A loyal MR reader asks:

Africa.  What are your long term predictions?  Which policies should rich countries adopt?  Which will they adopt?  What can I do?

My long-term prediction is that Africa will stay quite poor.  Rich countries should offer Africa complete free trade, but the benefits of this move are overrated.  Low productivity, and transport costs and corruption within Africa remain the central problems, not foreign tariffs. 

Libertarians are too quick to say that foreign aid is counterproductive.  Most African governments would be corrupt anyway, and there is usually some positive trickle-down from the aid.  The wastage is massive, and I can understand the desire to stop sending government-to-government aid, but there is a real moral dilemma. 

I also think most of Africa is in a Malthusian trap. That is perhaps the better critique of aid, but alas also of trade as well.  But even within this trap, wealthy foreigners can help make the transition from one steady state to another less painful.  And the trap need not hold in every local corridor.  Plus we are offering a lottery ticket (with what p?) out of the trap.  Malthus doesn’t mean we should turn our backs on suffering. 

The intellectual property issues, when it comes to copying drugs, involve an irreconciliable clash between rule and act utilitarianism. 

Africa is a much bigger moral dilemma than most people are willing to admit.  And that moral dilemma appeared pretty big in the first place.

I see some chance that parts of Africa, such as Ghana and Senegal, will escape the Malthusian trap within twenty to thirty years.  That’s the most positive prediction I am willing to make.

You can do some good if you are willing to directly administer medical treatments to Africans, in Africa.

Here is an interesting bit:

“Thinking about problems analytically can easily suppress sympathy for smaller-scale disasters without, our research suggests, producing much of an increase in caring for larger-scale disasters”, the researchers said. "Insight, in this situation, seems to breed callousness".

#14 in a series of 50.


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