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September 11, 2009

Comments

Mike Woodhouse

Tricky one. By how much, I wonder (I'll read the Singer book) would our income have to fall to level out the playing field? And at what increase in the mortality rate of our own children? Are my children more important to me than someone else's? Yup. Would I be prepared to expose my children to increased risk in order to reduce the risk of (say) hundreds by a similar amount (economically speaking, a big win)? I really don't think so.

I'm not sure what that says about me.

reason

But bringing up a child in the West is much more expensive than in sub-Saharan Africa. Creating a new child next year is cheap. That used to be the way in the west too, until it got rich.

Cleanthes

"For people on subsistence incomes, a fall in GDP can be fatal."

That was why we used to hang people for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread - that much could be enough to push the victim into starvation.

The difference is that we have worked out how to pull ourselves out of subsistence income to such an extent that we can support (?) our own children doing nothing productive until the age of ~20 (YMMV) and up to 10% of the remaining working age population in a state of complete idleness.

I submit that it's not the financial crisis that will kill those babies - I do not doubt for a second that they will indeed die - but the appalling failure to get such regions out of subsistence.

We know how to do this and it's been common knowledge since The Wealth of Nations was publsihed 250 years ago. Asia applied these lessons shortly after WW2 and never looked back.

What is different about Africa?

Carroll

"until the government did something"

I think that this can make the difference. Having spent quite a while in a variety of African nations I can honestly say that even though with all the faults that our government has it still does answer to the people. In many African states that is reversed and they suffer as a result.

ad

Western governments have been "doing something" to benefit sub-Saharan Africa for a long time.

Admittedly all that aid seems to have done little good, and may have done harm, but certainly they were "doing something".

Daniel Waweru

«But bringing up a child in the West is much more expensive than in sub-Saharan Africa. Creating a new child next year is cheap. That used to be the way in the west too, until it got rich.»

It *is* terribly difficult to believe that we Africans value our children, and grieve their deaths, isn't it?

Micheal Price

"Would I be prepared to expose my children to increased risk in order to reduce the risk of (say) hundreds by a similar amount (economically speaking, a big win)? I really don't think so.

I'm not sure what that says about me."

That you're just another kin-favoring bald ape like the rest of us and you're DNA's systems for increasing it's own replication is working fine.

jameshigham

Doesn’t this show that there is no justice, only power?

Yes it does.

Shuggy

"So, why the silence?"

Because the sort of people who might usually be expected to 'raise their voices' and 'make a stand' are more or less committed to the view that economic growth is a net bad. This is why you got all those excruciating self-regarding articles in the Guardian and elsewhere explaining why the credit-crunch wasn't so bad because it would help us all drink and smoke less as well as eat more healthily. It's part of a wider question: why are those media outlets that are supposed to be liberal or left completely dominated by people who have absolutely no interest in economics or economic history?

reason

Daniel Waweru,
Where did I deny that? That wasn't the point. I was just making the usual economic point that incentives matter.

Owen Barder

Chris

Good post. I find the self-justification of some of your commenters nauseating (particularly those who glide from "it's in our genes" to "so that's OK then".)

People are dying. We can do something about it at little cost to ourselves. And every day when we don't, we are culpable for many thousands of unncessary deaths. I think it is as simple as that. It is just as you ay.

All the best
Owen

Cleanthes

Owen,

Not so sure: I think that's rather my point above. People are indeed dying, and it's quite possibly - likely even - that more will die as a result of the downturn.

This is not a genetic thing, but I suspect it may be a cultural thing. Perhaps I should rephrase this from
" we have worked out how to pull ourselves out of subsistence income "

to

"the mechanisms and methods to pull an economy out of subsistence income is well known".

The question is: why aren't they being applied?

In the meantime I would dispute very heavily that "We can do something about it at little cost to ourselves. "

I don't share your optimism about the effectiveness of aid in the absence of those lessons above.

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