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Foreign Aid Is Not Working----But Neither Are The Reasons Given For It

Here is a quiz. What do the following blockbuster books have in common?

"The Trouble with Africa--why foreign aid isn't working" by Robert Calderisi
"The White Man's Burden---Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good" by William Easterly
"The Bottom Billion---Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It" by Paul Collier
"Dead Aid---Why Aid Is Not Working And How There Is A Better Way For Africa" by Dambisa Moyo

The answer can be found merely by looking at their respective indices. Only in Collier's book is the word "population" or "populations" mentioned, and then only four times. And more incredibly, Collier treats it only in a positive light, by stating that a larger population is one of those factors which is a precondition for a poor country effecting a "turnaround". Nowhere in any of these books does the word "overpopulation" appear. There you have it. To Garrett Hardin's sarcastic statement that no one ever died from overpopulation, one is tempted to add the corollary that no desperately poor and famished country ever needed birth control to climb out of its misery.

Calderisi offers "Ten Ways to Change Africa". Guess what? Family planning ain't one of them. Instead we have these remedies:
1. Introduce Mechanisms For Tracing and Recovering Public Mechanisms.
2. Require all heads of state, ministers and senior officials to open their bank accounts to public scrutiny.
3. Cut aid to individual countries in half.
4. Focus direct aid on four to five countries that are serious about reducing poverty.
5. Require all countries to hold internationally-supervised elections.
6. Promote other aspects of democracy, including a free press and an independent judiciary.
7. Supervise the running of Africa's schools and HIV/Aids Programs.
8. Establish citizen review groups to oversee government policy and aid agreements.
9. Put more emphasis on infrastructure and regional links.
10. Merge the World Bank, IMF and United Nations Development Programme.

All good suggestions worthy of consideration no doubt. But hasn't the thought that too many people chasing too few resources may have something to with war, famine, wildlife poaching, deforestation, soil exhaustion and erosion, disease, and a myriad of other ills that plague these failed African states---- even crossed his mind? Hello?

Then along comes William Easterly with his six suggestions for those who want to "aid the poor".
1. Have aid agents individually accountable for individual, feasible areas for action that help poor people lift themselves up.
2. Let those agents search for what works, based on past experience.
3. Experiment, based on results of the search.
4. Evaluate, based on feedback from the intended beneficiaries and scientific testing.
5. Reward success and penalize failure. Get more money to interventions that are working, and take money away from interventions that are not working. Each aid agent should explore and specialize further in the direction of what they prove good at doing.
6. Make sure incentives in (5) are strong enough to do more of what works, then repeat step (4). If action fails, make sure incentives in (5) are strong enough to send the agent back to step (1). If the agent keeps failing, get a new one.

Once again, some pragmatic, hard-boiled advice from someone frustrated at the fact the aid most often get to those who need it. But once again, nothing about addressing poverty by preventing births rather than simply trying to keep people alive. And Paul Collier has his solutions. He notes that "since around half of all civil wars are post-conflict relapses', a charter for post-conflict governance would be in order, as well as a charter for the wealth obtained from natural resource extraction, including a transparency initiative. And since the army "catches the scent" of large infows of aid money, external military guarantees against coups could not only reinforce incentives for good governance but also leverage effective scrutiny from an empowered citizenry. Collier is a not an unabashed free marketeer. He argues that the bottom billion cannot break into new export markets without temporary and strong protection against "the Asian giants". But he insists that for the majority of the developing world, capitalism is working, and that the goal should be to help the basket cases build market economies by attracting private investment. He argues that the left needs to learn to love growth, because while "growth is not a cure-all, lack of growth is a kill-all". Like other critics, he maintains that aid is spread too thin. The development problem is about the bottom billion who are stuck in poverty who are not here to be guinea-pigs for failed socialist experiments.

What is surreal about Collier's gospel of comparative advantage, developing export markets and growth promotion is his failure to acknowledge the impact of economic activity on biodiversity services and climate change. If economic growth is to be the goal of African reform, then aggressive "de-growth" in developed countries must be pursued as a global offset. If capitalism is working, it certainly isn't working for the environment, which after all is our life support system. Someone needs to remind these critics that human extinction is bad for the bottom line. Dambisa Moyo is also a growth booster and a champion of trade. Kicking the aid -dependency cycle is necessary for good governance, which for her, "trumps all". Corrupt and incompetent governments effectively raise the cost of doing business or investing. And despite donor conditionalities, aid is easily stolen or redirected. All sound points But add Moyo to the list of analysts for whom overpopulation is an utterly inconspicuous agent of scarcity.

