Thursday, May 20, 2010

The starving can't wait

LA Times article "The starving can't wait" (May 19th, 2010) claims that

Although development experts need to address the global shortfalls in production, distribution problems and other underlying causes of famine, the immediate challenge always is to feed the hungry.

The short-term challenge of feeding the hungry may undermine long-term efforts to lead developing countries out of poverty. Foreign aid combined with corruption keeps poor systems of governance in place. It appears a significant portion of foreign aid ends up being subsidies for corruption and oppression. For example, Jakob Svensson and Ritva Reinikka's 2004 Quarterly Journal of Economics paper "Local Capture: Evidence From a Central Government Transfer Program in Uganda" finds that only 13 percent of grants for schools were actually spent on schools--most schools received no grant money. Foreign aid easily can hurt populations as often as help them.


  1. The LA times tossed you a softball with this one. Worst. Editorial. Ever.

  2. Corrections agrees--we did not respond to some of its more egregious faults concerning the "Green Revolution" of genetically modified crops and the phenomenal rightward shift in supply of food in favor of a more curious political argument.

  3. Perhaps a better approach, rather than having "development experts" address production shortfalls, distribution issues, and other unfolding problems of famine it might be worth recognizing the fact that markets and producers have been quite good for centuries at producing and distributing food. Famines are so often blamed on extraneous factors like drought yet in general they seem to occur frequently in countries with no private property, food producers who are controlled or ripped off by governments and environments where free markets are non-existent. Perhaps the experts and the "aid" that serves mainly to line the pockets of bureaucrats and NGO officials would be much better employed removing the obstacles to the development of markets.