly, and promptly made the situation worse, without realizing it. For their own convenience and efficiency, large food distribution centers were set up in a few places in each suffering nation. Farmers needed the food as much as city dwellers, and they would often spend a day, two days, even three days, hiking to such a center in order to pick up a week's worth of supplies. Arriving back home, they would have a few, or even only one day to devote to farming, before being obliged to return to the distribution centers. As farmland is usually at some distance from cities, many eventually just collected their families and moved to shanty towns near the distribution centers, abandoning any further attempts at productive agriculture. The aid agencies had good intentions, but had not, apparently, put themselves in the position of their intended beneficiaries, nor given consideration to long-term needs.

A group of French philanthropists, however, and some similar Americans, did give such consideration. In the Sahel (the semi-arid areas to the north and south of the Sahara), these people went to the villages and provided very small loans to buy oxen, or tools and seeds. They also employed western engineers and agricultural specialists to teach them simple techniques using village labor and locally available materials to ameliorate their situations. In one example, they would teach the village to build little stone walls about six inches high surrounding the plots in which they traditionally farmed, so that when the rainy season came, the water would not simply run off, taking valuable soil with it, but would stand, and soak in. They were also taught about vectors of disease, and how to manage the standing water so that it helped them, but didn't harm them. As the Seventies gave way to the Eighties, the famine in the Sahel declined, and eventually disappeared. In the horn of Africa, however, where civil wars raged, the aid agencies were often hijacked for political ends, and the food was hoarded, or used to flog the locals by either governments or rebels. The famines there deepened. Foreign aid could be a lot cheaper and more effective.

Throughout the era of the cold war, the United States was not concerned with either a concept of justice or the welfare of the populations of the nations whose regimes we supported with foreign aid. Our focus (or rather, that of our governments) was to successfully confront the Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent, the People's Republic of China. Therefore, we were not terribly concerned about how Ferdinand Marcos, for an example, spent the money he got, only that he remained securely in power, and that he was a bulwark against the spread of communism in Asia, as well as continuing to provide us military bases. This is not a partisan remark-Kennedy and Johnson and were as willing to support such regimes as were Eisenhower and Nixon. We didn't much care what happened to likes of Marcos, either, if in their fall, the nation concerned maintained its loyalty, and continued to provide bases for our military.

Foreign aid no longer partakes as much of this aspect of the projection of our political and military power. I feel that this is a good thing-even with the best of intentions, the provision of aid which is either military in character, or monies which are destined to such an end, will likely alienate others, and has a potential for fatal misunderstandings, or worse still, fatal understandings of what passes for realpolitik in Washington. Carefully considered, intelligently applied foreign aid can help to create a better world for us all. Not simply throwing money at a problem, but finding ways for others to solve their own problems.
0 Replies
 
Centroles
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 02:36 pm
Craven de Kere wrote:
It never ceases to amaze me that people on both sides of this debate are treating "foreign aid" as a "handout".

Seriously, examine our foreign aid. There's little eleemosynary about it. It's usually closer to geopolitical strategy than charity.


Good point craven.

The fact is, our foreign aid has dropped off from 1% in the 1950s of our gdp to .3%. It is the percentage that matters. Because it is the percentage that takes inflation into account.

Things cost a lot more than they did 50 years ago.

We helped rebuilt all of Europe and Japan following world war II for a fraction of the 87 billion that we're spending on Iraq. And we're already almost out of money in Iraq. A billion now doesn't do a percent as much as what it did fifty years ago.

Anyone that uses the fact that the actual dollar amount of our contribution is what matters is wholly ignorant of inflation and economics in general.
0 Replies
 
Centroles
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 02:44 pm
Education is essential to helping the people of the third world help themselves.

It's true that soem of the governments are corrupt. We could just as easily give the money to the hundreds of charities out there that are efficent and effective in educating people and helping them help themselves.

We don't though. Because the money we give in foreign aid isn't out of the goodness of our hearts. It's done for political gain. It's done so that the country lets us export more oil from them or lets us open up diamond mines in them.

We give money to leaders that we know spend it on themselves to build private palaces (under the name foreign aid) strictly because we want something from them in return.

This philosophy needs to change.

