Monday, March 21, 2005

Wolfowitz, aid and extreme poverty

President Bush's appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank makes me think the President either thinks very hard about his appointments or not at all.

Part of me thinks he just wants to plug his buddies into whatever high post is available. Then again, it might be an astute maneuver to get the World Bank to focus more on encouraging democracy through its aid.

Some think money given to non-democracies only ends up in the pockets of corrupt officials or otherwise wasted. In The Education of Paul Wolfowitz by Fareed Zakaria, the Newsweek columnist reminds us that Taiwan, Indonesia, and South Korea were all under authoritarian regimes when they achieved some of the greatest strides in history at relieving extreme poverty. And they all have since become democracies.

But I wonder about North Korea. North Korea gets a substantial amount of food aid, although many of its people starve nonetheless. What if that aid were stopped? Certainly many more would starve in the immediate aftermath. But if North Koreans were to bear the full brunt of their government's policies, would they then finally shake off the despots? Would such a calculated strategy be immoral, even if it resulted in a net decrease in starvation?


At 12:13 AM, Blogger Saheli said...

The problem with North Korea is that I'm not sure the people have the capability to shake off their despots. They're just that oppressed. Our generation might be a little enamored of velvet revolutions, because we grew up watching them all across Eastern Europe--where the people had a lot more freedom and economic power to begin with, and even then it took them decades. On the other hand, I don't know what else would work. North Korea seems to be a pathological case to me.

At 9:50 PM, Anonymous jay kominek said...

as it stands, I'm under the impression that the north korean government requires supplies to be in unmarked bags, so they can claim they came up with it themselves. showing the north koreans just what little their own government is good for might do the trick.

so keep up the food aid, but start dropping it directly in bags that have printed on them: "brought to you by the united states of america. a federal republic since 1789. for more information, or for foreign assistance, please stage antigovernment rallies." :)

At 7:00 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

That's a compelling idea, Jay. I wonder if that would qualify as "soft power." :) Probably not according to some pundits. Anything the isolationist left doesn't like, they classify as arrogant unilateralism.


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