I’m asking the following questions because I really am looking for the answers. If you have information that can contribute to finding the answers, or think you actually know the answers, please help me out.
The big question on my mind about Africa is: how can well-meaning outsiders help alleviate African poverty, when corruption within the poorest countries stands in the way of honest entrepreneurs’ success, diverts large proportions of aid into the bank accounts of dictators and other officials, and fear and brutal oppression stops all but a few exceptional people from fighting the evils that hold the good people down.
Economies do not flourish under the yoke of masters who steal massively, produce nothing but their own palaces and glorification, give special favors to cronies and favorites, and whose police and courts take bribes to allow dishonest and even vicious businesses to get away with such practices as the sale of fake medicines. The honest and courageous who try to fight these evils have to struggle up a vertical mountain virtually alone, risking life and limb. They put their loved ones at risk as well. It looks like a hopeless mission.
Unfortunately, since the time this blog entry was published, the following NY Times link has been put on the paid article list.
The above is the same link as yesterday’s. The article illustrates what an ethical mess Africa suffers. Yeah, yeah, yeah, western countries have corruption, too. But nothing like this article describes in Africa.
When the wealthy nations shower billions in aid dollars on poor countries, and half or more of that money winds up in the clutches of corrupt leaders and officials, the very best corrupt use they can put it to is their own luxury. But suppose the aid also goes to making the corrupt more effective at controlling and repressing their people, and giving their crooked buddies all the special favors they need to keep the “market” in their pockets and out of danger of challenge from honest competitors?
I do not think that the fundamental problem in Africa is too little aid. The problem is too little of the ethical and legal protections that allow honest markets to develop and allow people to take care of themselves. And a further problem is that, with all the wickedness in the government, ordinary people have to learn underhand tricks to survive. It’s very bad training for society as a whole.
In other words, while some aid may trickle down and, to some degree, help some good people, temporarily, could it be that on the whole the rest of the aid actually helps solidify the power of the rotten people so that the wall between poverty and prosperity becomes ever higher and thicker and more impossible to tear down?
How about revolution? Africa has had a lot of revolutions, right? But when one corrupt government falls, how often does the new government set up a democracy, with respect for individual rights: respect for each person’s right to life and liberty, the right to one’s own property and to pursue happiness one’s own way (except for by initiating physical force or fraud), and respect for the rule of just laws, and the actual enforcement of those laws?
I’m no expert on Africa. I really am asking – are there any democracies in Africa that respect the above rights, thus making it possible for their people to use their creative capacities to make a flourishing market and healthy, happy population? Are there any such governments on that continent? How is South Africa doing with that these days?
If you know the answers, please let me know where the best African hope is, where the best government is, and how that government was able to develop.
And if there is no model to suggest how to go from what is to what could and should be, does anyone have any suggestions about what will have to be done to get to the could and should?
One thing I’m sure of: to make the right kind of government you have to have a sufficient number of people who understand the ethics of liberty and prosperity, and who are able to work their way into government and make laws supporting the same. You need a good enough base of understanding for that ethical system throughout the society that you can find plenty of uncorruptible police, judges, military, etc., to carry our those laws and to turn in and prosecute those officials who abuse their power.
And I believe that the longer a country is in the clutches of the corrupt, the longer the people have to learn to adjust to corruption, the more undermined is the character of people in general.
To fix what is wrong is a huge job. A gigantic, horrendous, tremendous, long-range job.
I do believe Africa needs some help from outside, but most of the job has to be done by Africans themselves. The question for us is, if we are going to help… what kind of help will really help, and what kind will just make us feel all warm and furry and good about ourselves while wasting billions of dollars strengthening monsters?