16 December 2013

Two ways to make the world a better place

According to Angus Deaton, either be like Jean Drèze, or be like CGD. He actually comes off pretty well in this interview.
"The moral obligation is important because I don’t want it to sound like I’m a heartless bastard who has no interest in this partly because there’s just this: these people are hurting and if you can help them you ought to help them. Secondly, some of their hurt is to do with us, you know the colonial programme was not a great success. It might have been a great success for the Brits, it was not a great success for what happened in India. So we owe them big.
I have students I meet at Princeton who come to me and say “I want to devote my life to making the world a better place” and “I want to dedicate my self to reducing global poverty” and I say there are two ways: one is impossibly hard but I know at least one person who did that, some other people have done it. You go to Sierra Leone, you go to India or wherever. You become a citizen, you use your skills to help local groups agitate. You don’t take any money from outside, you just become like them and you use the skills and knowledge you’ve learnt here to help them. My friend Jean Drèze is an activist in India who’s been incredibly successful in doing this. He had to renounce his Belgian citizenship, it was very hard for him to even get that done. He lives without money because he’s frightened of being compromised by that and he’s been enormously successful. But it’s like the camel going through the eye of the needle right? It’s hard. 
The other thing I tell my students to do is go to Washington and tell them to stop selling arms to poor countries. These are very very articulate smart kids who are going to be national leaders and god knows what else. You may not think you have much power now but you really do – go and get high positions, go and put pressure on these bastards to stop doing this. There’s a lot of stuff about aid but not that much publicity for debt relief. What about publicity about Britain selling arms? Fighting on those causes is something that people in our, rich countries have the legitimacy and standing to do because they’re citizens of those countries."
There is also some praise for DFID despite concerns about the strong incentives to keep dispersing no matter what:
"I was at DFID recently and they were actually much more receptive than I thought they would be. Many of these arguments are fully familiar to them, which tells me that it’s a very good aid agency. They’re people who don’t have their heads buried in the sand."
Read the rest here (and part one here), via Tom H

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