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Live 8… Opportunity or moronfest?

The usual collection of fabulously rich but economically illiterate show biz twits are going to assemble for Bob Geldof’s Live 8 event timed to coincide with the impending G8 conference in Scotland on 6-8 July. Now God knows lampooning rock ‘n’ roll’s A-list ‘idiocracy’ is fun and easy sport, but I must confess that I have always regarded Geldof as an intellectual cut above your typical gormless entertainer, so perhaps a closer look at what is going on is in order.

Live8 is going to be a freak show, that is for sure, surrounded by pro-poverty activists (by which I mean people who argue for a world structured in a way in which more people will be a great deal poorer) such as identity obsessed feminists, pro-Saddam communists, eco-luddites and all manner of other folks with very strange ideas about the nature of reality.

Yet unlike Live Aid, the objective of which was to raise money to mitigate a clear and present humanitarian disaster in Africa, Live 8 aims to raise political awareness on African poverty. Well that sounds like a splendid idea to me. Clearly the overwhelmingly largest cause of the destitution of large areas of sub-Saharan Africa is cause directly by corrupt African governments. So it would be fair to say that as the main obstacle to African prosperity and liberty is political, then the solution too will need to be political.

To his credit, Tony Blair has often said that it makes little sense to send aid money to corrupt regimes (which makes his infatuation with the UN all the more bizarre, given that it is an institution whose job it is to disburse money which mitigates the political cost of tyranny the world over) and so perhaps if the aim of Live8 is to work up support for the disintermediation of African government from the process of solving African problems, well, that is an idea I could certainly get behind, at least in principle.

Likewise I am all in favour of gathering political support for an end to all trade barriers that keep African products out of First World markets, empowering people at both ends of the trade relationship. Now this is something calculated to split the left in an interesting way as lefties who actually do care about doing something effective for the Third World inevitably succumb to the logic of Free Trade as opposed to the current system of subsidized Western agriculture and discriminated against Third World agriculture.

So it seems to me that although the din of idiotarian drum banging will be deafening, there is actually a fairly laudable message that might, just might, come out of this whole process. Perhaps it is time for some anti-idiotarian meme hacks? I certainly hope Bureaucrash are going to put in an appearance or two in Scotland…

60 comments to Live 8… Opportunity or moronfest?

  • Perry, I’m not sure what makes you think Geldof is an ‘intellectual cut above your typical gormless entertainer’ – he’s as bad as the rest of them – I certainly don’t have the time of day for him.

    The pro-free trade left (who I believe like to call themselves the ‘trade justice’ movement) is being effectively stifled by the entirely ridiculous and incredibly short-sighted ‘Fair Trade’ brand and by the green left’s on-going obsession with ‘global warming’, which obviously opposes the use of fuel-hungry aircraft to transport freely-traded goods across the world.

    The left has certainly started to acknowledge how artificial trade barriers, particularly the EU’s CAP, are affecting producers in poorer parts of the world but they won’t let it get in the way of the ‘Fair Trade’ brand, which has been marketed relatively successfully. Many on the left still believe that they’re buying and supporting ‘Fair Trade’ products in contrast to free trade products – so it’s unlikely they’ll be effectively arguing for free trade any time soon!

  • Instead of blethering,why don’t the just pass the hat round and buy the Third World between them.

  • guy herbert

    Because as Geldof and Curtis, who’s also involved with this exercise, have spotted, money is useful, but the problem mainly isn’t money. It is mainly political.

    Aid might do rather more good if it didn’t end up supporting the waBenzi. But if the systems weren’t supporting the waBenzi in the first place then aid might not be necessary. (Apart from in occasional disasters that could happen to anyone.)

    Geldof & Curtis also get credit for not offering simple magical solutions. They’ve worked on delivering results as well as raising money, so they do understand institutional obstructiveness.

  • zmollusc

    It is Phil Collins I feel sorry for, he is going to have to perform on stage then rush off and recommission a Concord and get a certificate of airworthiness, book a landing slot at an American aerodrome and then play another set on stage.

  • Johnathan

    Noting the link to the article about the ghastly Chris Martin and those droning bores, Coldplay, I see the multi-millionaire hubby to multi-millionaire Gwynnie is upset because his band’s record sales have the power to shift EMI’s share price.

    Boo-hoo!

    Really, why the f**k does anyone listen to these boobs?

