1.12.2005

misguided efforts to ride the tsunami charity wave

I came across this article via this post on the "Cyborg Democracy" blog. I certainly share many of the sentiments in the article and absolutely agree that one of the greatest moral atrocities of our time is global poverty, but calling for a "Global Marshall Plan" gives the impression that we've learned nothing about the challenges of economic development in the last sixty years. Even more importantly, we would be setting ourselves and everybody else up for a huge disappointment. If modeling our efforts on the Marshall Plan were viable, the Bretton Woods institutions would not be the miserable failures they have turned out to be. Whatever we might say about the WTO, the IMF, and the WB, the design flaw goes deeper than the behavior of those particular organizations. Now that the world's eyes are focused on the victims of the tsunami, we do have an opportunity to look deeply into our hearts and search for answers that go beyond relief. But we do a disservice to the cause of economic justice if we lie to ourselves about the true nature of the situation. There are no turnkey solutions to what this window has shown so many murkans for the very first time. The main thing that offering a tidy charity opportunity serves to do is dull the urgency. Sure, people are going to move on anyway, but I don't want to be a part of putting something out there that allows them to feel good about themselves when all they are doing is perpetuating the problem. Doing something is not always better than doing nothing, if doing nothing forces us to stay present. There is no cause I'm more committed to than mitigating global poverty. I don't think it is a hopeless situation, but we have to go about it in a way that has a chance of succeeding.