Monday, November 19, 2007

Root Causes

I heard an advertisement on the radio for a charity that claimed to be fighting the root causes of third world poverty. That's nice.

There wasn't any information in the ad for just how they were helping poor folks in Africa throw off their dictatorial governments and establish a free market and civil rights.

Oh, that wasn't the root cause they are treating? Sorry. It must be some other root cause.

I don't mean to be too negative. Fighting illiteracy, disease and all that is important, but the only true root cause of poverty is oppression.

This is a topic I can claim some knowledge of. I worked 2 years in Central America in the Peace Corps, and studied some of this later in grad school. I have maintained an interest in development. I am actually very encouraged at the gains many countries have made.

Countries where people are free to own land and businesses, and to live without fear of violent oppression can advance. Those places that don't guarantee these things don't advance. Freedom is the key. Following basic freedom are things like low taxes, low regulatory burden, and open access to international markets. And then literacy, access to health care and so on.

Free people become literate and buy health care and insist on other political rights. These things are important but secondary.

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