A letter to the editor

SIR – The Department of International Development is spending some £9 billion a year, some of which goes on the provision of trips from Britain to South Africa for young, female soccer coaches.

No doubt friendships have been made, lives improved and a good time had by all – but this is hardly the reduction in destitution that we are all willing to pay for.

The current hard times call for hard choices and hard-nosed study of the effectiveness of government spending in achieving declared goals. If the Government really wished to reduce poverty around the world, it would be campaigning to abolish the Common Agricultural Policy and the heinous import duties that keep the products of the poor out of the EU.

This could all be done for a lot less than £9 billion and would have a much greater effect on reducing poverty than the temporary export of soccer coaches has done.

Tim Worstall
Messines, Portugal

27 comments on “A letter to the editor

  1. We hear again and again that our leaders want wealth to be redistributed so why won’t they let it happen by choice rather than by force?

    It brings with it a great deal of attention doesn’t it. If leaders and civil servants can pick and choose which projects, which countries, which vested interests get *our* money they buy themselves many favours.

  2. SadButMadLad

    You can’t know a thing about China or India if you call them first world.

    The term is of course a bit redundant these days but I can’t possibly follow your argument.

    India and China both have large GDPs but small GDP per capitas.

    Foreign Aid is probably best directed at getting the right institutions for growth created in the developing world but it is also vitally important to relieve poverty. There still exists truly astounding poverty in both India and China.

    I don’t like referencing wikipedia, but as it seems you’ve done almost no research into it I suppose you can start there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_India

    By all means argue that both India and China have sustainable, viable growth models and that therefore no longer need our aid, but don’t pretend there aren’t people living in just as desperate poverty there as in other “worthy” countries, presumably in SS Africa.

    Singapore and EU countries from what I’m aware of are probably not suitable countries for aid. But that you lump Singapore and China together is somewhat disingenuous.

  3. Left Outside,

    Nobody is claiming India doesn’t have a lot of people in absolute poverty. The argument is about whether or not we should pay for India’s space program when we are beaten up almost daily by our lefties about how much poverty we have in this country.

  4. @Leftoutside
    If you read the Telegraph article (I don’t like referencing it but needs must and it has the same authority as Wiki) you will notice that the money going to India is not going to the needy targets. India insists on controlling any aid through official channels and that means that it could be going anywhere. No one knows where. And India is giving aid to other countries (http://itec.nic.in/) so why is it getting aid from us? Anyway, India is taking enough money from us in terms of running call centres and IT projects why do we need to give them more money.

    Anyway the aid that we give does not really help poverty. For instance the aid to China includes “storytelling projects” to encourage Chinese children to campaign against climate change. Wow that really helps them in their fight against poverty. They might be other aid projects which do help Chinese peasants, but even if there is one project like the stortytelling one then their whole programme is called into question because it means that some very dodgy decison making is going on.

    And then there is the waste that occurs in running the projects. See the comment by F Woodhams in the Telegraph article. Not forgetting ACTIS which was split from DfID’s investment arm CDC where the ex public servants managed to earn £65 millions in bonuses.

    A country with a nuclear weaponry and access to space not a 1st world country. Hahh Hahhh ha. Anyway, it’s not a task for the UK to sort out other countries problems if they can sort it out themselves but choose not to do so. Unless you think that invading a country to help its people escape the clutches of their ruler is the right thing to do.

    It’s a tired cliche, but charity does really begin at home. I would side with you if we weren’t in a major recession and have to make loads of cut backs and serious decisions about saving money to allow out children to have a country to grow up in.

    Finally, just to rub it in. Looking at the Wiki article about Indian poverty it shows the level has fallen to around 26% around 2000 and has probably falled further since then. However, other sources (http://www.poverty.org.uk/)show that the poverty level in the UK is around 22% in 2007/8. So who needs it now then? Eh?

  5. Regardless of whether India and China are first or third world on any measure, I find it a bit ridiculous that the UK gives aid money to countries with a space programme.

  6. ..or nuclear weapons.