In some ways the predicament of failing states mired in poverty can be likened to a cancer patient surrounded by a team of oncologists who inform him to rest, take vitamins and avoid sugar, but make no mention of his chain-smoking. Population myopia is a strange affliction. It is as if the growth virus is equipped with a cloaking device that makes it unseen by the timid and the politically correct. No wonder the media and state broadcasters in particular, are loath to confront it, and instead offer us mock debates between what in reality, are false polarities trapped in their own cycle of denial.

Tim Murray,
July 1, 2010

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Also very noticeable by its omission is the subject of land distribution. All these colonies and ex-colonies were once steady state and self-sufficient, without overpopulation problems. Clans, tribes, villages were disorganised by dispossession which also made them absolutely dependent on their labour for survival. Since child-labour was not outlawed, or, if outlawed, not enforced, the only means the dispossessed had of increasing their wages was having children who could be sent out to work.

Also missing is how the private and public investors in dodgy businesses in the third world are able to save money on wages by paying pittances to the victims of overpopulation.

What would add to the analysis is to ask: Where are the focused benefits and the diffuse costs? Focused benefits come to the individuals and organisations (including churches and NGOs) which benefit from the stolen land, businesses which use and abuse cheap labour, and to the corporations which loot corrupt countries with the assistance of paid-off corrupt officials and rulers (who also benefit directly). Focused benefits come to shareholders in the looting corporations and to customers of cheap imported goods (even though these things undermine their own manufacturing ability - but that is a 'diffuse' cost, not so promptly felt).

The costs are diffuse and distant for those who benefit directly. The beneficiaries are removed geographically and socially from those who pay the awful costs of overpopulation. How real is the plight of perpetually malnourished men, women and children to those who do not know them personally or even see them?

Silly explanations and lies easily serve to placate the beneficiaries of corporate colonialism. Such lies as "These people need children to look after them" serve to cloak the real problem which is low wages and lack of land and therefore lack of choice about how much rent you pay and whether work for a boss or for yourself, and whether, therefore, you can support yourself in your old age.

Stupid and harmful 'theories' like the demographic transition, which pretend that one day these people will be wealthy and react to this by having fewer children, lie in their implicit promise of wealth in systems that perdure only through the promotion of poverty. They lie flagrantly in their fiction of a norm where people have fewer children when they are wealthy. First world countries had smaller families during depressions, not during times of wealth. The 'baby-boom' happened at the peak of oil wealth.

People who purvey the benign demographic transition myth are complicit in promoting the system that profits from overpopulation, destitution and dispossession. In a sane and democratic society demographers in charge of marketing the 'demographic transition' would be lambasted for purveying this silly myth and those who persisted would be tried for its tragic consequences. It makes you question the whole justification of foreign aid organisations when you realise that they, first and foremost, market the benign demographic transition myth, and profit from it.

Aid programs are mostly about creating 'opportunities' for business in poor, undemocratic, foreign countries, although always on the pretext that those businesses are creating 'jobs' or structures for the benighted people in those countries.

Finally, once you see who profits and who pays for third world overpopulation and continued poverty, so inextricably linked to child labour, you can surely see that there is little mystery in people failing to question the obvious. They are either implicity or explicitly benefiting from the promotion of blatant lies and childish mystification of the causes of hunger and misery.

A lot of people do believe these lies because those lies are purveyed continuously in the press by people marketed by the press as unquestionable authorities. A lie constantly repeated gains the consistency of truth and ordinary people are conditions against the necessary self-assertion to question truths conveyed to them by people they believe to be their betters. In this the 'majority' are no more empowered than most villains about the real attributes of nobility.

We are becoming a passive society of official spectators looking on while official people play professional sport, write official books, official articles, officially act, judge, make laws to promote their own interests, and pronounce official opinions. Those who are officially spectators no longer believe that they even have the right to question the official reality, no matter how absurd. At best they may laugh politely at it when official actors and comedians make official weak jokes about the irony of their positions.

All the time, in the 'First World', the dispossession and overpopulation machine is working to create the same conditions that the 'Firstworlders' deplore and find so mysterious and intractible in the third world.

Here in Australia every state government is in the business of raising the price of land beyond the capacity of most people to pay for it, creating exorbitant rents, and (relatedly) overpopulating its state without democratic consultation and whilst ignoring many strong protests. How does that differ from what happened to Africa or Polynesia? Only in that we still have laws preventing child labour, but how long will that last or be enforced?

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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Copyright to the author. Please contact sheila [AT] candobetter org or the editor if you wish to make substantial reproduction or republish.

"Here in Australia every state government is in the business of raising the price of land beyond the capacity of most people to pay for it, creating exorbitant rents,"

Really? Government is forcing private land owners to raise their prices? There's no market economy in Australia? I had no idea they were not a capitalist economy.

What does any of what you said Sheila have to do with the planet being over populated?

