In his 1850 essay, “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen,” Frédéric Bastiat explains that “in the economic sphere, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, produce not just one effect, but a series of effects.” Unintended consequences transform good intentions into bad policies, and one of the best examples of this is foreign aid.
Article by Orestes R Betancourt Ponce de León from FEE.
Mansa Musa’s good intentions may be the first case in history of failed foreign aid. Known as the “Lord of the Wangara Mines,” Mansa Musa I ruled the Empire of Mali between 1312 and 1337. Trade in gold, salt, copper, and ivory made Mansa Musa the richest man in world history.
As a practicing Muslim, Mansa Musa decided to visit Mecca in 1324. It is estimated that his caravan was composed of 8,000 soldiers and courtiers—others estimate a total of 60,000—12,000 slaves with 48,000 pounds of gold and 100 camels with 300 pounds of gold each. For greater spectacle, another 500 servants preceded the caravan, and each carried a gold staff weighing between 6 and 10.5 pounds. When totaling the estimates, he carried from side to side of the African continent approximately 38 tons of the golden metal, the equivalent today of the gold reserves in Malaysia’s central bank—more than countries like Peru, Hungary or Qatar have in their vaults.
On his way, the Mansa of Mali stayed for three months in Cairo. Every day he gave gold bars to the poor, scholars, and local officials. Mansa’s emissaries toured the bazaars paying at a premium with gold. The Arab historian Al-Makrizi (1364-1442) relates that Mansa Musa’s gifts “astonished the eye by their beauty and splendor.” But the joy was short-lived. So much was the flow of golden metal that flooded the streets of Cairo that the value of the local gold dinar fell by 20 percent and it took the city about 12 years to recover from the inflationary pressure that such a devaluation caused.
Since then, the unintended consequences of good intentions in foreign aid have occurred again and again. More recent historical examples abound:
- Between the 1950s and 1960s under the Food for Peace program—created by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954—the markets of India, Pakistan and Indonesia had to compete with the massive flow of donated agricultural products from the United States. The donations bankrupted thousands of local farmers and restricted the development of agriculture in these countries for decades.
- In 1971, the Norwegian government earmarked $22 million for a fish processing plant in Kenya on Lake Turkana. The aim was to export the fish and provide employment for the Turkana people, but they were nomads with no knowledge or interest in fishing. In addition, the cost of refrigeration equipment and drinking water were very high. The plant closed after a few days.
- The World Bank loaned Tanzania more than $10 million for cashew nut processing. As a result, by 1982 Tanzania had 11 factories capable of processing three times what was produced each year. On top of that, within a short time, six of the factories were idle and in need of spare parts and the other five were running at less than 20 percent of their capacity. It was cheaper for Tanzania to send its raw cashew nuts to India for processing.
- In 1995, during the civil war in Sudan, Christian Solidarity International began paying between $100 and $50 ransom for Dinka slaves captured in the south of the country. It became more lucrative to sell slaves to well-meaning Europeans and North Americans than to sell them to the North for $15. The dynamics of good intentions encouraged this market and the slavers to take more captives.
Adding to the problems of unintended consequences is the problem of the incentives of the very organizations working in the international aid sector. In 2019, Devex published the investigative series “What went wrong?”
This organization—which is the communications platform and largest provider of contracting services to the international development sector—reported how in Kenya alone in the last 10 years some 22 projects failed in almost every sector “including health, education, gender equality, housing and climate change adaptation.” Devex reaches a key conclusion as to why these mistakes are repeated: “In an industry that tends to reward good news with more funding, aid organizations can be reluctant to admit to project shortcomings or, worse, project failure.”
Then, does kind-hearted international development aid work? Contrary to Jeffrey Sachs‘ argument for increasing spending on foreign aid, economist William Easterly states that “the West has spent $2.3 trillion in foreign aid over the past five decades (…) so much well-meaning compassion has not brought results for people in need.”