This is another reason that I favor the tax reform idea that lets tax payers decide how thier moeny is spent by giving it to charities instead here...

http://www.able2know.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=656244#656244
0 Replies
 
Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 02:58 pm
Quote:
When the specter of starvation faced tens of millions of people in Africa in the 1970's, western aid organizations mobilized very quickly, and promptly made the situation worse, without realizing it. For their own convenience and efficiency, large food distribution centers were set up in a few places in each suffering nation. Farmers needed the food as much as city dwellers, and they would often spend a day, two days, even three days, hiking to such a center in order to pick up a week's worth of supplies. Arriving back home, they would have a few, or even only one day to devote to farming, before being obliged to return to the distribution centers. As farmland is usually at some distance from cities, many eventually just collected their families and moved to shanty towns near the distribution centers, abandoning any further attempts at productive agriculture. The aid agencies had good intentions, but had not, apparently, put themselves in the position of their intended beneficiaries, nor given consideration to long-term needs.

This is a good example of what I meant when I wrote that we need to carefully consider what we should do and how, before we act. (Thanks for sharing this.)
0 Replies
 
Centroles
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 03:07 pm
This is yet another reason why I think charities are more knowledgable of and better equipped to help the poor nations.

Please comment on my proposal linked to above.
0 Replies
 
galton
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 06:49 pm
BoGoWo wrote:

do you need to 'owe' your brothers or sisters, or neighbours, or the members of your (_____) team, in order to share with them and wish them well?

Is it such a s t r e t c h ! to enlarge that group?


I was not arguing that we shouldn't help other nations or wish them well; I was arguing that we don't owe other countries. The two are fundamentally different ways of looking at the issue. And the fact that we don't owe them anything makes what we do for them more to our credit, because I am not particularly impressed with someone who manages to pay his debts, but I am impressed with people who give without an obligation to do so.

If you choose a morality that says I owe something to the 6 billion plus people in the world, then you are setting yourself up to fail by that standard, and you are setting yourself up to be a hypocrite because you could never begin to pay such a debt. And if your morality is a good one it should be universal and should apply to all people. Do you think you could convince--pick a random country--Denmark that it owes us something? Or maybe your morality is that we owe the poor everywhere something? If say China becomes rich in the next 100 years, and we become poor, do you think you could convince them that they owe us something? Such an ethic is an impractical and self-defeating one in my view.
0 Replies
 
timberlandko
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2004 01:26 pm
Hell, more always CAN be done, no matter what you're looking at. And no matter how much is done about anything, some folks will be unsatisfied. Whatever the percentage, whatever the overall amount, The US alone provides about a quarter of all foreign aid spending done on this planet ... of the other 190-some-odd nations, the remainder of the G8 are significant contributors, chucking in among them roughly another quarter of the total ... that's 8 nations out of nearly 200 bearing half the load, and of that half, The US alone represents roughly half. The only part of ILZ's argument I find meaningful is contained within the last sentence of his earlier post " ... In short, even if you were able to tabulate such statistics, the result would be meaningless."

I'll point out too that throwing money at a problem rarely solves the problem.
0 Replies
 
Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2004 03:06 pm
timberlandko wrote:
I'll point out too that throwing money at a problem rarely solves the problem.

The we-owe-the-world-more crowd's argument seems to boil down to this:

BECAUSE problem X exists in country #134,

AND the US has more money than country #134,

IT FOLLOWS THAT the US owes country #134 enough money to make problem X go away.


(We aren't going to bother to explain up front how this money will be used to solve the problem, nor are we going to discuss whether it is feasible to ensure that the money is used as we wish. We are further not the least bit interested in attempting to determine whether money is actually what this problem needs at this time, or whether country #134 actually has money it is currently spending on other things with which it could in fact be trying to solve its own problem. Why not? See #2, above. Also, be advised that any effort to consider any of these details will be proof the you "don't care" about problem X.)
0 Replies
 
IronLionZion
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2004 04:28 am
georgeob1 wrote:
ILZ,

The fact that others here disagree with you does not necessarily mean they are ignorant, or even stupid or evil. On the contrary, the fault could be yours. Among the likely possibilities are (1) You have not fully informed yourself as to the facts of the matters at hand; (2) You do not fully understand the meaning of the facts you have; (3) You have not bothered to read or understand the information and arguments provided you by others on this thread.


I'm going to go with "no" for numbers one through three.

