Thursday, April 10, 2003

Today the Vangua printed a back-page interview with William Easterly, an American economist who used to work for the World Bank. He's a lefty Democrat, against the war, not fond of Bush, and prejudiced against Middle America. However, he points out that wars are lousy for the economy because they create uncertainty and that oil wasn't a motive in the war, since "if Bush wants more oil, there are many friendly countries willing to sell it to him." Also, arms manufacturers are such a small part of the US economy that their gains in production are way more than offset by the losses any war would cause to the economy as a whole. He also said, most importantly to him since he's written a book about it, that charity to the Third World don't work no good at all and the only ways to improve Third World countries are to lower immigration barriers so students and workers can come North and gain the necessary experience, and to eliminate customs barriers so that when they are able to produce something cheaper than we can, they can sell it in our markets.

So three cheers for Mr. Easterly, even if he is a lefty Democrat ashamed of his West Virginia roots, for saying "The demagogy of NGOs and institutional charities while we keep them from competing is the problem. It's more comfortable for us to give them charity than to open our markets and our frontiers so that they can share our salaries and jobs." That would be putting our walk where our talk is. It's much easier to yell about peace and love than it is to actually get any changes made that are actually going to help people, and those changes are going to have a short-term cost and a long-term benefit for us. We're going to have to adjust to the short-term shock of actually dealing with cut-price competition that is willing to outwork us.

Not a single one of the oh-we're-so-moral "No a la guerra" marchers is aware that we can only help the poor by letting them help themselves. In fact, 95% of them would be against it because they're afraid of immigration and competition, and they're very generous about demonstrating in the street when they think a problem doesn't affect them personally. But they won't agree to anything that might interfere with the security of their peaceful bourgeois lives. And they like them moros just fine over there on the other side of the Med, but they're not real big on havin' 'em in Terrassa and El Ejído and Tàrrega.

Sorry. That's how the free market works, people, and yelling about how this shouldn't be so is like yelling at the waves to stop breaking on the shore. And it's the only way to help those poor folks become prosperous. That is, if you actually care anything about their welfare.

Here's a small article about Mr. Easterly from yesterday's Vangua by the X-man himself, Xavier Mas de Xaxàs, former correspondent in Washington who has seen at least part of the light since coming home. He went just a little bit native over there and he didn't recognize it until he came back here, I figure.

Economist Easterly casts doubt on Barcelona aid to Iraq

There are cities that have no restraint when it comes to solidarity with other cities at war. Barcelona is an example. It did so with Sarajevo and it will do it again with Baghdad. Mayor Joan Clos met last Friday with 25 NGOs to prepare the aid that will be sent to Iraq.

these actions, however, do not convince William Easterly, one of the most prestigious American economists. His specialty is development and his theory is that no action of solidarity is successful if it is not accompanied by incentives for the affected populace to help itself. In this sense, he does not believe that cities are in a better position than states to reconstruct the damages of war. Barcelona, for example, may cmake Baghdad's water supply potable, and this will have an immediate positive effect, but then it will not function without some public or private entity that is honest and effective.

Easterly, who was in Barcelona yesterday promoting his book, "In Search of Growth", believes that Barcelona, like the World Bank and the NGOs, fall into the temptation of offering aid that serves its own mediatic interests but not the people who need it. Barceloan, for example, didn't only send aid to Sarajevo, but opened an office there that built housing, schools, and services. This effort, however, was not supported by wider actions that would have guaranteed the correct use of this infrastructure. Easterly, now a professor at NYU, considers that Western solidarity always ends up in whatever programs will get the biggest possible headlines, as is now happening in Iraq. This dynamic, impatient and not transparent, damages the majority of the poor countries and has caused reconstruction plans in Palestine, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Somalia to fail.

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