Irish rocker Bob Geldorf and the music superstars who recently held Live 8 concerts across the globe made a lot of noise. Their siren songs entreated us to pressure the leaders of the G-8 Nations to spend whatever it takes in Africa to "make poverty history."
But beyond the wall of electric amplifiers, a quiet truth rarely got much notice. You see, a cure for poverty has already been found. Yes, a cure!
And by freedom I mean more than just the right to buy rock 'n' roll records. I mean the right to private property, to buy and sell, to compete for any peaceful business. And more. Free markets and free individuals — communicating, trading, praying, working, with maximum liberty and minimum harassment from criminals or governments.
Throughout the history of agriculture there have been great advances in know-how and machinery. But none of these have vanquished poverty or famine from our world. It is the freedom to grow and harvest and enjoy the fruit (and grain and buffalo and ostrich) of one's labor that makes all the difference.
Unfortunately, freedom is too rarely prescribed. In the cruel history of our species, those wielding political power commonly doctor up the laws to favor themselves at the expense of the people.
Africa is such a place, sadly — poor precisely because of the many despots in power. According to the Heritage Foundation's 2005 Index of Economic Freedom, Africa lacks a single nation considered to be "free" and 87 percent of the continent's countries were found to be either "mostly unfree" or downright "repressed."
Dictators destroy economies. And too often they take the aid we send to help the poor and use it to stay longer in power.
Africans know this well. Asked about more aid, a Kenyan health care worker quickly and depressingly predicted that "the aid money will go into the pockets of corrupt officials to buy their fully loaded Mercedes-Benzes."
"For God's sake, please stop the aid," Kenyan economist James Shikwati bluntly told a German weekly. "If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit."