Jonah Goldberg

As Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni noted earlier this year, the "real solution to the defeat of (AIDS) lies in economic development and trade. In Africa, we have a terrain in which HIV, malaria, TB and other infections thrive to a degree nowadays unthinkable in Europe and the U.S. The common thread is poverty. For poverty creates an environment, physical as well as social, highly favorable to disease. So, even as we mobilize our people to change their behavior to protect themselves against HIV, we have to promote broad-based economic growth that will lead to improvement in living conditions and levels of education. The surest path to that kind of growth is trade and investment."

The Europeans should be ashamed of themselves because they claim to care more about the Third World - and pretty much everything else - than we do. The United States should be ashamed because we claim to be free marketers and we're not. And the protesters should be ashamed because their solution to a bad process is to make it much worse.

If the protesters had their way, there would be less, not more, global trade. Not only would that keep poor people poor, it would continue to hurt the environment they claim to care so much about. Rich countries have clean environments. Poor countries don't.

In fact, since I'm here in the Green Mountain State, let's use Vermont as Exhibit A. Vermont is returning to its preindustrial state. In 1850 only 37 percent of Vermont was covered in trees. Today it's 77 percent and growing. The reason? The forests are literally reclaiming Vermont's famously cute farms as such back-breaking work ceases being economically viable. Of course, the few farms that are left - often for nostalgia's sake - are propped up by federal subsidies that not only hurt poor dairy farmers abroad, they make milk more expensive for poor kids in America, too.

Vermont didn't lose its farms because it got too poor. It lost its farms because it got too rich - thanks largely to the hard work of earlier generations of Vermonters who sold the fruits of their labors all around the world. Today, this wealth allows it to provide lavish health benefits, set aside natural resources and generally adopt the politics of a giant college campus, complete with civil unions and socialist congressmen.

These are the sorts of choices rich states - and countries - can make (even if I think some of them are batty). The fastest way to get the rest of the world to look like Vermont is to let it follow Vermont's example. Not the example of today, but of yesterday. Vermont's today could be Africa's tomorrow.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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