Quote:
For example, Thomas has already explained how, all relevant factors considered, The United States contributes about as much to developing countries as do any of the other G-8 nations. You have not rebutted the facts he offered, yet you persist in your inaccurate claims. You have labelled others as ignorant and stupid for such actions. What shall we call you?


It is revelatory that the biggest beef in this discussion has arisen from the fact that Europe trumps America in foreign AID. The millions of dead and dying Africans didn't cause much discussion. The thousands who die yearly in South East Asia every year didn't seem that important to most. But, the suggestion that America may have been outdone in the foreign aid pissing contest leads to extended debate. Often, the people engaged in the debate fail to understand the reasons the comparison was given in the first place. Revelatory.

For the umpteenth time: the issue is not how much we give, it is how much we give relative to what we could easily give. The comparisons to Europe to a) sink the theory that America is generous, b) demonstrate that we could easily give much more, as the Europeans are doing.

Also, I did respond to Thomas' post - I asked for substantiation. The only concrete evidence he offered in support of his claim was a vague allusion to an old Economist article.

Thomas' claim may - I emhpasize may - be true, and I am skeptical as to whether such a conclusion could even be objectively made. For example, if we are to consider factors that reflect well on America, like tariffs and immigation, as Thomas proposes, then we would have to consider all the factors where America's influence is disproportaionately objectionable as well. For example, American laws that prevent people from buying generic drugs. Also, the World Bank amd IMF, who have arguably contributed to global poverty on a large scale, are largely guided by America. This, too, would have to be factored in.

So, the kind of equivalence Thomas was trying to make seems dubious at best. Even if it is possible, it certainly goes beyond the scope of Thomas's one paragraph post, no?

Quote:
You have also made some sweeping, but wholly inaccurate statements concerning AIDS in Africa.


Show me one inaccurate stat I posted. Thanks.

Quote:
While the HIV rate in the continent is high at about 8.6% of the population, the rates in various countries vary quite significantly, depending mostly on the wisdom (or lack of it) exercised by the various govermnments. For example the HIV rates in Senegal and Gambia are 0.5% and 1.5% respectively. This compares favorably with rates in the developed world. In Uganda and Angola the rates are 5.0% and 5.5% respectively. While in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa they are many times that at 33.7%. 38.8%, and 21.8% respectively.


Yeah, I was fully aware of the variances in HIV infection rates in Africa.

You seem to be quoting the stats in such a way that it leads me to believe you think these variances somehow lessen the sheer magnitude of the problem. It's absurd. Is the fact that millions of Africans die annually, while Western nations wastefully hoarde resources that could help them, made any less of an abomination by the fact that these Africans are dying at various rates depending on demographics?

I think not.

Quote:
The difference isn't due to poverty at all


I never claimed that it was all due to poverty. Poverty plays a big role, but so do things such as lack of education, lack of access to birth control, myths about birth control, and governmental incompetance.

Quote:
South Africa, Botswana, and (until recently) Zimbabwe enjoy(ed) the highest per capita GDPs on the continent, while Uganda and Angola are relatively quite poor. The explanation is the persistent stupidity and blindness of the governments of these countries which indulged themselves in fantasies about the origins and causes of AIDS, and took no preventive action, while the disease ran rampant in their populations. Ten years ago Uganda and South Africa had about the same HIV infection rates. Uganda embarked on a well organized public awareness program while South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana indulged themselves in fantasies about a conspiracy by racist white men. During those ten years the infection rate exploded in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana: in Uganda the rate declined - today the rate in Uganda is less than half that in South Africa and one- third that in Zimbabwe.

Hard to blame this on any suposed lack of generosity on the part of the United States.


I don't blame the African AIDs epidemic on America. I never said that, and it is a transparent act of desperation to simplify the argument by suggesting that I did.

I blame America for allowing the epidemic to bring an entire continent to it's knees while we have the means to either stop it or control it.

In any case, it is simply not true that the AID's epidemic can be blamed on a consortium of African leaders who thought it was "a conspiracy of racist white men." It is true, howver, that a lot of absurd fantasies about AIDs exist. The difference between us is: I would propose that we launch a camapaign to dispell such myths, while you think it is okay to let millions die because of thier own lack of education and thier leaders ignorance.

