If I didn’t know better, I’d say that William Jefferson Clinton was well qualified to be a poster boy for the dangers of AIDS, and that the 42nd president of the United States’ op-ed in the New York Times, marking World AIDS Day, was in line with his new duties. Alas, as a former AIDS counselor in South Africa, I know something about Mr. Clinton’s chances of infection: The former president’s risks are quite low, his sexual philandering notwithstanding.
If he wasn’t writing in his capacity as an advocate against risky sexual behavior, what’s Mr. Clinton’s angle? Now that educational efforts are proving ineffective in halting infection rates in the Third World, The Village Idiots are shifting the goalposts. Whereas our “moral duty” was once discharged by supplying Third Worlders with condoms and educational prophylaxis, it must now extend to making treatment available to every sufferer—or so Clinton says. Like his wife, Clinton galvanizes the royal “We” revealingly to support his theories of collective ownership and culpability (and hence more foreign aid).
The foremost authority on foreign aid, the late Lord P. T. Bauer, pointed out that a responsible demand for aid mustn’t avoid examining those “… popular attitudes and behaviours [sic] in the poor societies” which cause and perpetuate the misery.
Professional confiscators and colossi of ignorance like Clinton and U2 lead singer Bono would rather justify their activities with the false claim that human misfortune is a result of external contingencies that can be fixed by social planners like themselves. They hammer home the wicked lie that the wealthy—individuals and nations—thrive at the expense of the poor and essentially deserve to be relieved of their possessions.
Never mind that rich nations were streaks ahead of sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia well before colonization. Countries like Australia and Switzerland were rich absent any meaningful ties to the undeveloped world. As Bauer proves, this was the result of the West’s human resources, not its exploitation of the backward world.
Bono certainly doesn’t come clean. While he points an accusing—and untalented—finger at the West, the self-righteous activist praises Africans for being a “rare and spirited people,” concealing that if the spirit didn’t move them in some pretty wild ways, rates of infection in Southern Africa would not have reached 20 to 33.7 percent of the adult population.
Africans are having unprotected sex irrespective of the mortal dangers of AIDS, a phenomenon economists might explain with reference to time preference rates. This is the degree to which different people—and peoples—will discount the future in favor of immediate gratification. The number of people infected especially in Southern Africa bespeaks a high time preference: the consistent risking of the future for momentary benefits.
Nowhere do Bono and Clinton mention the endemic sexual violence in Africa—it too plays a considerable role in spreading AIDS. In South Africa, a woman is raped every few minutes. My African female clients told me that if they wanted to avoid being brutalized, they didn’t dare ask an African man to wear a condom. But I clean forgot: Violence in Africa, once attributed by liberals to the legacy of colonial meddling, is now conveniently put down to a lack of Western intervention.
Indeed, Bono never thinks to hang his empty head in shame as he proceeds to both slander and stiff Westerners by using his political pull. Goes without saying that in the process, Bono also fails to mention what Bauer so cogently referred to as the conduct of the recipient governments. This too is the proper object of scrutiny in the question of aid.
“Expulsion and slaughter of productive minorities” is certainly a factor in the increasing economic deterioration in South Africa and more so in Zimbabwe. Life for the productive white minority is perilous. Once wealth creators leave or are targeted by crime and oppressive economic policies, not least nationalization of their land, economic conditions worsen for all, especially the poor. I’ve a feeling, though, that Bono would have no sympathy for the Jews of Germany during World War II or the Chinese of Malaysia—somehow, it’s hard to imagine he or Clinton mustering compassion for groups that are, or were, persecuted by governments because of their self-sufficiency.
All in all, such boneheadedness stands to benefit from a lesson in ethics. And Bauer, who disputed the notion that “foreign aid is … the discharge of a moral duty to help the poor,” delivered it:
“Foreign aid is taxpayer’s money compulsorily collected; it is outside the area of volition and choice. Indeed, contributors not only have no choice but quite generally do not even know they are contributing. It is sometimes urged that in a democracy taxpayers do have a choice, which restores the moral element to foreign aid. This objection is superficial. The taxpayer has to contribute to foreign aid whether he likes it or not and whether he has voted in its favor or against it.”
©By ILANA MERCER
December 4, 2002