Some days ago I went via Instapundit to an article about how the surge of Pentecostalism in Africa may help America in the War on Terror, and from there to this Pew Forum article on the global rise of Christianity, especially in Africa. Very much especially in Africa.
It may even be beating Islam.
I would guess I am a lot happier about Africa’s emerging Age of Faith (in its Christian variety at least; I fear Islam) than most of you reading this post. Yet I cannot repress a sense of disquiet when I remember that there are more people in Africa who think the freeing of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga a bad thing than think it a good thing. If there is a similar case next year the margin will probably be larger; and eventually that will change what happens. Western pressure will no longer work. Indeed, the boot may be on the other foot: the Pew article also says that there are already something like 2,000 Christian missionaries from Asia and Africa at work in Great Britain. Hard work at the moment, but that could change. Most people in the West assume that religion must inevitably decline as the world becomes richer and better educated. I tend to assume, gloomily, that its decline proceeds as the world embraces state welfare. But even the tide on Dover beach turns some day.
I do rejoice for my African brothers and sisters and my political fears may not come to pass. A fervent Christianity can be and has been a force for political freedom. Vile, cruel and hypocritical as the history of the United States is, it is slightly less vile, cruel and hypocritical than that of most nations – they never quite forgot that the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower were Puritans fleeing persecution rather than instituting it.
Even the teetering balance between Christianity and Islam might do for Africa what the teetering balance between Protestantism and Catholicism did for Europe: let secularism sneak in as the second best option for all sides.
Or we might do a great deal worse. The other rising tide in the world is that of the global progressive elite, the Tranzis. For the first time in human history there is no technological obstacle to a world government. That I have long feared but now a new fear joins it. Barefoot religion meets the bureaucratic, unitary state, how does that work?
Perhaps, led by Africa, we are moving towards something like the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace.
I confess I have done no more than skim this paper by Maxim Pinkovskiy of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Xavier Sala”i”Martin of Columbia University and NBER. I will have a go at reading it properly later. I got the link from Tim Worstall, who gets distracted from “ragging on Ritchie” into a rather moving defence of his belief that capitalism is the system that actually works when it comes to lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
I liked the title. I liked it so much I think I will type it out again.
African Poverty is Falling… Much Faster than You Think!
So how is Zimbabwe doing these days? According to this article, linked to yesterday by Patrick Crozier, things are actually improving. Patrick quotes this bit:
Price controls and foreign exchange regulations have been abandoned. Zimbabwe literally joined the real world at the stroke of a pen. Money now flows in and out of the country without restriction. Super market shelves, bare in January, are now bursting with products.
While reading this article, I could not shake the feeling that I was really reading a piece of libertarian science fiction. Could they really have done anything so very sensible, and could things really be improving so definitely? The piece does appear to be genuine, so far as I can tell, but if it turns out to be fantasy-fiction, this paragraph will get me off the credulity hook. File under maybe true but maybe too good to be true.
Meanwhile, if the piece really is true, the best bit of all in it is that there is now no “lender of last resort” in Zimbabwe. Could it be that libertarian economic policy – in particular libertarian banking policy – is about to get a serious test, which it will pass, and hence another serious showcase, highly pertinent given the world’s current banking woes, to educate the world with? How will socialism and state-centralism get the credit for that I wonder?
If genuine, this piece reminds me of a vivid British recollection from way back. Someone on the telly asked a City commentator, just after Black Wednesday (the day in 1992 when John Major’s economic policies collapsed in ruins), what the prospects were now for the British economy. Well, he said, now that the government has not got a policy, rather good.
The late Peter (Lord) Bauer, a Hungarian-born economist who lived for much of his life in the UK, did outstanding work in demonstrating why markets and trade are superior to overseas aid, and pointed out how aid, and the organisations that often get involved in delivering it, frequently make problems of poverty worse, not better. Even aid advocates like Sir Bob Geldof will readily concede, meanwhile, that aid delivery becomes next to impossible during conditions of war, and when countries are under the rule of armed thugs. So last night’s Channel 4 programme on Somalia will have surprised few regulars at this blog.
What was interesting was how local traders were allegedly bribing some aid officials to take sacks of food and then sell it into the market. We were meant to be appalled by this, and part of me was. But also I also could not ignore the fact that this part of Africa seems to be buzzing with a sort of entrepreneurial class of men – one did not see many women – who trade in, and take great efforts to obtain, food and other stuff. That surely suggests that a market, of sorts, works in this part of the world. But what clearly does not work is the rule of law, or the enforcement of property rights. Without due protection for the latter, in particular, then the indestructible desire to “truck and barter” can all too easily degrade into a form of banditry. But let’s be clear here: while one can be nauseated at foreign aid being filched by some of the locals, that desire to trade is not, in itself, the problem. It is, in fact, part of the solution to the poverty of Africa.
Meanwhile, I strongly recommend William Easterly’s book on foreign aid and the mistakes that well-intentioned folk make about aid.
