The world's plutocrats are gathering in Davos. And, in its annual tradition Oxfam has issued an update of its report on how us evil capitalist bastards are responsible for all that death and starvation in Africa. If only we would tax ourselves more and give the good folk at Oxfam more aid money then things would be fine. The problem is that Oxfam is utterly committed to promoting policies that sustain poverty - its stated aim is to make subsistence farming "sustainable" thereby keeping those peasant farmers just above the point of starvation through the use of aid money.
This article argues that policies used by middle and high-income countries are unsuitable for poorer, agricultural countries; it recommends instead that these nations promote broader access to land and raise land productivity. The authors explain why instruments used by richer countries, such as those that control prices and cheapen food, fail in poorer countries. They describe the features of smallholder farmers in poorer countries, drawing upon evidence from India, Peru, and Guatemala to demonstrate how subsistence farming can be part of policy responses to the distress of a food crisis in both the short and medium term. They call upon donors to improve their understanding of and support for small-scale, subsistence-oriented farming.
What Oxfam are saying here is that it's different in these poor countries and that the thing that made us western folk rich - capitalism - isn't going to work. Indeed, it is utterly shocking that Oxfam support policies that lead to more expensive food, less efficient agriculture and the maintaining of abject poverty in poor countries. So when you reach into your pocket for some change to put in that Oxfam tin or sponsor some well-meaning niece in her swimming or running, think for a second where that money is going. I'm not talking about administration costs here or even the buying of top end 4x4s for aid workers but the policies - policies that sustain poverty in Africa - that Oxfam supports.
The truth is that, not only is Oxfam wrong, but their support for protectionist policies at Davos actively advances the very agenda of those plutocrats and prevents Africa from challenging the dominance of the west. Instead of wibble about taxation or the liberal use of the word 'neoliberalism' what Oxfam needs to demand is an end to agricultural protection in the developed world, a more open banking system and the wider promotion of property rights, free markets and free trade.
Over the past three decades that neoliberalism - the thing Oxfam wants to blame for the ills of the world - has resulted in a billion people escaping abject poverty. Better still, for many of that billion the escape from poverty has been an escape from the tyranny of dirt-scrabble farming. They've moved to the city from where they can play a small part in creating exciting, free and innovative societies - just as happened in the west. Oxfam and its fellow travellers stand - using our cash - between people and the realisation of this dream.
I wrote this a while back - it is still true:
Sit back, put a smile on you face - punch the air with joy. You and me - capitalists both - have sat getting a little richer for thirteen years while a billion folk have escaped absolute poverty. All the international trade, all those businesses and those business folk filling the posh seats in aeroplanes flitting across the world - they've done that, they've lifted those people out of poverty.
Tell Oxfam to either get out of the way or get with the neoliberalism that is ending poverty more quickly that at any time in human history.