  • Pete_London

    Geldof’s an odd one to figure out. A first class grumpy old man and the creator of an excellent documentary about injustices suffered at the hands of the state by fathers. On the other hand, moonbattery. Bono is the one that gets up my nose, though. I’d pay to witness the first politician tell him to feck off and mind his own millions.

    BBC Radio 5 Live has just held a poll:

    Do you think Live8 will help the fight against poverty in Africa?

    Yes – 20%
    No – 80%

    Wonders never cease! The presenters have also spent two hours reading out plenty of text messages and emails from listeners putting the pro-aid, anti-free market types to the sword. It sound like the Samizdatas have mounted a raid.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Johnathan – yes!! I don’t hear it often enough. You’re right, Coldplay really are the most simpering, whiny melodramatic gits going around.

  • Robert

    Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe Ronnie James Dio will put together another Hear N’Aid project because of this (ya know, to counteract the suck). I wanna see how many washed up hair metal bands he can get back together.

    On the other hand, if RJ Dio could get some hardcore underground death metal acts in on it that would be awesome! I wanna see the guys from Six Feet Under, Cattle Decapitation, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse and The Black Dhalia Murders show how much they care. And King Diamond. No one can talk about peace, love and understanding quite like a Satanist with upside down crosses painted on his face.

  • Bono is the one that gets up my nose, though.

    Might I vote for Sting in this category? In terms of self-rigteousness and sanctimoniousness mixed in with extreme self-regard and dazzling stupidity, he really does score impressively.

  • gravid

    Don’t like Coldplay.

    Fair trade/free trade. I am free to buy whatever products are imported into my country. If I choose to buy ,say, coffee marked fair trade is this not my right as a “consumer”? I buy this as I am informed that the producer gets a better price for the raw product than they would selling to one of the large companies. How can this be a bad thing unitl trade barriers are demolished? ( Not wanting to raise any hackles, this is a genuine question.)

  • There is a certain irony that those who support the calls for more “aid” also oppose western agricultural subsidies which are themselves a massive form of food aid to the Third World.

    Julius

  • dearieme

    Well, they’ve already persuaded the BBC that Edinburgh is near Gleneagles. Comes of using a World Atlas instead of an OS map, I suppose. Or perhaps it’s a consequence of being chauffered everywhere?

  • I wonder if the backstage caviar will be of the free trade variety. I’m with you guys and the idea that the Live 8 gig itself is just fluffing a lot of old stiffies (if you’ll excuse the metaphor) but I can’t help feel that the publicity will help get the free trade message out to all the thirty somethings who will watch and listen to it.

  • I wonder if the backstage caviar will be of the free trade variety. I’m with you guys and the idea that the Live 8 gig itself is just fluffing a lot of old stiffies (if you’ll excuse the metaphor) but I can’t help feel that the publicity will help get the free trade message out to all the thirty somethings who will watch and listen to it.

  • Michael

    There is a certain irony that those who support the calls for more “aid” also oppose western agricultural subsidies which are themselves a massive form of food aid to the Third World.

    How is keeping the price of western agricultural products artificially low a massive form of food aid to the Third World? How is subsidising the growing of sugar in the not so good European climate helping the Third World?

  • Gravid, I think, raises a good point: if a Leftie/’fair’ trade consumer exercises his freedom to choose and in doing so buys ‘fair’ trade coffee and thereby benefits someone in Kenya selling the stuff, well, that’s up to said Leftie.

    If he wants to fork over more of his shekels because a Kenyan businessmen assures him that in his factories he’s installed children’s creches for working mothers, and that’s where the additional groats go, then fine. The consumer is gratified and has paid extra for something of value to him (over and above the coffee); the producer is happy because he earns more; and who knows but that female Kenyan coffee factory workers are delighted at having creche facilities.

    If there are problems here they are, I think, as follows:

    1. By any use of the English language which I recognise, ‘fairness’ means treating people equally; thus to talk of ‘fair’ trade where it is in fact trade that has been loaded in favour of one group of producers, is an abuse of language and a debasement of thought.

    2. ‘Fair’ trade is imperialist (if these things matter to you), because they export First World priorities to the Third World by making it economically profitable to Third World producers to import said priorities.

    3. There is a risk that the less well-off in the West, whose standard of living can (and even sometimes does) rise as a result of cheap imports, will suffer as those imports are driven out of the market by bourgeois-subsidised over-expensive imports. I’d have thought this is a comparatively low risk. Nonetheless, if it occurs, we’ll see Lefties demanding more subsidies to the less well-off in this country so they, too, can afford to buy over-expensive Kenyan coffee.

