Monday, January 4, 2010

Why I wouldn't even piss on Oxfam if it was on fire

In some ways, a hard thing to say.

Oxfam has done some very important work in the past when it was still a young and fresh organisation.

But Oxfam is a business these days and its vital capital is poor people. So it is not really in its institutional interests to solve poverty. There is an organisation with large numbers of employees, many on very high salaries, buildings and a thriving chain of homewares stores earning a tidy sum for it to support.

So I am completely unsurprised by this post on the Bishop Hill blog about the new book The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley called Good and Bad Charities.

Tooley's main focus is on education and on what gives the best outcomes for the poor in places like Africa and India, and how bodies such as the World Bank and NGOs like Oxfam advance policies that directly conflict with this.

Unfortunately there seems to be an aspect of putting political ideology ahead of what works.

So groups like Oxfam refuse to support the exploding private school sector in these places, instead preferring to stick to the usual leftist dogma that a free state education is preferable, despite ample evidence that while the state education may be free, it is also sadly all too often of appallingly poor quality.

Indeed, many state schools offer education in name only and are little more than child minding centres where no real classes are taught.

And it's not that either the World Bank or Oxfam aren't aware of this.

But private schools must be about exploiting the poor because, you know, that's what private enterprise does and anything produced by a creaking, sclerotic (and often corrupt) state bureaucracy must be better.

So they insist that aid dollars be poured into this dysfunctional and wasteful sector.

And thus we return to my contention that organisations like Oxfam are increasingly more a problem for the poor and are acting in their own interests, not those of the poor.

Now, I'm sure that Oxfam is full of earnestly committed people who would be aghast at the idea that they were in effect part of the problem, and not part of its solution.

But have a look at what has done more to lift countless millions of people out of poverty over the last fifty years.

Let me tell you now, it wasn't Oxfam or World Vision or any of the other dozens, if not hundreds, of NGOs in the poverty business.

In fact, many of these groups were actively hostile to the forces that have transformed the lives of so many millions of people in places like Thailand, Korea etc and increasingly India.

These forces have been free (or at least freer) trade, capitalism and the market.

Sorry for all you high school and undergraduate lefties out there, but it's true.

No program to supply 44 gallon drums on wheels to cart water has lifted a single person out of poverty.

They've made that poverty more bearable, but that is the complete extent of their achievement.

And if people are still poor, then they are still going to "need" outfits like Oxfam and World Vision, along with all their highly paid staff - their directors, campaign managers, climate change directors and campaigners....

Climate change directors? Campaigners?

What the frigging heck has that got to do with bringing prosperity to the poor? 

Nothing of course. Oh, they give you wonderful sermons about how climate change is supposedly going to hit the poor the hardest, but then, as a direct consequence of this, propose insane policies that are guaranteed to keep people poor and thus lacking the resources to adapt to climate change!

So all these collective parasites of the poor were at Copenhagen recently calling for measures that would effectively make connection to reliable and constant sources of electricity which they could use to light, heat and cool their homes and cook their food without poisoning themselves with fires fuelled with animal dung, as well as providing reliable power for factories providing real jobs and real income, too expensive.

And if you think that renewables which currently can only supply expensive electricity, except of course when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing, are a viable option, then you are a naive idiot and probably vote for the Greens. 

Now you'd say that none of this makes any sense at all, (and you'd be right, up to a point). The governments of China and India aren't stupid and they know that there is one, and only one, path that leads to them being able to lift tens of millions of their countrymen out of grinding and disheartening poverty, and that is by way of economic progress powered by reliable energy supplies at a reasonable cost.

And now and for the foreseeable future that means energy produced by fossil fuels.

To argue against this is to say you want these poor people to stay poor.

But what a wonderful boondoggle for well educated middle-class white people!

Plus, you get to travel to places like Copenhagen, Mexico and any number of other desirable locations around the world while you presume to save the poor from themselves.

Sweet eh?

Jello Biafra may have sung "kill the poor" out front of The Dead Kennedys, but innumerable aid organisations prefer to just fuck them over.

Posted via email from Garth's posterous

1 comment:

Mrs R said...

I've linked this article, hope that's OK.