Friday, 31 October 2014

Aid and Democracy

From Counting Cats

Well Doh! No shit Sherlock!! etc etc. We Kitty Counters could have told them that for virtually nothing. If you hand over large amounts of our cash direct to corrupt foreign Governments, all you are doing is topping up the regime and its cronies bank accounts, and providing the readies for their wives and families to go on a spending spree in Paris, London and New York. It does nothing for poor peasants whatsoever.

I actually think it's worse than that.

If you look at the sources of democracy, it's when there's a shift in power between the state and the people. Typically, industrialisation, when people gain wealth that isn't based around land. So, giving money to states works against that. It gives the state more power against their people.

If you want to help people, you'd do better to just release £10 notes from an aircraft at height. Or to work on opening up trade with countries, so that you put money into the pockets of the workers.


Lola said...

Surely it should read 'spending sprees in Paris, London, New York and Sunderland'?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Well yes, obviously.

But as we have discussed before, democracy only works where all or most people feel as if they are from the same "tribe".

(Most of these 'national identities' like English are completely artificial and were imposed top-down to make people easier to rule, but that doesn't actually matter.)

So (re)imposing democracy on Italy, Germany, Japan after WW2 was relatively easy.

But with the best will in the world, we cannot get democracy to take hold in places where people divide themselves into two or more "tribes" - Northern Ireland, for example.

So democracy would work perfectly well in Iran but it will fail in Iraq.

The Stigler said...

Good points, Mark.

Identity can change of course. The people of Italy were once Romans, then Tuscan or Umbrian, and now Italian. And different people in different countries feel differently, like Texans, Yorkshiremen and Bretons.

But even in those groups, there's still a strong sense of being connected to the other groups. Texans and New Yorkers may not agree about much, but they won't fight each other with much more than fists and they will fight together against a common enemy.

Lola said...

MW agreed. I was always worried about the Americans maintaining that they were going to bring (as in force on) democracy to Iraq. In any event democracy is just a process. Conceivably you could have liberty without democracy. But in reality it;s the combination of those two, with the third value which is responsibility, that drives successful States. And that, as you say, cannot be forced on anyone.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, yes, identities change. Most countries now include many, many former smaller countries or kingdoms or whatever you want to call it.

So they have to invent a new more homogeneous national identity to make it stick together. This happened a long time ago with England/Britain (although the Scots and Welsh maintain their sub-identities) and much more recently with Germany and Italy.

US states also have their sub-identities but those are highly artificial and very similar to each other anyway.

The Stigler said...


I can't remember when I wrote the original article on democracy and power, but if you didn't see it, some people researched when democracy occurs, and it's basically when power shifts from states to individuals.

We got real democracy in the UK in the 19th century, and that was the result of the industrial revolution giving people individual power, rather than landowners having power. Democracy in Korea and Taiwan followed a few decades of industrialisation.

The problem with some Middle Eastern countries is that a great deal of the wealth is in the land, in the form of oil. Something like 99% of the exports from Iraq are oil. If you look at Egypt, though, it's much more tolerant than most countries, and it also depends more on things like tourism and industry. The protests and overthrow of Mubarak there is a sign of a country moving towards democracy, I think. They might need a few revolutions and get it wrong a few times, but they will get there.

Bayard said...

"So democracy would work perfectly well in Iran"

Democracy has worked perfectly well in Iran. Unfortunately the US didn't like the democratically elected ruler and so installed a despot in his place.

Dinero said...

I agree Stilgler.If the gov gets all the money it needs without requiring concent and taxes from the people then democracy is hampered.
I'm pretty sure
Foreign aid doesn't really cost the UK anything.
We give in our own currency and that can only be spent in the UK, and as we don't have full employment that is a job creation scheme.
Same for any other country that does not have full employment, as long as the foreign aid is spent on goods and services and not land.

Random said...

Abolishing farm subsidies would help them a lot more!