General Edmond Rasolomahandry . . . President Marc Ravalomanana . . . opposition leader Andry Rajoelina . . . Colonel Noel Ndriarijoana: newsreaders everywhere are praying for a swift resolution to the crisis.
- Mick Hartley notes the possibility of civil war in Madagascar
Chinese crew used beer bottles to fight off pirates
While I salute the captain and crew of the Zhenua 4, I cannot help thinking that guns might have been more convenient. What, exactly, is the difficulty over providing them?
Danny Finkelstein has noticed something highly dubious about the coverage of the Zimbabwe catastrophe by BBC veteran foreign correspondent, John Simpson.
To put it bluntly, Simpson is an over-rated arse who seems to bend over backwards to present Mugabe’s actions in a favourable, or at least not unfavourable, light. I have found that too much of his coverage, while affecting the “Our brave correspondent in Godforsaken Country etc” often glides over serious problems and issues. He is often wheeled out by the Great and The Good as the example of the impartial British journalist, so much better than all those simplistic Americans with their strange ideas about right and wrong. Sorry, I am not buying it. For sure, unlike some people, I do not regard the BBC’s foreign coverage as an unmitigated evil, but stuff like this does not exactly help.
Thanks for Stephen Pollard for the tip.
There seems, finally, to be a concerted effort going on to rid Zimbabwe of its appalling President, Robert Mugabe. The disgust felt by the entire civilised world at from the farce of the recent Zimbabwean election, won in the first round by the opposition but now about to be scrubbed out by pure force, was too much even for President Mbeki of South Africa to resist. Today Nelson Mandela made a short speech giving voice, finally, to his disgust at Mugabe’s behaviour. And now that Mandela has spoken, Britain has felt able to chip in by forbidding a Zimbawe cricket visit to Britain next year, and by stripping Mugabe of a knighthood of a particularly grand and vacuous variety that was conferred upon him some years ago. As the Tesco adverts say, every little helps.
But Mugabe will never go merely because of trivial indignities such as those. He has no better nature to be appealed to, no shame. It is being said that if South Africa pulls the plug in some way on the Mugabe regime, that will finish it. I hope that some time during the next few days or weeks, we will all get the chance to see if that’s true. When the lights don’t work inside Mugabe’s palaces, when the electric fences guarding him stop hurting anyone, when his bodyguards don’t know where their next meal is to come from, then that will indeed be the end of him, and this can’t come too soon for the wretched people of the country he has ruined. It’s all very Shakespearian.
I don’t know if Mr Brown will deserve any particular credit for such an outcome, if and when it finally materialises. I recall Mr Brown lining himself up some weeks ago with all this anti-Mugabe activity, speaking out against this grotesque man at the UN or some such place. But I suspect that this was only done then so noisily and so newsworthily because this was about the only uncontroversially respectable policy that Mr Brown still had on his desk at that time, which was, you will recall, a time of impending elections. I remember at around that same time speculating that Mugabe would outlast Brown. I hope that this turns out to be wrong, or, if right, that this is because Mr Brown succumbs to mysterious medical problems brought on by Labour Party fundraising difficulties, some time during the next few days.
We will know that South Africa does not have the stomach to support freedom and democracy for this vulnerable country. Zimbabweans must now exercise their Lockean right of self preservation to exterminate this kleptocratic elite who deny them consent and rob them of their property.
Good luck to them!
But not green television the way you think. South African blogger 6000 is “not sure where this came from originally or if it’s true”, but he adds: “But you know, this is SA and people are nothing if not resourceful. It’s a cool story – I choose to believe.” Me too.
Spending fever has reached all walks of South African life. Here’s a fellow who lives in a squatter camp beyond Somerset West in Western Cape who now wants a television set – a new one, mind, not that second-hand thing in the pawn-shop window – so he buys one from the High Street furniture retailer.
But he’s back next day, saying the things keeps switching off just at the crucial moment. The shop checks it out and can find nothing wrong, but soon enough he’s back with the same complaint.
This time the shop sends out a technician to pop round to see what the problem is. When the technician gets there, he discovers our guy’s shack draws its electricity from a nearby traffic light, and that the TV only works when the light is green.
Good to know that almost everybody down there can afford to have “spending fever”, even if some prefer to economise on their electricity bills. 6000 has this as a mere scanned image of a newspaper report. I think it deserves the .html treatment.
Perry de Havilland of this parish just loves these creatures. Here’s a great story to brighten up a rather dull, grey day in London.
I really must go on safari one day.
Glenn Reynolds links to an interesting-sounding book about South Africa’s poor whites, a group completely obscured – globally, by the international perception of the apartheid society and locally, by post-apartheid positive discrimination efforts to raise the country’s recently oppressed blacks out of poverty. It made me recall a piece I saw some time ago on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s international current affairs programme, Foreign Correspondent, that also examined the lot of disadvantaged white South Africans. It contained a very interesting interview of the ANC government minister Essop Pahad. I have reproduced the business end of the discussion below (the emphasis in bold is my own):
→ Continue reading: The new face of South Africa