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Blog // Thoughts
July 7, 2005

Cynicism Doesn’t Solve Poverty Either

It’s not that people shouldn’t criticise the Live8 concerts and the Make Poverty History campaigns; critical thought helps us clarify what we expect from major movements like these (and there was a lot I didn’t like about Live8). However, one thing that is tiring about most of the critiques I have read is how replete […]

It’s not that people shouldn’t criticise the Live8 concerts and the Make Poverty History campaigns; critical thought helps us clarify what we expect from major movements like these (and there was a lot I didn’t like about Live8). However, one thing that is tiring about most of the critiques I have read is how replete they are with cynicism Urban Onramps has two good examples). It’s not that the critics don’t have good points to make about corrupt governments, failed aid attempts in the past and so on. Rather, it is the signal-to-noise ratio between the good ideas and the cynicism (and to a lesser extent narrow political ideology) that is wearing.

Sure government handouts may not be an ideal solution, but the last time I checked, you can’t feed people with cynicism either.

In respnse to the cynics, I want to run a counter-argument. The US has recently argued for substantial debt cancellation for Iraq. Part of the argument is that the debt was accrued under a non-democratic dictator who did not have the interests of his people at heart. This debt cancellation will go ahead despite evidence of massive mishandling of aid in the post-dictator period.

Personally, I am in favour of this debt-cancellation for Iraq, because I believe it will be good for the Iraqi people in the long term. I am also in favour of African debt-cancellation for exactly the same reasons and am willing to accept exactly the same ambiguities. Past failures should make us cautious in our future attempts to alleviate poverty, not make us so cynical that we simply ridicule at attempts to alleviate the problem.

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