The FACTS are this. For every calorie of food energy we eat, there are 7-10 calories of oil energy in it. There is no getting around that, there are no alternatives to oil for that food.

So once oil goes into world wide terminal decline, aka peak oil, the planet cannot physically feed 6.7 billion people, not even 20% of that. The planet can only likely feed 5% of that.

We are at or very near peak oil. Once that starts, Sheila, none of your complaints will matter any more.

Sheila says: "
"A lot of people do believe these lies because those lies are purveyed continuously in the press by people marketed by the press as unquestionable authorities. A lie constantly repeated gains the consistency of truth and ordinary people are conditioned against the necessary self-assertion to question truths conveyed to them by people they believe to be their betters. In this the 'majority' are no more empowered than most villains about the real attributes of nobility."

This statement needs repitition. The Demographic Theory of Transition has been around since 1934, and the longer its tenure, the more entrenched it becomes. Mere fact cannot dislodge it. How many other such myths must we constantly contend with?
For example:

The myth that the empowerment of women---women's rights---will solve the overpopulation problem. But as Engleman's study showed, women, on average, want two children. That is at least one or two too many. In the context of this population emergency, NO ONE has any procreative rights. Only the right not to have children.

The myth that we can focus on lowering birth rates without allowing rising death rates to achieve the necessary population reductions. A one child per family regime, or even a no-child per family regime will not achieve the population reductions we need. The humanitarian impulse to cure cancer, aids, etc etc. is in fact, a declaration of war on sustainability. Precious resources must not be squandered in putting surplus billions on temporary life-support and encouraging more to join them. We need to focus on the 5% of humanity that might have a chance to carry the torch for our race. Callous? Not as callous as the die-off of 3.5 billion people in the decade ahead.

The replacement rate fallacy. Mother Nature doesn't give a crap about falling birth rates. It is the number of people who are alive now that counts. And BTW, by 2050 35% of the population will be in the prime reproductive stage of their lives.....

The fallacy of the spoiled only child--aka in China as the "little emperor's syndrome". Stanley Hall--father of child psychology--- came up with this myth in 1892, and despite the lack of an empirical foundation, it has prevailed to this day. The truth is, 'only' children outperform children with siblings in almost every category of well being, especially in education attainments. The more attention parents can give to a child--as a rule--the better that child fares. There is NO argument against a One-Child-Per-Family regime that is compelling enough to out weigh its obvious ecological benefits.

The myth of the aging population needing a broad base of youthful taxpayers to support them. Enough has been written to destroy this assumption, yet it holds court in the media every day still. What does it take to refute this 'conventional wisdom'? Two main points. The number of immigrants it would take to preserve the existing age structure is astronomical. In Canada immigration would have to be increased seven times its current level and sustained for forty years to keep the proportion of seniors at 20%. And who then would support them? A Ponzi scheme that would leave the environment and the taxpayer holding the bag. Secondly, the average age of immigrants is only about two years less than the national average.

The myth that the birth rate "must" be at "replacement level" or our society will collapse (an argument which in tandem with open borders immigration arguments). How can replacing a population level that is already unsustainable make any sense? "But Germany, Russia, Italy and Japan" are losing people. Big effing deal! Industrial societies are in CRITICAL overshoot now---including "Germany, Russia, Italy and Japan". Wake up and smell the coffee!!!

The myth that only immigrants will do menial work---"work that our people won't do". As one man told me, "If you sent all the illegals back to Mexico the economy of the southwest would collapse" . This is just a rehash of the arguments used in the pre-bellum south: "If we freed the slaves the economy of the south would collapse." Native born people will do whatever work there is available---IF it pays a living wage. Since when does a low-wage slave economy make a nation prosperous? In North America, 80% of migrants fail to earn enough income to reimburse governments with taxes to pay for the services they consume. A Canadian needs to earn $25,000 per year for the government just to break even. New Canadians don't even come close to that. In America, it takes 5 Walmart employees or 9 hamburger flippers at MacDonalds to pay for the pension of one retiree. The ratio for union employees---largely outsourced and squeezed out of existence----is two or three to one. The truth is, importing a slave labour caste to do the menial work is CORPORATE WELFARE, plain and simple. There is NO net benefit to domestic consumers.

The myth that all we need to do is to increase energy "efficiency" and per capita consumption and reduce per capita waste and all is safe. Again, nature only cares about total impacts. Per capita efficiences within the context of a market economy are growth ENABLERS. They only provoke MORE consumption by the virtue of lowering per unit costs and per unit waste.

The myth that we can consume our way to sustainability by "going green" with the purchase of "green" products. The way to go green is to STOP consuming! You do that in two ways. You don't sire or give birth to more consumers, and you limit your purchases.

