December 14, 2007

What's Your World View?

I had coffee yesterday with a friend and business colleague. We worked together at my former company and both left about the same time to go out on our own. He is doing consulting now as well on sales stuff and is a very smart guy. We got to talking about travel and how we were enjoying the opportunity to travel more. Chrystal's friend Sarah is going to be in South Africa for a couple of years so I was telling him that we are planning on visiting her at least once, and while we are there visiting at least one bank with Opportunity International.

My friend had never heard of Opportunity International so we got on the subject of micro finance lending. Inevitably it turned into a political conversation and he expressed an opinion that most African countries (and other 3rd world nations) are in the position they are in because of their own fault (political corruption and such), and most of them were better off in every economic way when under the rule of a colonial power. This is not the first time I've heard this comment, and each time I do it saddens me. It saddens me not because someone does not agree with my opinion, but that someone who is very smart with a college degree and has traveled extensively throughout the world can look at the situation of extreme poverty and respond with, "They created this problem for themselves and need to fix it. If we give them our money their corrupt government is just going to steal it from them anyway." I may be overstating his position but it was clear that he did not find it realistic to try and end world poverty. (I define poverty in this case as the 50% of people in the world living on less than $2 per day.)

I recommended that he should read "The End of Poverty" by Jeffrey Sachs (I've posted about it before here). I also asked him, "If they did create the problem are we not in some way, as the wealthiest nation on Earth, responsible to help them?"

I know that there are at least a couple of readers of this blog out there and I'd like to know your thoughts. Can we as Westerners (or a least Americans) actually make a financial difference in economic support of 3rd world countries, or are we really just giving our hard earned money to a problem that will always exist?

Further more, if you are the in the top 10% of income earners in the US do you have a responsibility to help?

1 comment:

kristy said...

i have no idea where to even start as having insight on this problem, but thank you for sharing, your words are encouraging.