Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Poverty Cure

The standard answer (from the foreign aid community) has been more or less to rain money on poor countries and send in the technocrats. Alas, this hasn't worked. We've been trying it since Bretton Woods. Although the Acton Institute is a religious organization, they understand variations on the foreign aid model don't work either. Indeed, the Poverty Cure is a refreshing departure from the "mission" model, as well, which is often little better than foreign aid with a religious twist.

In this video, Acton demonstrates commitment to institutional change of the sort we discuss on Ideas Matter. That is: new institutions, new innovations and more exchange -- or rules, tools and trade. Just one of these components is not sufficient. All are necessary. And the rules have to come first. If you don't get the rules right, little else is likely to emerge except, of course, the rot of corruption and the subjegation of the people. Acton shows us that poor people need elbow room. They need the space and freedom to launch ventures to rise out of poverty, organically, by serving each other's needs via entrepreneurship and exchange.


  1. Interesting video. One of the topics my students write about is whether 3rd world country debt should be eliminated. To play the devil's advocate I would have some questions about the video. I wonder where the commenters in the video were educated. My guess is in the Western world, if not in the U.S. They have been exposed to Western culture.
    This reminds me of a friend of mine who worked for a major insurance company who made a pitch to Indians in Arizona after they got a big settlement. He was explaining various investment products they could use for saving and realized they weren't following him. He found out they didn't have a concept of saving in their culture. They told him that when they had more than they needed they gave it to their neighbor or someone else in need.
    Cultures are so different that it makes solutions sometimes seem easier than they are.

  2. I would bet that most of the speakers in this video were educated at western colleges-- either in the US or the UK. But then I would also argue that most of these cultures have some concept of entrepreneurship, whether it is selling produce at a local marketplace or hand-made good. The concept of a marketplace certainly exists with the Navajo's in AZ and the Mayans in Mexico, but I doubt they have the traditions of saving, investing, and organizing and growing businesses.

  3. You'd probably be interested in the blog "Let A Thousand Nations Bloom" -- this is exactly what they talk about, creating incentives to get the rules right. This is what is truly needed to get organic growth.

  4. Thanks for the reference to the blog. I'll check it out.