    4. Er, that’s it.

  • I agree with Gravid that if someone wants to spend extra money buying ‘Fair Trade’ products because it gives them a warm fuzzy glow, well fine. In reality it is just a marketing gimmick to part soft headed westerners from their money, but hey, I am all for choice. But that does not mean it is wrong to poke fun at them.

    Sad to say many of the people who buy ‘Fair Trade’ stuff are the same people who would love to deprive other people of choices by supporting socialist policies however.

  • Michael:

    “How is keeping the price of western agricultural products artificially low a massive form of food aid to the Third World?”

    Because millions of Third World consumers (or at least those in countries that do not have high food tariffs) get to buy artificially cheap food, subidised by western taxpayers.

  • Verity

    Julius – Except for the Sahel, they grow plenty of food in Africa. They don’t need subsidised produce from the west.

    What’s holding Africa back from feeding itself is massive, repellent corruption.

    What’s holding African producers back from being able to export their delicious (the taste hasn’t been bred out for shipping convenience) produce to the EU is massive, repellent corruption – the CAP.

  • Julius, its my understanding that the subsidies act to suppress imports from third-world countries, thus damaging their economies, but I don’t think that the subsidized food flows overseas to third-world countries because they can’t afford it even at subsidized prices.

  • James A. H. Skillen

    Hi gravid. In addition to Edward’s and Perry’s points, there is another economic argument. This, I believe, is often used by Alex Singleton at the Globalization Institute:

    Suppose you buy Fair Trade marked coffee, with the idea that you wish to help the producers. Currently, around 25% of Fair Trade coffee is from Mexico. So, there’s a good chance you’ve helped out a poor Mexican coffee farmer. Well done.

    However, it’s essential to also look at what else you could have bought, instead of the Mexican coffee.
    Suppose you bought a packet of cheaper coffee from Ethiopia, not marked as Fair Trade. So, one would think that this is not as good, as surely the working conditions are not so nice etc.

    But, and here’s the point, average incomes in Mexico are $9000 a year compared with Ethiopia’s $700. Also only 18% of Mexican labour is in the agricultural sector, compared with Ethiopia’s 80%.

    So what you are really doing is helping a Mexican farmer who, by Ethiopian standards, is rich. This comes at the expense of helping the genuinely poor Ethiopian farmer, by not buying the only product he can produce.

    A better solution is to buy the cheapest coffee you can (keeping the quality constant, of course). So, in this scenario, we all buy Ethiopian coffee. The Mexican farmer will experience falling sales and so must either become more efficient or exit the coffee market.

    In the former case, with such a labour intensive process, the Ethiopian farmer could probably still undercut the Mexican. So, the Mexican leaves the market. With the decrease in supply, the coffee price increases and so the Ethiopian benefits more.

    With the increased trade with Ethiopia, the resulting growth in their economy will then eventually allow them to diversify away from agriculture and thus setting them on the path to an industrialised economy.

    Personally, I do indeed by Fair Trade items, but purely for the quality of the item. I’m quite fond of the teadirect organic green tea with lemongrass.

  • Mr Skillen, sah, what a pleasure that was to read.

  • Verity:

    “Julius – Except for the Sahel, they grow plenty of food in Africa. They don’t need subsidised produce from the west.”

    Try telling that to African consumers who are able to buy cheap food as a result of agricultural subsidies paid by western taxpayers.

    It may be politically correct to object to Western agricultural subsidies on the grounds that they are “bad” for African producers, but it is a poor argument because by the same reasoning, subsidies can be justified on the grounds that they are “good” for African consumers.

    Neither argument addresses the real point which is that such subsidies represent a forced wealth transfer from western taxpayers to the produces and consumers of the subsidised good. That is why they objectionable.

  • RC Dean:

    “Julius, its my understanding that the subsidies act to suppress imports from third-world countries, thus damaging their economies,”

    “economies” in the abstract don’t exist. It is right that such subsidies will result in a net reduction in third world agricultural ouput (i.e. fewer farmers or farmers producing less local product) but that merely reflects the fact that third world (and western) consumers will prefer to buy cheaper subsidised western food than expensive unsubsidised third world food.

    It is no different in principle to Koreans selling subsidised computers to the west. The result will be fewer computers manufactured in the west, but happy western consumers who are able to buy cheap Korean computers.

