Lord Durham on Dead Aid

In her recent book, Dead Aid, Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa, the Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo argues that grants of money and materials from Western nations bolster corruption and barbarism in the Third World. (I’m reading Mark Steyn’s review and commentary in Maclean’s, April 27.

“A country that seeks private business investment will be accountable to the global markets; a country that raises public funds from taxes will be accountable to its own voters. But a government that gets ‘aid’ from other governments is accountable to no one and nothing.” The “decades of easy money that have made self-absorbed Western do-gooders feel swell about themselves have debauched the political culture of Africa.”

Debauched the culture and kept the continent poor.

I believe it. I learned from my studies of British North America that as long as money was coming in from the British government, the colonists were ruled by oligarchs: the Family Compact, the Chateau Clique, in the Maritimes, “government by official party.” And they were poor. Poor when compared to the United States. We have Lord Durham’s observations on this point. He was deeply impressed by American prosperity. “There is … one particular which has occurred to every observant traveller in these regions, which is a constant boast in the States bordering upon our colonies, and a subject of loud complaint within the colonies. I allude to the striking contrast which is presented between the American and the British sides of the frontier line in respect to every sign of productive industry, increasing wealth, and progressive civilization” (C.P Lucas ed., 211).

It was part of Durham’s argument that the introduction of “responsible government,” the principle that supremely enables a population to hold governments accountable, would promote wealth as great, or greater, in the Canadas.

Turn off the aid. Turn on the trade.

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1 Response to “Lord Durham on Dead Aid”


  1. 1 oonae May 26, 2009 at 2:17 am

    Trade, sure. But will this really fulfill our responsibilities? Maybe trade, by itself, would be as bad as aid. I’m sure I don’t have to say why or how. What about libraries? Or schools? What if we turn all that aid money into education — at all levels including high-tech?


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