Quote:
It is important to have some knowledge and understanding of what your talking about - even if you aren't the President of South Africa.


I do. And, although I admittedly have a lot to learn and I am certainly no expert in the area, I think the arguments I've put forth and the knowledge I've used to buttress them is a testament to the fact that I am at least capable of debating the topic coherantly.

Onward:

The claim has been put forward that America gives the same as comparable nations when one factors in things like immigration and tariffs. Now, I haven't seen the article Thomas' was alluding to, but all of the information I have seen is contradictory to his claim.

Judging a nations commitment to foreign aid based solely on the number of raw dollars they contribute can indeed be a little misleading. After all, the policies of first world nations - in terms of immigration, debt relief, tariffs, etc - also drastically affect the developing world. So, it is important to take these factors into consideration.

In this thread, I've focused mostly on raw forign aid dollars because a) they are much easier to quantify than the far flung effects of policy, b) to make the point that the united States gives far, far less that it has committed to giving, that it gives less than all other comparable natrions, anf that it could sustainably and easily give much more, c) because foreign aid dollars, if used properly, are still by far the best way to help the third world.

The only comprehensive assessment of first world nations commitment to foreign aid that I know of is the CGD/FP development index. It is a ranking of first world countries that takes into consideration forign aid, trade, investment, migration, peacekeeping, and environmental policies and how those policies affect the developing world. Now, contrary to Thomas' claim, the United States finishes second to last on that ranking of 21 nations, next to Japan. Allow me to elucidate:

Trade is the only area where the United States helps out the developing world to any meaningful extent, and even then our trade policies are only slightly average. In every other area - aid, peacekeeping, and migration, among others - the United States is outdone by a laundry list of other nations.

The ranking is pretty comprehensive. For example, several people in this thread have insisted that we should include the eleemosynary contributions of private American citizens via churches and charities. I've already pointed out why this is retarded, however, even if such contributions were considered, America would still place only 14th out of 21 on the list of forign aid commitment (and that's if we don't consider the eleemosynary contributions of private citizens in other nations.)

The ranking is as follows:

1. Netherlands
2. Denmark
3. Portugal
4. New Zealand
5. Switzerland
6. Germany
7. Spain
8. Sweden
9. Austria
10. Norway
11. United Kingdom
12. Belgium
13. Greece
14. France
15. Italy
16. Ireland
17. Finland
18. Canada
19. Australia
20. United States
21. Japan
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2004 05:08 am
is that gross or per capita?
0 Replies
 
IronLionZion
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2004 05:23 am
dlowan wrote:
is that gross or per capita?


Edit: The CDI measures foriegn aid dollars as a percentage of GDP.

America gives more raw dollars than any other nation by far. See below:

http://www.globalissues.org/images/NetODA2003.jpg

Source
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2004 05:27 am
It's not per capita. Nor is it gross.
0 Replies
 
IronLionZion
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2004 05:31 am
Craven de Kere wrote:
It's not per capita. Nor is it gross.


Oops. The CDI is percentage of GDP.

The stats above though, are gross in dollar amounts, and percentage of GNI.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2004 02:47 pm
Thankee.

Man - we're way mean, too. I thought so.
0 Replies
 
Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 09:47 am
I guess that cinches it: The US does less good in the world than any other nation. Crying or Very sad I wonder--when we're doing so little, and clearly can't be having any real positive effect anywhere with such a paltry percentage of our GNI going to help other nations--why we don't just stop giving altogether? I mean, it's clear to me now that we're wasting our time. How could such a tiny percentage help anyone?

We should just step aside and let Italy and the rest of the big givers handle things. They clearly have the commitment we lack.
0 Replies
 
McGentrix
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 10:25 am
Hey, welcome back, Scrat!
0 Replies
 
Jim
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 10:40 am
I'm curious - does the chart only include aid dollars given by the national governments, or does it include money donated by individuals?
0 Replies
 
Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 12:07 pm
McGentrix wrote:
Hey, welcome back, Scrat!

Thanks!
0 Replies
 
IronLionZion
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Aug, 2004 05:51 pm
Jim wrote:
I'm curious - does the chart only include aid dollars given by the national governments, or does it include money donated by individuals?


It only includes government funds. If private contributions were included it would double the raw amount of dollars for the United States.
0 Replies
 
 

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