    “but I don’t think that the subsidized food flows overseas to third-world countries because they can’t afford it even at subsidized prices.”

    If that is right, then no damage is done to the third world producers – because, ex hypothesi, the subsidised western product will still be more expensive than the unsubsidised third world product – in which case consumers will still buy the latter.

  • Johnathan

    Julius, I think one can object to subsidies both because they are forced transfers of wealth (I agree with you 100 pct on this) AND that they derange local markets by undercutting producers in Third World countries and reduce their ability to earn foreign exchange. There is a practical and moral side to the issue.

  • Johnathan

    “AND that they derange local markets by undercutting producers in Third World countries and reduce their ability to earn foreign exchange.”

    Actually I doubt that there is any long term adverse impact in Third World countries as a result of western agricultural subsidies. In the long run, resources that would have gone into farming will simply be reallocated to more profitable uses. After all, that is what markets do.

  • Verity

    D’accord, Jonathan. BTW, I also thought James Skillen’s post was a pleasure to read.

  • Julius, unless things have changed dramatically in the last few years, I cannot recall in all my time in Africa ever encountering Western agricultural goods in Africa other than premium items aimed at expats and a few WaBenz.

    In African homes I have only ever seen African foodstuffs (plantain, cassava, red beans, chicken, pork, fruits, all local or at least African). The fact is African economies are for the most part overwhelmingly agricultural with not much in the way of physical or institutional infrastructure to enable all too many alternative uses of capital if local farming were to be scaled down.

    Even if they were getting cheap Euro-food to replace their local produce (which they are not), it is their lack of ability to export in a general sense which is the one truly harmful thing that Europe and America could make vanish with the wave of a pen… local corruption and tyranny being rather more intractable problems.

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  • Sark

    Perry is right, the problem is that Third World food is made uncompetitive with tariffs (or just outright prohibited from being imported) in the First World and uncompetitive First World farms are kept in business with subsidies which prevent alternatives from taking their place.

  • Verity

    To show the Brits how much the CAP is costing them, here in Mexico, I pay around 50P for a kilo of mangoes. Yes, Mexico grows mangoes, and very nice they are too, but I am referring here to Filipino mangoes. Grown, picked, packed, transported by sea and land, distributed within a city – and they are 50P a kilo.

  • Verity:

    As they say, never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Whilst I am the last person to defend the EU’s disgraceful tariffs and subsidies, it would appear(Link) that in fact there are no tariffs or other restrictions on the import of mangoes from the Phillipines to the EU. Nor, so far as I am aware, are subsidised mangoes grown in the EU.

    Maybe you have spotted a business opportunity? ;-)

  • David Mercer

    As Perry pointed out, most economic activity in Africa is still agricultural. And unlike, say, the US in the 1800’s (or even 1700’s or earlier) that isn’t monetized cash crops on deeded, capitalized land.

    And then there’s the whole ‘food security’ issue, which paleo-cons of all nations tout as a reason to subsidize a native agricultural base, regardless of nation. I maintain that perhaps there might be some less market distorting ways to achieve those goals than direct subsidies, but the USDA and Congress don’t seem to be listening to our ilk on the subject.

    As I said to my wife last night about this silly lefty guilt fest, if they actually got what they are asking for, do they realize we’d have to REALLY create and enforce a Pax Americana in Africa, removing the corrupt regimes by force, and using all available client state troops to garrison and enforce Rule of Law, a functioning Market, and keep tribal tensions at bay?

    Bring low the pround, raise up the injured, you know, all that old idealistic Roman Imperial non-sense that ‘progressives’ who gave us the Federal Nannystate would be all too happy to see made real. See Ms. Albright and her ‘whats the point of this army if you don’t use it’ statement, taken to the Nth degree.

  • Jim

    “Clearly the overwhelmingly largest cause of the destitution of large areas of sub-Saharan Africa is cause directly by corrupt African governments.”

    No, it’s not clear that the largest cause is corrupt government. There are countries in Africa which are for poor countries (which is relevant as poverty causes corruption as well as they other way round) relatively well-governed but still desperately poor, such as Ghana, Senegal and Mali. Some interesting analysis by Jeffrey Sachs last year found that after controlling for initial income and the quality of governance according to several alternative measures, sub-Saharan African countries grew more slowly than other developing countries, by around 3 percentage points a year.