Though many like Bill Gates think foreign aid is unquestionably good, the flow of capital from developed countries largely fuels the corruption of recipient governments and diminishes the accountability of these governments to those most in need. What is worse, it postpones the reforms necessary for these countries to integrate into world trade under sound institutions and economies free of bureaucratic burdens. After all, this is the best way to achieve progress!
International development agencies seem to be gaining awareness of the impact of unintended consequences. Nevertheless, it is not enough. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that in 2015 six major organizations considered unforeseen side effects in only approximately 28 percent of the evaluations of their foreign aid projects.
Very often, unforeseen consequences end up destroying the good intentions of those who forget what is seen and what is not seen, as Frédéric Bastiat wrote. Unfortunately, as Milton Friedman said, “one of our great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions and not by their results.”
It is not a matter of abandoning solidarity, but of learning and becoming more effective in the noble task of helping those most in need.
‘The Purge’ by Big Tech targets conservatives, including us
Just when we thought the Covid-19 lockdowns were ending and our ability to stay afloat was improving, censorship reared its ugly head.
For the last few months, NOQ Report, Conservative Playbook, and the American Conservative Movement have appealed to our readers for assistance in staying afloat through Covid-19 lockdowns. The downturn in the economy has limited our ability to generate proper ad revenue just as our traffic was skyrocketing. We had our first sustained stretch of three months with over a million visitors in November, December, and January, but February saw a dip.
It wasn’t just the shortened month. We expected that. We also expected the continuation of dropping traffic from “woke” Big Tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but it has actually been much worse than anticipated. Our Twitter account was banned. Both of our YouTube accounts were banned. Facebook “fact-checks” everything we post. Spotify canceled us. Medium canceled us. Apple canceled us. Why? Because we believe in the truth prevailing, and that means we will continue to discuss “taboo” topics.
The 2020 presidential election was stolen. You can’t say that on Big Tech platforms without risking cancellation, but we’d rather get cancelled for telling the truth rather than staying around to repeat mainstream media’s lies. They have been covering it up since before the election and they’ve convinced the vast majority of conservative news outlets that they will be harmed if they continue to discuss voter fraud. We refuse to back down. The truth is the truth.
The lies associated with Covid-19 are only slightly more prevalent than the suppression of valid scientific information that runs counter to the prescribed narrative. We should be allowed to ask questions about the vaccines, for example, as there is ample evidence for concern. One does not have to be an “anti-vaxxer” in order to want answers about vaccines that are still considered experimental and that have a track record in a short period of time of having side-effects, including death. One of our stories about the Johnson & Johnson “vaccine” causing blood clots was “fact-checked” and removed one day before the government hit the brakes on it. These questions and news items are not allowed on Big Tech which is just another reason we are getting canceled.
There are more topics that they refuse to allow. In turn, we refuse to stop discussing them. This is why we desperately need your help. The best way NOQ, CP, and ACM readers can help is to donate. Our Giving Fuel page makes it easy to donate one-time or monthly. Alternatively, you can donate through PayPal as well. We are pacing to be short by about $3700 per month in order to maintain operations.
The second way to help is to become a partner. We’ve strongly considered seeking angel investors in the past but because we were paying the bills, it didn’t seem necessary. Now, we’re struggling to pay the bills. We had 5,657,724 sessions on our website from November, 2020, through February, 2021. Our intention is to elevate that to higher levels this year by focusing on a strategy that relies on free speech rather than being beholden to progressive Big Tech companies.
During that four-month stretch, Twitter and Facebook accounted for about 20% of our traffic. We are actively working on operating as if that traffic is zero, replacing it with platforms that operate more freely such as Gab, Parler, and others. While we were never as dependent on Big Tech as most conservative sites, we’d like to be completely free from them. That doesn’t mean we will block them, but we refuse to be beholden to companies that absolutely despise us simply because of our political ideology.
We’re heading in the right direction and we believe we’re ready talk to patriotic investors who want to not only “get in on the action” but more importantly who want to help America hear the truth. Interested investors should contact me directly with the contact button above.
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