Tuesday, June 12, 2007

G8 Performs the Ritual Again

In my post of January 2nd 2006 I wrote about how the morality of altruism is a morality of ritual performance in which actually helping others is optional. I used the examples of tobacco money not being used as promised and how the 2005 G8 meeting's intentions of helping Africans but actually failing to do so, demonstrated this fact. I wrote in part:
After the Africans have eaten the fish handed to them they will still be there with the same needs next year so the next G8 can perform the same ritual. And the media will shower them with praise for their noble and virtuous efforts. More billions will be spent. The corrupt governments will still be in power and ripping off most of this aid. And the Africans will still need.

Actually helping the Africans is irrelevant. Performing the ritual is absolutely essential.
Well, Not much has changed in 2 years. The G8 nations are at it again. This website has a long list of links and examples of how little good all the billions in G8 aid to Africa really does. The site author has mixed premises on things like free markets and capitalism but it has a wealth of articles and sites to link to that demonstrate the fact that actually helping Africans is not happening. And yet the ritual continues.

In fact, if anyone were to propose that since the ritual is ineffective, let's stop performing it, all hell would break lose. "How dare you be so heartless and cruel to the African peoples" the media would shout. "How could you condemn the Africans to perpetual, hopeless poverty and millions of deaths by disease every year?" would scream college professors and politicians. The fact that their G8 rituals do nothing to alleviate this human disaster that is Africa, means nothing to these altruists. But this uproar would prove that performing the ritual is absolutely essential.

If you doubt this consider that the G8 pledges began in 1970. The G8 nations were supposed to begin with pledges that would eventually reach 7 tenths of one percent of GDP for each G8 nation by the year 2015. Now I don't know about anyone else's interpretation of this but to me an international welfare plan lasting 45 years reveals no desire to lift Africa out of poverty. Just the opposite. Africa is not a developed or developing nation. It is a not-to-be-developed nation. Why else the prolonged state of international welfare recipient?

The G8 nations, and the rest of the world for that matter, represented by the UN, are saying to the Africans in effect "We are not concerned with the root cause of your poverty and strife. Being loyal to our value of pragmatism, we are only concerned with the reality immediately before our eyes, and that would be your physical suffering. So, that is the problem we intend to address and we will do so by making a sacrifice. We will sacrifice the pleasure we would have received by spending this $ 60 billion on ourselves and give it to you to temporarily alleviate your misery. We expect no physical values in return. Our reward is the absolutely essential feeling we must have of thinking we are noble and virtuous people. Your continued destitution makes that possible. Thank you and see you in a year."

Now how would it look if the G8 approached Africa from a moral position of rational self-interest instead of altruism? While there are probably several different forms this could take, I think a rationally self-interested G8 would say something like this: "Because we love life, we value those things that sustain and enhance life. A free and prosperous Africa accomplishes those values. To achieve this end, we want to make not a sacrifice, but a trade, a very selfish trade. We will offer you a chance to end the present massive suffering once and for all. We propose to come into your country and revamp the government. In a nutshell, we'll provide your country with the same political, social and philosophical framework that made us so healthy, wealthy and powerful. Our reward will be two fold: first the selfish satisfaction of knowing we have been loyal to our values and second, we hope that when you are free enough, there will be trade between us."

Of course, a G8 like that can't exist until the morality of rational self-interest gains much more traction in the western populaces.

One final note: This isn't just an issue of G8 incompetence as some people think. The practical and moral issues are what the unearned increment does to an entire society. Gus Van Horn has a good post on how aid hurts Africa in his Quick roundup 203 here.


z said...

You've probably seen this on other blogs: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,363663,00.html

Mike N said...

I tried linking to it but I get a story on a document. If it is about the G8 meeting and Ms. Merkle, yes I've seen it. If not, then no.