    Governance is a problem in Africa, but it’s not the only one and it’s certainly not clear that it’s the biggest one. There’s various aspects of geography too. A simple lack of finance to pay for the good health, education, transport and communications that we take for granted is another. Aid from rich countries can obviously help here, as it has on many occasions in the past. And the kind of corruption which saw lots of aid being stolen is actually falling in Africa, not that you will ever hear it from people who oppose aid out of purely ideological reasons.

  • Verity

    Julius – I don’t get your point: “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” What “facts” did I refer to in my post that were not correct? Mangoes sell in Mexico. They sell for around 50P a kilo. That includes growing, picking, packing, transportation, etc. What, above, is the fact that I refused to let get in the way of a good story? Actually, some readers whose eyes have just glazed over may ask “what good story”?

    As to there being no EU duty on mangoes from The Philippines, that’s interesting. I wonder, in that case, why supermarkets in Europe are not awash in sweet, tasty, cheap mangoes instead of cotton wool apples.

  • No, it’s not clear that the largest cause is corrupt government.

    Then I can only assume you have never done biz in Africa. Interesting you should mention Ghana as that is the bit of Africa I know best. Now compared to a hellhole like Nigeria (I am convinced that people who die in Lagos get time off in Hell for ‘time served’), sure, the Ghanaian state is a paragon of rectitude, but in reality the rule of law is weak and very variable in its application.

    To do serious business there you pretty much *have* to ‘retain’ folks on the government payroll to smooth things over (or more accurately, not to keep throwing spanners in the works)… the local term is ‘dash’.

    Unlike some other parts of Africa, Ghanaian corruption is rather gentile and makes a point of not killing the (western) goose which lays the golden eggs. Considerable areas of the economy are tightly regulated to the point you would have to be bonkers to either invest there (at least if you intend to do everything strictly legally), which of course also means foreign capital is not exactly beating down the doors there looking to invest, something you can almost entirely blame on a less than business friendly environment at the top.

    And this is one of the better governed countries in that part of the world (I rather like Ghana in fact), but it has nowhere near the critical mass of solid political and legal institutions to turn their tremendous natural resources into sustainable prosperity. Ghana is not a tyranny, that is for sure, nor is it as desperately poor as say Congo or Burundi or Angola, but the main obstacles to economic growth are to be found in the countries ruling elite and their supplicant class of dash addicted middle management civil servants. Give ‘em another 50-75 years and maybe they will evolved I to something more viable. At the moment however the main changes needed there, as in all parts of the dark continent, is for a ruling class who does a great deal less ruling.

  • Jim

    But Ghana has grown much more slowly than several much more corrupt countries, which again suggests that while corruption is a problem (like I said) it is not the largest problem (what you said). Maybe you think corruption is the biggest problem because of your business experience there, but has it occurred that maybe your experience doesn’t say everything there is to say about Ghana’s development problems?

    I’m all for people tackling corruption in Africa, I just don’t think it should be used as an excuse to use targeted, monitored aid to deliver what they need, as has been done succesfully so many times in the past.

  • Verity:

    Since you began your post with “To show the Brits how much the CAP is costing them,”, I rather presumed that you were blaming EU agricultural policies for the lack of mangoes in European supermarkets.

    To answer your question, the reason why we are not awash with sweet and tasty cheap mangoes in Europe is because the cost of doing business here is far higher than in Mexico (land, wages, capital equipment etc), thus products will inevitably be sold at higher prices here. The transport and raw material costs are only a small part of it. Some of this is down to regulation, so a broad sense the EU (and our own governments) are at fault, but it is nothing to do with the specific problem of agricultural protectionism.

    Now if you have chosen cherries, you would have made an excellent case. The tariff on those delicious big American cherries that cost so much over here, is a staggering 5 euros per kilo.

  • Euan Gray

    Maybe you think corruption is the biggest problem because of your business experience there

    As another person who has done business in West Africa, I have to say that Perry is quite correct in identifying corruption as THE big problem in the region.

    It is not a question, however, of corruption being merely a factor in the organs of the state. It is everywhere in society. It appears to be a basic factor arising from much of African tribal culture. You take what you can get, and you use whatever force is necessary to keep it and get more. Law, justice, property rights and morality don’t come into it at all – possession is all 10 points of the law there.

    I’m all for people tackling corruption in Africa, I just don’t think it should be used as an excuse to use targeted, monitored aid to deliver what they need, as has been done succesfully so many times in the past.