The myth of GREEN capitalism. Capitalism is all about the generation of wants and their graduation into "NEEDS" that can only be satisfied by buying more, and more, and more. Choosing "green" products does not make this process ecologically benign.

The myth that the "profit motive" is the root of all evil. We know about "disaster" capitalism. But check out "disaster socialism"---read the June 1991 issue of National Geographic. The command economy turned Eastern Europe into a smoggy toxic waste dump---and China and North Korea are following that path. The root of our problem is industrialism. Capitalism is just a form of management of a fundamentally unsustainable society with a resource utilization mix heavily weighted to non-renewables most of which have already peaked (87% in America).

The myth that immigration is not a population issue. That is, tightening the borders will have NO impact on global overpopulation. WRONG. Open borders are a proven fertility stimulant to countries of emigration. Every extra child increases the chance of an offspring landing a passport in the land of milk and honey. The successful immigrant then can send back remittance money and anchor the citizenship bid of relatives down the chain. And by offering a safety value to foreign dictators, immigration relieves the pressure to force changes at home, most especially the need to face up to overpopulation.

And on and on and on........

In response to Sheila's observation that every state government is in the busiesss of raising the price of land beyond the capacity of most people to pay for it, Richard asks, provocatively, if government is forcing land owners to raise their prices. They don't need to. Land owners will raise prices as much as the market will bear. Anyone selling their house will do that---I know I have, twice. But who conditions the market by a combination of fiscal policy and the inflation of the number of home seekers? Governments do that through open immigration and pro-natalist policies. John Marlowe put it this way: "The sheer volume of immigrants to Australia are -over-demanding housing forcing housing scarcity and price rises making housing unaffordable to Australians. Governments are encouraging urban property price increases - through excess immigration, and urban-centric economic stimulus, yet all the while neglecting social responsibility for providing urban capacity..."

And what does that have to do with global overpopulation? As I have stated, open immigration is a proven fertility stimulant to developing nations of emigration, and it also acts as a safety valve for those nations so that they don't have to come to grips with their own population overload. Open immigration is pull factor that leaves more room for demographic growth in the sending nation.

Will any of this matter when the rising price of oil will cull the population through starvation? In the long run, probably not. In that central point, I am afraid that Richard is right. But resisting immigration will shorten the casualty list at home anyway, and perhaps buy more time for remaining biodiversity. My hope anyway....

Until the aid agencies and our governments recognise the unsustainable population growth rates, giving aid is like mopping up the floor while the tap is still running! This problem is simply ignored as irrelevant. People in the "West" use contraception, so why is the topic of family planning shunned for developing nations?

Earlier this year I went into the Bourke St Melbourne office of Marie Stopes to make a donation to their womens health clinic in Lae PNG.

The middle aged woman in charge of PNG programs (herself an immigrant from NZ) told me with innocent faced wonder, that Australia didn't have a population probem.
"Without immigration, Australia's population would be declining", he said sweetly.

When people like this, who work hands-on, full-time in third world family planning, spout ignorant nonsense, the mountain ahead is steep. Too steep for dumb homo sapiens.

Editorial comment: Offensive material has been removed.

Warmists ignore the impact of population on over-use of resources. They ignore the unarguable fact that too many humans are reducing everyone's quality of life.

If you raise this issue, warmists will ignore it. I wondered why this is so, concluding their closed minds are more to do with a longed-for intellectual recognition of their science, and the excitement surrounding the search for sustainables, rather than the public's silenced desire to harmonise a range of mitigation methods.

On foreign aid, and the donor public's growing resistance, Bob Geldof has morphed into a professional speaker, making a financially rewarding career out of the subject of foreign aid...

We in advanced economies pour billions of dollars into aid for populous nations, and the employment industry surrounding the distribution of these funds, and we are so often upset by reports about our money paying for guns bought by corrupt regimes.

With diminishing resources on every continent, one would expect that population stabilisation, followed by population reduction would be a worthy and justifiable program funded by some proportion of our foreign aid money.

I suggest that the ignorance surrounding the over-population subject and the delivery of money to countries and cultures that multiply their numbers, is some of the reason that there is deep public resistance to forced energy austerity measures proposed by warmists.

Climate changers appear to be mopping the floor with the tap still running, but do not want to address the public's quiet resistance to their rather complicated (albeit contributory valuable) natural energy solutions. They do not address excessive global population as both most of the problem and some of the answer.

Contraception is an important factor in addressing global over-population but the Catholic church for example advocates against, and this is proving particularly detrimental in AIDS-riddled countries such as Africa. Statistics seem to be showing that couples in advanced economies are now limiting their families to two children, and oftentimes to just one.

Baby bonuses should cease immediately and new programmes developed as incentives to halt population growth, concomitantly reduce energy consumption with the aim of returning to pre-1975 global population levels.