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August 05, 2005

Comments

Andrew McGuinness

There is a reason why redistribution within our society might be expected to work better than redistribution globally: we have better knowledge and understanding of the effects of local aid, and more incentive to ensure that the effects are positive.

Paddy Carter

Something of a side issue this, but what do the numbers look like when adjusted for purchasing power parity? I suspect that £100 per week housing benefit would go a rather long way in Niger.

Also - and this is an idea I have not really thought through - spending within an economy - redistribution - feeds back into the system (is spent on UK products and services) and keeps the UK economic ball rolling. Money sent out of the economy (for which nothing in return in received) does not - it goes out of UK circulation. How much money can be siphoned out of the system before it stops being able to replenish itself? Perhaps the true "cost to the UK economy" of (notionally) helping the poor is not captured by the budget line (£127bn versus £4bn). So perhaps we are being a lot more generous with our overseas aid than it looks like (or conversely, a lot less generous with our internal spending).

This could be the most frightful nonsense, or it could be an insight worthy of a Nobel prize. Hard to say really.

jamie

There's also the relationship between morality and agency. No doubt DFID is currently distributing aid to people in a country I'm only dimly aware of to solve problems of which I've never heard. If you accept that I have a duty to help these people, I'm not really discharging this duty because I'm not actually aware that it exists.

I don't suppose it's going to happen for a minute but it would be interesting if government aid was distributed on a matching funding basis, ie that it doubled (or tripled, or whatever) money privately donated by members of the public. That might incentivise private charities while encouraging the population to take a greater interest in how and where the government discharges aid.

Curious

See the text on "suffering developing countries"

Here: http://culturefusion.blogspot.com/

Devil's Kitchen

"I don't suppose it's going to happen for a minute but it would be interesting if government aid was distributed on a matching funding basis, ie that it doubled (or tripled, or whatever) money privately donated by members of the public."

This is more or less what happens in the US. Figures here:

http://www.techcentralstation.com/0712055.html

Rob Read

The UK should have an optional income tax that goes towards funding foreign "aid". Anything else is slavery.

Redistribution is "code" for theft. The socialist system of legalised theft ensures that less is produced to be stolen.

The abolishment of slavery was the major moral acheivment of the previous century. However the desire to force people to work for your desires is strong, and so the disguised slavery of socialism popped up.

It must be fought with the same vigour.

jez

The idea that people suffering from starvation could be as happy-let alone happier-than us, is a bit far-fetched, don't you think?
The idea that we don't owe help to Africans because they are culturally removed from us, begs the following question: were they close enough, culturally, for us to colonise their lands?
Personally, I agree most with Robert Goodin. We owe help to all human beings, regardless of their origin or home.
Furthermore, Africa gives us plenty-in food, riches and culture.

Pete

Whilst I agree for the large part with this post, perhaps we might look at the ills carried out in the name of universalisable concepts of justice and morality?

Also, I would argue that the line between necessity and luxury is vague and indefinable. There are quotable extremes of course.

Rob Read

"Also, I would argue that the line between necessity and luxury is vague and indefinable."

This is not true! What is a Luxury is purely a personal taste.

Charity is certainly NOT a neccesity. It should be funded by personal taste only.

curious

"How much money can be siphoned out of the system before it stops being able to replenish itself? Perhaps the true "cost to the UK economy" of (notionally) helping the poor is not captured by the budget line (£127bn versus £4bn)."

As a share of national income the portion of money "siphoned" out of the system is not worth mentioning but it goes a mighty long way towards alleviating symptoms in developing countries(Short-termistic but much needed because of global failure to address the causes).
What about the causes? This is where the real issues for Africa lie. Ever heard of giving with one hand and taking with the other? Net movement = zero

Paddy Carter

curious,

my point was to ask whether measuring aid as a proportion of nation income is misleading. Your response that "as a share of national income the portion ... is not worth mentioning" rather illustrates my point.

This is not an argument against giving generously, just an argument that the issue is (/might be) commonly mischaracterised.

As for the notion that the cause of poverty in Africa, the real issue, is the West giving with one hand and taking with the other ... well I think you need to expand on that.

jayann

"This doesn’t justify redistributing less to foreigners than to Britons for two reasons. First, because there’s also some evidence that redistribution within the UK – at least in the forms it has taken – doesn’t work."

the "some evidence" being this:

"Great Ormonde Street Hospital, since it caters to children, is a major recipient of charitable funds. My own father left money to it in his will. But this same hospital has closed beds - putting capacity into mothballs."

I think you need to do better than that!

Not, I add, that I want to argue we necessarily have greater obligations to fellow-citizens or neighbours than to people we've never heard of, in countries we know virtually nothing about. I became my mother's carer rather than a carer for an old, ill, woman in Africa for obvious reasons of proximity and social expectation. Still, I might say (and I think I would) that an additional factor, that does have moral purchase, was her bearing and rearing of, and caring for, me. I owed her in a way that I do not directly owe a mother in Botswana. Am I deluding myself when I say this? I, like jez, tend to agree with Bob Goodin on points like this -- and I agree with you, jez, Africa has given us much -- so, I am not sure.

Rob

Just to be fussy, I think Dworkin thinks that his metric of equality applies only within states, that we have special obligations to whomsoever we share a polity with. I've certainly never come across anything he's said about global justice.

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