    If you don’t target and monitor, it will get diverted and will not go any way to solve the problems.

    I don’t personally believe that uncontrolled largesse is ever going to solve any problems in Africa. I think the sovereign external debt of most African states should be formally cancelled, not least because there is not a plastic bag’s chance in Hell it’s every going to be paid. But then no further aid should be granted unless it is aid in kind and under the strict and complete control of the donor state. Other than that, Africa should be left to fix its own problems.

    African politicians often say that only Africa can solve the problems of Africa. Fine, let them do it. I won’t be holding my breath.

    EG

  • Jim

    “If you don’t target and monitor, it will get diverted and will not go any way to solve the problems.”

    Sorry, I left out the rather crucial word “not” in my original comment, so it should have read:

    “I just don’t think it should be used as an excuse not to use targeted, monitored aid”

  • zmollusc

    ‘You take what you can get, and you use whatever force is necessary to keep it and get more. Law, justice, property rights and morality don’t come into it at all – possession is all 10 points of the law’
    How unlike modern corporations these backwards Africans are…………

  • GCooper

    Euan Gray writes:

    “African politicians often say that only Africa can solve the problems of Africa. Fine, let them do it. I won’t be holding my breath.”

    Amazingly, I find myself in total agreement with Euan Gray.

    Well aware that I’m at risk of committing the ultimate social crime in contemporary British society, I’m still going to say I’m bored bloody rigid by Africa, its problems and the incessant whining about the place from people incapable of overcoming their misplaced, racist post-colonial guilt.

    Many parts of the world were colonised by Europeans, some benefited in some ways from the experience, some suffered. But colonialism isn’t Africa’s problem. Africans are Africa’s problem. If India can haul itself out of the basket-case condition it was once in, to become a thriving and vigorous country, as can China, then so can countries in Africa, if they have the wit and the will to do it.

    It isn’t just about corruption, no, but it most certainly isn’t solely (perhaps even largely) about debt. It is about incessant violence, tribalism, stupidity and the self-perception of Africans as victims – a belief reinforced every time some liberal hand-wringer casts them in that role.

    As that other bunch of recovered colonials are given to say, “enough, already!”

  • GCooper

    zmollusc writes:

    “‘You take what you can get, and you use whatever force is necessary to keep it and get more. Law, justice, property rights and morality don’t come into it at all – possession is all 10 points of the law’

    How unlike modern corporations these backwards Africans are…………”

    Funny. I was thinking exactly the same about Trade Unions
    .

  • Euan Gray

    Funny. I was thinking exactly the same about Trade Unions

    Actually, this is pretty much an attribute of humanity in general. Corporations do it, unions do it, individuals do it – wherever it can be got away with, it is.

    The fundamental difference is that the culture of the liberal capitalist democracies puts something above naked personal selfishness. Where there is a cultural imperative (whether or not backed by law) to accept a little self-denial in the wider interests of the common good, THEN you tend to get the development of the rule of law, respect for property, and so on.

    It has often struck me that cultures which do have a concept of the collective good and which acknowledge a lower place for the self in relation thereto are the ones which have developed, whereas those that do not, or which only have very weak concepts of these things, tend not to develop too much or indeed at all.

    Going back to Africa, the essential problem seems to me to be that there are NO such cultural imperatives there. I don’t think there ever have been.

    EG

  • Berenger

    The only economics that concern me in relation to the Live 8 pretensiousanddeludedpersonslovein is how many times I will have to cough up £1.50 in text messages to get a reasonable expectation of a pair tickets for the Lonodn concert to flog on Ebay for a profit. My guess at the moment is around 30-40 calls so I would be looking at a final sell price of around £120-£140 on ebay for the risk to be reasonable. Anyone else care to speculate on the economics of this?

  • Berenger

    The only economics that concern me in relation to the Live 8 pretensiousanddeludedpersonslovein is how many times I will have to cough up £1.50 in text messages to get a reasonable expectation of a pair tickets for the London concert to flog on Ebay for a profit. My guess at the moment is around 30-40 calls so I would be looking at a final sell price of around £120-£140 on ebay for the risk to be reasonable. Anyone else care to speculate on the economics of this?

  • Where there is a cultural imperative (whether or not backed by law) to accept a little self-denial in the wider interests of the common good, THEN you tend to get the development of the rule of law, respect for property, and so on

    Ah, so Euan is revealed to be a classical liberal after all! And there I was thinking he was just another ‘pass a law to require this or that pragmatic change and to hell with allowing civil society to develop’ statist.

