Nigeriens Kept Poor by Government

by Don Boudreaux on October 18, 2005

in Foreign Aid

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has more insight and wisdom in his column today than you’ll find in any fifty randomly chosen volumes on economic development or in any pronouncement whatsoever on poverty and "foreign aid" by Jeffrey Sachs.

The people of Niger are poor not because that country is densely populated.  (It’s not: it’s population density is nine persons per square kilometer.)  They are poor not because of drought; not because they lack resources; not because Americans and Europeans are rich.  They are poor because, for example,

local regulations stipulate that companies must give all employees six weeks and two days of paid vacation a year. Not surprisingly, there are almost no employers in Niger.

Commerce is the foundation of civilization, the font of prosperity, and the key to peace.  Niger’s government — either because of foolishness or evilness (take your pick) — squashes commerce in that country.  No amount of aid, mosquito nets, op-eds by Sachs, or serenading of Bono and Paul McCartney will do Nigeriens any good until commerce is allowed to flourish there.

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