    My response here is basically the same as I gave over at Iain Dale’s when he got upset that we still send Aid to Malawi while they are prosecuting people acting gay in public.

    International aid should be by choice, not compulsion. It should be volunteered. Then, when the poor of a country hear that X was provided by people of the UK, they know it was given freely, with an open heart, not forced from us by an egotistical government who wants to strut around touting for “big cheque photo ops”.

    The ring-fencing of international aid does not pass the sniff test.

  7. Left Outside said: “Foreign Aid is probably best directed at getting the right institutions for growth created in the developing world but it is also vitally important to relieve poverty. ”

    Assuming the money is spent on relieving poverty (which is a very, very large assumption), with British money and actions doing the good those native States ought to be doing those native States will never relieve poverty off their own bat.

    See: What sort of country is this?

    How much British aid money gets spent at the sharp end and how much goes to pay for some very expensive aid workers to get something good on their CV?

    Why should the money be taken by force rather than volunteered?

  8. Left Outside:

    “it is also vitally important to relieve poverty. There still exists truly astounding poverty in both India and China.”

    So if Bill Gates was starving his kids, we

  9. The left seem to make a lot of noise about inequality, and the gap between the richest and the poorest, in western countries. Then they demand that taxes are raised in the west, to spend on the poorest all over the world, but they never extend that demand to the wealthy folks in the Gulf states, or the far east, or Africa, or South America. The wealth gaps there are vast, and obscene.

    But you will never see the poverty hustlers throwing stones at the Saudi Embassy, or the Sudanese Embassy. People in Zimbabwe are going hungry, while Mugabe continues to hand out productive farmland to his supporters, and his Chinese friends. North Korea, having wiped out the life savings of her entire population, continues to keep her ruling class in unimaginable luxury.
    And we are taxing the binmen of Sutton Coldfield, so that the assorted celebrity wealthies and worthies of the western world can take the credit, and cover themselves in glory.
    That is obscene.

  10. Tim, darling, there are some rather angry, athletic looking women at the door, were you expecting anyone?

  11. “As Mr Newman says, any country with its own space and nuclear weapons programmes should automatically be chucked out of the begging bowl club.”

    So the people of North Korea which has nuclear weapons and can send missiles into space can go hang? They can go hang by your reasoning principally because they have a ruler shitty enough to exploit them beyond the point of existence to fund these things. I am afraid things are more complicated than you think.

    Like I said. If you think the development paths certain countries are on, and you can argue that the aid is doing things which are damaging it, like distorting the exchange rate or causing inflation then fine; argue against it.

    But because a STATE has certain capabilities it doesn’t automatically mean that the PEOPLE nominally served by that state have those capabilities or chose for their state to have those capabilities. Its pretty right wing STATE=/=PEOPLE stuff here, I would have thought you’d be on board. So convince me that the state isn’t exploiting those people to do the things to which you take exception.

    Likewise, the alternative to “eliminating all bad aid” is not “only good aid” because it is not necessarily possible to identify ex ante what good aid will be. Ex post revision of what aid is given where is needed. Getting all anti-aid because of “The Department of International Development… spending some £9 billion a year, some of which goes on the provision of trips from Britain to South Africa for young, female soccer coaches” isn’t constructive. Be anti the aid spent on female soccer coaches if you think it is money badly spent (but is it? I suspect so but I’ve not seen the cost benefit analysis done to justify it.) but don’t argue that all aid is shit. It isn’t.

    I’m going to ignore the Bill Gates starving kids thing because its stupid. Actually no I’m not. If Bill Gates were starving his kids guess what?! They’d be taken off him by the social (or should be) and then yep! mine and your taxes would cover their food. You got a problem with stopping child abuse? (that’s probably a little below the belt, but seriously man, that was a rubbish example).

    The rest of your comment Monty is a little more worthy. But frankly why would I target the Saudis? I have perhaps, and with rounding, zero influence in the UK and have slightly less than that in the Gulf. I do think the wealth is shocking and I’m not alone http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/16/gulf-states-asian-workers-rights You’ve constructed many straw men here you know.

    btw, this is important.