    Gosh maybe you have been reading ‘The Fatal Conceit’ on the bog and now sees the flaw in using force to impose ‘virtue’ after all. That said all that talk of self-denial sounds a bit like Hans-Herman Hoppe, but let’s not go there…

    So it seems that Euan and I actually agree that the only way to gain liberty is to have a culture which is mature enough to both want it and actually cope with it. I take back all the nasty things I said about you :-)

    It has often struck me that cultures which do have a concept of the collective good and which acknowledge a lower place for the self in relation thereto are the ones which have developed

    Ah… then again… I guess that explains why the US, with its emphasis on individual rights and a constitution based on enshrining the individual right over the collective polis is such a dismal place lagging socially, culturally and economically behind such paragons of collectivist virtue as Russia, China, France…

    Perhaps it just might be that your first point is correct and that it is a civil society that can rise above immediate gratification and take the longer view that makes your second point almost an absurdity. Rational self denial in the interests of long term good is not necessarily altruistic, it is just rational behaviour and produces both more moral and more productive results.

    If I act in a reasonable manner which is conducive to long term growth, it is not because I see myself as subordinate to some imaginary national or social collective (preposterous) but because I see value to myself in acting in a moral fashion towards other individuals (which is all society is), and have a reasonable expectation of getting the same back (i.e. there are reasonable shared values held by those individuals). The benefits of such individually held values may help ‘society’ but that is an emergent quality of such values, nothing more and certainly not a submission to the ‘greater good’.

  • Verity

    OK, Julius. It’s a fair cop.

    I’ve never tasted an American cherry. Unfortunately, my fruit eating is limited to things that have inedible skins, as everything else is sprayed and makes my throat swell up alarmingly. I can’t be the only one who suffers from this, but other people seem to buy peaches. plums etc without a second thought.

  • Verity

    G Cooper, I would add to your string of truths about Africa, the dependency culture. They have been encouraged to think we owe them something.

    One other thing, Africa has far, far greater natural resources than India or China. Infinitely greater. And they’ve done less with them.

    I don’t believe we should cancel their damn’ debt, even if we are certain they’re never going to honour it. Let it be on their record as a debt. Meanwhile, they have to solve their own cultural problems, as has been mentioned above. I think – other, perhaps than medical aid for children – we ought to pack our bags and get out.

  • guy herbert

    EG, interesting as always,

    The fundamental difference is that the culture of the liberal capitalist democracies puts something above naked personal selfishness. Where there is a cultural imperative (whether or not backed by law) to accept a little self-denial in the wider interests of the common good, THEN you tend to get the development of the rule of law, respect for property, and so on.

    I’m not sure it is pursuit of the common good. What it is, I think, is universalism: the do-as-you-would-be-done-by, golden rule, the greatest commandment, the rule of thumb that the same rules ought to apply to you and yours as to other people. This redounds to the common good, but it is an internalised moral pattern, or a strategy for life, that has postive results for the individual, provided there’s enough of the same thing around.

    It works best with an impersonal state. But people everywhere who abandon it also abandon trust, and thereby, by pursuit of immediate advantage, impoverish their social relations.

  • guy herbert

    Verity –

    their damn’ debt

    There’s the rub: The money’s spent by different people than those expected to pay it back. The legitimacy of the debt depends on the legitimacy and continuity of the state. Our difficulty here (us anti-statists) is that we believe persons (real or corporate) ought to pay their debts, but that we don’t believe the people belong to the state and may be squeezed to pay its debts.

  • GCooper

    guy herbert writes:

    “I’m not sure it is pursuit of the common good.”

    I’m glad you tackled that remark by Euan Gray. I’d wanted to, but time has been against me today. As it turned out, you did a far better job that I would have.

    Even the phrase “the common good” makes my toes curl and I’m not sure that Mr. Gray’s contention actually holds water, anyway. Some remarkably unsuccessful societies have, at least nominally, subscribed to this dictum. One thinks of China, where sub-Confucian concepts of self-sacrifice, allied to Mao’s brand of Marxism, produced both a general moral bankruptcy and exceptional poverty. I’m not very convinced by the gloomy collectivism of Scandiwegia, either – for all that it is often held up as some sort of moral Shangri-La.

    Philosophically, the ‘do as you would be done by’ principle seems a good deal closer to the mark though, even then, dressed in its ‘fair play’ costume, it has become the wellspring of hand-wringing liberalism.

