Saturday, 19 January 2008

Poverty, malaria, whales and all that

Africa is a poor, benighted place. Wouldn't want to live there. It's got war, civil war, civil strife, crime, poverty, disease, diseases of poverty, war crimes - the whole nine yards.

I occasionally walk past a do-gooder shop that wants to "end poverty now". That seems to involve giving people in Africa my money. I don't mind giving Africans my money, but I want something in exchange. I gave poor Chinese people money last week in exchange for a bike for monkey. We gave money to poor eastern europeans today when we bought a box of Lego. We stopped the Japanese and South Koreans and Singaporeans and Hong Kongers and Malaysians from being poor by giving them lots of money, and in return they gave us cars, digital watches, TV's, walkmen, CD players, VCRs, light trucks, clothes and shoes, mobile phones and many, many other things. Us westerners have been solving poverty in Asia for 60 years since WWII by buying lots of stuff from lots of Asians.

Africa would get a lot more money if they gave people something worthwhile in exchange. I'm not talking about witchdoctor masks and tiger penii - I'm talking about mobile phones, cars, computers, fax machines, aircraft parts, power station turbines, ships and all that sort of stuff. Think of how rich the Africans could be if they only made stuff that other people wanted!

I think I am getting off track, as usual.

Malaria is a big problem in a lot of Africa. Bill Gates has decided to throw lots of his money at the problem. In time, his swarms of scientists may develop a cure. Good luck to them - I hope they do. Malaria kills millions, debilitates millions more and is a major deadweight drag on development.

But what if we discovered that the most effective cure was derived from whales? How would our tree hugging friends react then? Is it worth say 100 humpbacked whales per year to save 5 million African children, or are whales so sacrosanct, they all have to die?

It's the kind of conundrum that should make their heads explode, but never will. DDT could save millions, but we aren't allowed to use it anymore because of a few deformed frogs.

Fuck the frogs. A good step on the path to ending poverty would be to spray DDT around like hot air from Al Gore.

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