    Indian poverty and British poverty are not the same. India’s poverty is a state of near death, constantly scraping for the next meal and a life without clean water. British poverty is unpleasant, but it (almost always) won’t kill you. Don’t confuse them as, with calling India and China first world countries, it will make you look incredibly foolish to anyone who understands anything about the topic on which you’re commenting.

    Anything I miss?

    Tim adds: “Anything I miss?”

    Err, yes.

    “Indian poverty and British poverty are not the same. India’s poverty is a state of near death, constantly scraping for the next meal and a life without clean water. British poverty is unpleasant, but it (almost always) won’t kill you. Don’t confuse them as,”

    Therefore we should alleviate human misery by entirely ignoring the bullshit about inequality in the UK and spend the budget on alleviating that real, “near death” poverty, shouldn’t we? Switch a couple of hundred billion £ from paying for chavs to have fags’n’booze to making sure that really poor people have lentils.

    I’m game, not sure you are.

  12. Left Outside:

    “So the people of North Korea which has nuclear weapons and can send missiles into space can go hang? ”

    Yes. That’s exactly what I mean.

    “They can go hang by your reasoning principally because they have a ruler shitty enough to exploit them beyond the point of existence to fund these things. ”

    Precisely.
    They are the supine, grovelling population who keep that little shitheel in power over them. They should have shot his bloody Dad long before he was born. If it wasn’t for their acquiescence, he would never have had nukes to point at the rest of us.

    I’m not interested in shelling out hard-earned money, or spilling British blood, to stave off the collapse of a rotten regime which is not of our making.

    Oh, and if Bill Gates kids were starving, I’d knock nine bells of hell out of him, confiscate all his money, then I’d take responsibility for raising them.

  13. Ah Monty, I see.

    You’re one of those people who hang out on Libertarian (classical liberal) blogs who is actually just an unpleasant little shit.

    I don’t think I really need to refute what you’ve said as its so ridiculous, kind of a waste of my time.

    If anyone at all thinks Monty just won this little exchange then I’ll of course explain, but I don’t think that likely.

  14. Yes you do need to refute what I’ve said.
    You are the one who is demanding money from the rest of us, to furnish your largesse abroad. And your only real justification is so that you, and your fellow spivs, can feel good about yourselves.

    It’s a free country, so go ahead and send your own money to North Korea. All the food you send will be used to feed the army of Kim Yong Il, all the medicine you send will be impounded by him, and then sold by him and his cronies. And it will all help the b*stard to stay in power. That’s your business.

    Latter day Robin Hoods like you, need to keep sight of one important fact. You are just an extortionist. You are not taxing a population for their common benefit, but for someone else’s.

  15. So when you said…

    “Precisely.
    They are the supine, grovelling population who keep that little shitheel in power over them. They should have shot his bloody Dad long before he was born. If it wasn’t for their acquiescence, he would never have had nukes to point at the rest of us.

    I’m not interested in shelling out hard-earned money, or spilling British blood, to stave off the collapse of a rotten regime which is not of our making.

    Oh, and if Bill Gates kids were starving, I’d knock nine bells of hell out of him, confiscate all his money, then I’d take responsibility for raising them.”

    You actually meant…

    “Aid is ineffective when given to dictatorial absolutist regimes.”

    Oh and the stuff about beating up Bill Gates? That’s nonsense, you sound like a child.

    Anyway, what you said about Koreans sounded like to me that you were talking sanctimonious condescending shit.

    Something must be lost in translation somewhere, eh?

    But I suppose you don’t want to defend what you actually said, oh no, you’d rather shift attention onto something else, move the proverbial goal posts: Why pay for aid out of taxation?

    Because we all gain from the alleviation of poverty and paying for it out of taxation helps avoid free-riding.

    Another reason, I would argue, is that policies (largely our trade policies) are responsible for part of the poverty some of those recipients find themselves, aid ameliorates that.

    Solidarity, I suppose, too.

    (btw, Spivs? Robin Hoods? Were you are at the back of the queue when they were handing out insults?)