    It is, none the less, a more appealing social creed than the dark hand of collectivism.

  • Euan Gray

    It works best with an impersonal state

    It has nothing to do with the state. Unfortunately, many libertarians seem to consider that “collective” is synonymous with “state,” whereas it is not, or that “common good” refers to the common good of all people in society, whereas is does not necessarily.

    I think this highlights a defect in some strands of libertarian thought, namely the idea that there is no such thing as society or that society is nothing more than the sum of its individual members. This is not true.

    As has been pointed out before, the effort of a collective entity (whether club, family, corporation or whatever) is greater than the sum of the individual efforts that would otherwise be made toward the same end. In some cases, this is appropriate. In others, a collective approach is not appropriate or is at least suboptimal.

    Now, the point I was making is that where there is no strong concept of the advantages of collective effort and personal sacrifice, such things as the rule of law, property rights, and so on tend not to evolve. The rule of law REQUIRES personal sacrifice in return for a share of an enhanced common good – indeed, that is the whole point of the rule of law.

    EG

  • Hyksos

    I think this highlights a defect in some strands of libertarian thought, namely the idea that there is no such thing as society or that society is nothing more than the sum of its individual members. This is not true.

    Authoritarian rubbish used to justify almost as many monstrous acts as religion in the past. Society is clearly just the sum of its parts and how anyone in a modern highly pluralistic, constantly mutating and increadibly diverse western society cannot see that is astonishing. Utter drivel.

  • Euan Gray

    Society is clearly just the sum of its parts

    If it’s so clear, demonstrate it. Explain why collective effort can produce more than the sum of individual efforts.

    Preferably without insult.

    EG

  • Paul Marks

    Peter Bauer might as well have never written for all the knowledge many people show when they talk about “aid”.

    As far as the media and the rest are concerned the only problem is nasty dictators who refuse to spend the money on “schoolsnhospitals”, but instead put the money in their “Swiss bank accounts” or “spend it on arms”.

    The fact that statism does not work (that it is harmful) has not sunk in.

  • Verity

    Paul, the question is why has it not sunk in?

    Surely it cannot be because most people are benefitting from statism – because it is only too obvious that they are not. They endure a third world health “service” when they could be enjoying Singapore standard health professionals and facilities. Children “educated” in the public sector are leaving school illiterate, innumerate and unable to reason. Taxpayers in the wealth creating sector are supporting an ever burgeoning army of parasites in the public sector. Law and order has broken down despite constant monitoring of the citizenry by the ever-present and intrusive eye of CCTV cameras. The police are insolent to their employers, the taxpayers.

    Yet the victims of all this mal-governance seem not to understand what has been done to them. Twenty-five percent of them even voted for another round. It is mystifying.

  • Julian Taylor

    One observation on Mr Geldorf’s latest venture – how come the little white plastic wristbands are made in China, using sweatshop labour (or even possibly child labour) at an estimated 16p per hour? Surely they should be ‘fighting poverty’ shouldn’t they?

  • As if it’s not enough that these poor souls work in inhumane conditions for a meager wage, we are going to deprive them even of that, and leave them without any income at all, just so that we can buy “fiar trade” and feel good about ourselves. Splendid.

    Verity: try organic cherries: they are delicious.

  • Ok Guys
    check this out
    http://www.littlefish.com.au
    comments barbed ones expected:-)

    Often what is needed is information that is accessible, is presented in ways that are culturally appropriate and that can be understood by people who have limited English and literacy. The Fred Hollows Foundation Financial Literacy Program (Little Fish’s Money Story) provides an example of working with people where they are at, and providing needed information in ways that are practical and cost-effective. Rather than waiting for the next generation to be trained in financial management, people without formal skills can be supported now to take control of financial management.

    It is not only important that communities be empowered to take control of financial decision-making, but also that the right people that is, those chosen by the community occupy such positions of responsibility.

    The Money Story (which has received a Telstra Small Business award) was
    designed to present complex financial information, reports and budgets, to people who do not have financial literacy skills, in a visual form that they can understand. This process is empowering, as it enables the community to take genuine control of its organisations and enables board members, councilors and others to fulfil their responsibilities.”
    Page22 “Information.”

    Submission To The House Of Representatives Standing Committee On Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Inquiry Into Capacity Building in Indigenous Communities The Fred Hollows Foundation October 2002
    cheers

    Chris