In this week’s readings we were confronted with the problem of what to do and how we should do it when concerning the eradication of poverty. We saw the opinions of prominent economists Jeffrey Sachs and William Easterly, and how their ideas for ending poverty are varying and different. The question is of foreign aid: is it a valid way to remove poverty from a system or institution? The readings provided information on where the money goes when foreign aid is injected into a country of poverty, and in multiple cases it was found that a large percentage of these funds are taken by officials and put right into their pockets. This shows that corruption is as much a bar to prosperity and self-sustainability as even hunger or disease, and so places the problem of corrupt leadership to the top of the list of steps to destroy poverty. So what did Easterly and Sachs have to say about foreign aid and the corruption that it ultimately runs into?
Sachs puts forth that corruption in itself is a poverty trap; poverty creates corruption which creates more poverty which creates more corruption, and it goes on. He also notes that poor institutions are what makes poor countries, and that the issue of foreign aid is not a question of if we should send it, but of where. Sachs insists that aid should be injected into sectors that increase the living standards of people who live in poverty, which should in turn reduce the poverty from the inside and eradicate corruption as a result. Higher standards of living would also help to make those living in conditions of poverty more confident in their abilities for self-sufficiency, and set wheels in motion for the creation of other rights, freedoms, and basic needs for democracy. However, this is all a possibility only if the corruption in these governments is not greater than the opposition: which currently is not the case.
Easterly has a different side to offer than Sachs. He says that Westerners are in no position to judge another country and determine for it what is good and what is bad. He said that, “it is easier to take over a country than to know how to make it run well.” Easterly is against foreign aid, specifically because of the fact that he does not trust it when corruption exists in the countries to take it for their own. Instead, he believes in giving the people in these other countries the opportunities necessary for them to do it all themselves. In other words, allow them to make their own history, instead of our governments making history for them. These people are in need of freedom, according to Easterly, and that it is only a collected body or action which should set their freedom in motion. These people need to find their own way, and make civil rights and education a priority in their own way, on their own time. In a way, this kind of thinking is already in motion, as we have talked about it previously in the form of Cheetah’s leading society’s reforms in countries of poverty. What Easterly wants and thinks is necessary is minimal movement from large government intervention in these countries; movement that gives the countries only what they need to start off with, along with some encouragement, and then backs away and allows the metaphorical flower of freedom to bloom and grow.
Each argument has its valid points, but I will opt to not choose a “side” but rather take the stance that Banerjee and Duflo took, and agree with both economists with what they have to say. Sachs is right in his philosophy that poor countries create corruption which creates poverty. But instead of sending aid to these people immediately, why not inform them of this philosophy and give them a platform to change it. Give their Cheetah’s the opportunity to really change the face of the situations of these countries, and inject hope for themselves and their respective societies in overturning corruption and their other issues. I agree that we as a first world country need to help start this process, but I also agree that if we are not as precise as possible with our financial assistance, we will again end up funding the corruption. In my opinion, the key to self-sustenance is allowing the people of these countries to find out what that looks like for themselves so that they understand it and grow in it, rather than just learn about it and complacently sit by just a word, and not an action.
Laura Poitras and her new website FIELD_OF_VISION is something that I think definitely contributes to helping others get involved in global issues, but it targets a younger more millennial generation. People of this generation want quality items, and they want a story to show them new information, perspectives, and concepts. The way that these videos are portrayed in this website are the exact way to appeal to people living in this generation, who have such high standards for anything they consume. This sends the message, and this will certainly encourage, invigorate, and motivate others to get involved and think critically about global issues.
You can visit the Field of Vision Website here.