    Anyway, when you say “All the food you send will be used to feed the army of Kim Yong Il, all the medicine you send will be impounded by him, and then sold by him and his cronies.” you’re not making a value judgement you’re making an empirical claim.

    And although a lot of the good sent to NK are seized, some get through to the people and do save lives. Its just more expensive to save each life and your money does aggrandise bastards. Its a trade off, and one which I’m not completely comfortable with and my mind is not completely made up one way or the other. I would take this moment to point out you are not convincing me.

    So again, anyone bar Monty, who’s taken up enough of my time feel any sympathy for someone who said of the most oppressed on earth “They are the supine, grovelling population who keep that little shitheel in power over them. They should have shot his bloody Dad long before he was born. If it wasn’t for their acquiescence, he would never have had nukes to point at the rest of us.”?

  16. I’m not convincing you??

    I don’t have to convince you, you chiselling beggar.
    You are the one who wants my money.
    You have to convince me.
    I don’t have to do anything, or pay anything.

  17. “Because we all gain from the alleviation of poverty and paying for it out of taxation helps avoid free-riding.”

    No we all bloody don’t, because if we did we would do it voluntarily, without the need for taxation. And no it doesn’t avoid free-riding. There is no shortage of freeloading among the recipients. I think what you mean is there is no escape for dissenters who object to being robbed blind.

    “Another reason, I would argue, is that policies (largely our trade policies) are responsible for part of the poverty some of those recipients find themselves, aid ameliorates that.

    Solidarity, I suppose, too.”

    Perhaps they should try capitalism then. After all, it worked for us. The wealth creation thing.

    Actually working out what they are best at making, offering for export to the rest of the world, and making their case for free trade. Gearing up their society to support enterprising people, creating well paid jobs, and providing goods and services.

    They would be able to tell you where to shove your solidarity then. And they would.

    You know where you can shove your moral blackmailing tactics. I’ve seen too many panhandlers like you on the tube stations.

  18. “too many panhandlers like you on the tube stations”

    Again with the crap insults!

    Anyway the point on all gaining from the alleviation of povety is from Milton Friedman circa 1960s, take it up with him. You also don’t appear to understand the concept of freeriding.

    I can’t really be bothered to converse with you, you aren’t making much sense. And you’re obviously not listening to what I’m saying.

    You have your odd Nozickean view of how a just world looks and I do not, you are too busy calling me a thief to justify your views whereas I’ve at least attempted to justify mine.

  19. “you are too busy calling me a thief to justify your views whereas I’ve at least attempted to justify mine”

    You want to use the power of the state, to force me to give you my money, so you can spend it on your own priorities. You justify it by making totally unfounded claims that I somehow owe this money, and if that doesn’t work, you raise the banner of “solidarity”. Anything to get the money. At all costs, you want the money.
    You just don’t want to be there when the actual stealing and extortion happen.
    Have you ever thought of running a protection racket? You’d be a natural at it. And you wouldn’t have to face the unpleasant encounters with your victims, you would just send lackeys to threaten them and make them pay their “tax”.

  20. So again, anyone bar Monty, who’s taken up enough of my time feel any sympathy for someone who said of the most oppressed on earth “They are the supine, grovelling population who keep that little shitheel in power over them. They should have shot his bloody Dad long before he was born. If it wasn’t for their acquiescence, he would never have had nukes to point at the rest of us.”?

    There is an element of truth to this. I lost much of my sympathy for the Stalin’s victims when I learned that many of the victims of the second wave of the Great Terror were those who pulled the triggers or gave the orders during the first wave, and the victims of the third wave were often dripping blood off their elbows from the second wave. Far too many of those who ended up in the Gulag were perfectly happy with Soviet Communism until the NKVD came knocking on their own doors. And the more I read about the Soviet oppression, the more I realise that it was not imposed on them by martians but a product entirely of their own making which required the active support of millions of people and the passive support of tens of millions more. A leader can only oppress his people if there are a couple of million people willing to join in with the oppression.

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