Like Debating Whether or Not the Earth is Round

by Don Boudreaux on December 27, 2006

in Foreign Aid

Andy Morriss’s wonderful talent as a writer of letters to the editor is unmatched.  This letter he sent today to the editor of the Financial Times is evidence:


Bono is following up on his hug of German Prime Minister Angela Merkel at Davos last January and with a visit to Germany to launch “a series of debates with German thinkers on African development and the role of the west.” (“Geldof and Bono take G8 campaign to Germany,” Dec. 27).  What is to debate? Only entertainers and politicians could be unaware of the straightforward starting points for solving Africa’s many problems: free trade and governments that neither murder their citizens nor steal their property.  The role of the west in implementing these solutions is equally clear: cut tariffs and other barriers to trade with Africa and eliminate official toleration (including foreign aid, official recognition, arms sales, etc.) of murderous regimes like Sudan’s and kleptocratic ones like Zimbabwe’s.

Andrew P. Morriss
H. Ross & Helen Workman Professor of Law
University of Illinois, College of Law

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Wild Pegasus December 27, 2006 at 3:56 pm

My law school (Case Western) is a pile of stupid for not holding onto Prof. Morriss. Good to see he's still killin' 'em dead.

Ray G December 27, 2006 at 8:02 pm


Patrick December 27, 2006 at 9:41 pm

Prof. Morriss, that is just too simple. No one would go for that in any real way, the solution is just to plain. No, our folks at the State Dept. and USAID, etc. want to actually "help" people by giving them stuff and assuring them that their leaders won't kill too many of them and maybe get them some health care. If only we could just redistribute the world's wealth, all would be fine in Africa… sayeth the mighty of Europe and the US Democratic party. Imagine if the US started out the way the free world is trying to gerrymander the African continent, where would we be now? Thank God, for us Americans anyway, there wasn't a USAID, IMF or some other wacky organization.

Adam Malone December 27, 2006 at 11:57 pm

This solution also requires the wealth redistributors and trade protectionists (is this still the term we are using?) to admit that free trade helps rich people. and middle class people. and poor people. and destitute people.

And admitting such a thing would require them to fess up to the fact that they have been blantantly wrong for about 80 years.

They still won't admit that the Smoot-Hawley Act had at least as much to do with the Great Depression as the stock market crash.

Chris Meisenzahl December 28, 2006 at 7:31 am

Slam-dunk! ;-)

Ken Willis December 28, 2006 at 12:26 pm

Somebody please send Prof. Morriss's letter to George W. Bush before he sends another few Billion to Africa.

OregonJon December 28, 2006 at 12:56 pm

Bono's and Geldorf's and others from the Scold Class are deep into feeling good about themselves with no interest in effective policies. It's a conceit often seen in entertainers, a career requiring outsized egos.

Jacko December 29, 2006 at 11:08 am

Has anyone ever done a regression over say, 20-40 years, showing that a country's poverty is inversely proportional to foreign aid as a percentage of its GDP? It would be great to see the numbers both with and without IMF and World Bank loans also.

If anyone knows of such a study, please post. Thank you.

Mesa EconoGuy December 29, 2006 at 7:57 pm

Professor Morriss may be a terrific man of editorial letters (that is well said), but he needs a little tweaking in his accuracy:
Geldof and Bono take G8 campaign to Germany

I believe this should be Geldof, as in Bob Geldof, organizer of Live Aid (and Live 8), as well as star of Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1982), not Geldorf.

The Captain December 29, 2006 at 9:24 pm

Dear Mesa EconoGuy:

I would be surprised if Professor Morriss did not intentionally gaff Bob Geldo[r]f. Who cares about Bob Geldof? Boner and Geldork would probably would have been too obvious.

Python December 30, 2006 at 2:22 am

Gandalf did what to Africa?

Mesa EconoGuy December 31, 2006 at 5:15 pm

Ah, I see.

He was probably referring to Sonny Bono as well.

Chas February 19, 2007 at 10:14 pm

Oregon Jon: you need to check out William Easterly's two books, the most recent with a bad title ("The White Man's Burden"), previously "The Elusive Quest For Growth" – he's a liberal mugged by reality, presents a powerful case why foreign aid is generally destructive (although it can provide useful health benefits). Clear economic thinking would demonstrate why this is of course the case; but to convince the unwilling, it's necessary to show that it has happened, over and over. Like explaining that price controls cause shortages – "fortunately" there are countless examples.

Villoso June 28, 2007 at 8:52 pm

Angela Merkel is the chancellor, not prime minister, of Germany.

Villoso June 28, 2007 at 8:52 pm

Angela Merkel is the chancellor, not prime minister, of Germany.

Villoso June 28, 2007 at 8:53 pm

Angela Merkel is the chancellor, not prime minister, of Germany.

Villoso June 28, 2007 at 8:53 pm

Angela Merkel is the chancellor, not prime minister, of Germany.

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