Famine

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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61 Responses

  1. Avatar RTod
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    says:

    +1, and that only because I can’t +more than 1.Report

  2. Avatar dollared
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    says:

    +1, and of course, this is exactly why economic Libertarianism is fundamentally immoralReport

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to dollared
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      says:

      Not sure this is the right way to look at this issue. Vastly more liberalized economies in Africa (truly liberalized, not just exploited by multinational corporations) and freedom from state violence would certainly be good for the African poor. Not sufficient (I am a believer in the welfare state) but certainly a net positive.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to dollared
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      says:

      Somalia was a communist country until it was torn apart by Civil War in 1991. The Civil War has yet to conclude.
      Ethiopia was taken over by a Marxist-Leninist military junta in 1974. This also ended in 1991. It’s pretty much an authoritarian state today (118 out of 167 on the Economist’s Democracy index).
      Eritrea is ruled by The People’s Front for Democracy and Justice. National elections have never been held in the country.

      Of all of the things to point at and call “fundamentally immoral”, you choose Libertarianism?

      You’re specious.Report

  3. Avatar Elias Isquith
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    says:

    That last line is a significant part of my justification for holding many of the political beliefs I do.Report

  4. Avatar North
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    says:

    Apalling (the situation, not your post)Report

  5. Avatar wardsmith
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    says:

    Our forebears went through their own dark ages (literally) in Europe. We’re just lucky that enough of them survived to procreate us. Following the Atlantic link, we see that the majority of these refugees are from Somalia. Somalia of course is a failed state. (pretend this is an affinity link to “Black Hawk Down”) told the tale of almost 2 decades ago when things were seemingly equally bad there and we were having to do battle with warlords over food distribution. What has changed today except for the dearth of soldiers dying to see that starving people could receive food?

    I love Africa and I hate it. How many countries there are in constant turmoil? How much does that turmoil contribute to starvation? How many in Africa see “politics” merely as a stepping stone to wealth and privilege? Horribly saddening.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to wardsmith
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      says:

      (P.S. You gave me a good idea and I changed your link to an affiliates link…)Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to E.D. Kain
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        says:

        Brilliant! After spending countless minutes trying to parse the code I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t do it myself. I can see the hash code for “the league” in the referrer URL, but can’t see how to generalize it. No doubt they give you a fine tool to do it so I’ll just keep leaving clues in my links for you to follow up on instead. I’ll have to work on replacing affinity with affiliate however, stuck on the old track of affinity credit cards. That said, just imagine Jason whipping out his…

        wait for it…

        a little bit longer…

        League of Ordinary Gentlemen Chase card
        (ebony colored of course, because platinum is so yesterday).Report

  6. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    We are lucky to have been born here, in the West.

    Here, and now. Of the 100 billion or so people who have ever lived, only about 1-2% have had the good fortune to be born at a time and place that afforded them the opportunity to be anything other than dirt poor.

    I still envy those ageless, filthy-rich bastards living in the future, though.Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      “I still envy those ageless, filthy-rich bastards living in the future, though.”

      Assuming our robot over-lords allow us to ever see them.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      Incidentally, this is one reason why I’m not a big fan of the welfare state. I just can’t muster up much sympathy for a person who, having had the great fortune and privilege to be born in a place and time where it’s easy not to be poor, then goes and squanders that opportunity.Report

      • Avatar gschu in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Come meet me on the south side of Chicago or East St. Louis and tell the people born there about opportunities. Our problems may not be as severe, but they are still problems.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to gschu
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          says:

          “Come meet me on the south side of Chicago…”

          I’d rather not. I hear that’s the baddest part of town.

          The specificity of the locations you named should be enough to give you pause. Mexicans cross a desert on foot to get here, and they do all right. Cubans cross 150 miles of ocean in rowboats and bathtubs to get here, and they do all right. With that in mind, is it really all that unreasonable to wonder why people in East St. Louis can’t just take a cross-town bus?Report

  7. Avatar Mike Farmer
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    says:

    I don’t understand how you can support the welfare state when without it we could enjoy so much more prosperity, all the way around, and have a much greater ability to support aid to Africa efforts through NGOs.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Mike Farmer
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      says:

      See this may be true. It may not be true. But I can’t imagine how we’ll ever find out.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to E.D. Kain
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        says:

        Well, there was a time, prior to the welfare state but amidst industrialization and urbanization that poverty was real enough. The supposition on the table is that if the government had not colluded with corporate entities in dominating dominating certain markets, if government didn’t subsidize those the players in the market, and if government ensured that there were no artificial barriers to entry into a market, that poverty would be less.

        To what degree did governmental structures prevent competition into the oil and gas market dominated by Standard Oil? I would say very little, since the resources themselves were relatively scarce and required huge capital expense to extract and refine. But given that Rockefeller did have a monopoly share of the market (with a few other firms), he was able to extract huge profits which allowed him to gobble up even more market share, as well as purchase monopoly share in other markets.

        Maybe this could have been reduced by permitting eliminating tariffs and import barriers to permit foreign competition – but it wouldn’t have changed Rockefeller’s relative share of domestic power and all the leverage over the Pinkertons political system that entailed.

        I’m still uncertain how eliminating government collusion with favored corporate entities leads even on a conceptual level to reductions in poverty and a broader distribution of wealth.Report

    • Avatar Fargus in reply to Mike Farmer
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      says:

      I’d like to see the mechanism on that, Mike. Like:

      1) Cut social programs on the poorest people in the US
      2) ?
      3) Things get better in Africa!

      What’s step 2? And even if you’ve got a plausible step 2, can you explain to me how the consequences of step 1 would be mitigated?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Fargus
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        says:

        Step 2 is to take the money that we were going to spend on the domestic poor and instead spend it on the foreign poor.

        Really, I don’t see why the left isn’t all over this. From a utilitarian perspective, it’s nuts to spend money on expensive medical treatments of dubious value for old people when children in the third world are dying from lack of food and basic medical care. If we’re going to force taxpayers to cough up money to help the poor, we should at least use it to help people who are actually poor.Report

        • Avatar Fargus in reply to Brandon Berg
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          says:

          So the plausible mechanism is to take money from some of the most popular programs in the country (medical treatment for old people) and shift it to one of the least popular (foreign aid). I think my question about a plausible mechanism still stands.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Fargus
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            says:

            The political solution on offer is to bankrupt the US. This helps the poor nowhere.Report

            • Avatar Scott in reply to tom van dyke
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              says:

              TVD:

              Of course, it is our moral duty to transfer all our wealth to some rat hole country and its people.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Scott
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                says:

                Scott, I do believe we have a moral duty to man’s ratholes. Charity. “Christian” charity, they used to call it.

                We have mutated that into something called “social justice,” but that concept doesn’t cross borders very well—80% of the aid sent to Somalia last time in the 1990s got stolen by the clans and political forces. Then we tried to intervene militarily, albeit with a toe in the water that we withdrew quite quickly.

                The UN really cannot accommodate the sovereignty-paternalism-[neo-]colonialism question until uncountable millions are dead and all parties are sickened enough to be open to a political solution.

                I posted it below, but for those interested in how complicated this equation is, I’ll repost it. Hit the Google on “The Battle of Mogadishu” to make the necessary retrievals from the memory hole.
                _______________

                I appreciate the sentiment of the OP, however, what we do know is that bad guys in Somalia called “al-Shabaab” have made things very much worse, sealing off Somalia from outside help until very recently, and killing UN aid workers.

                And we know that we’ve already been-there-done-that in Somalia, from GHWB’s Operation Restore Hope to Black Hawk Down in the following administration.

                And then there’s Eritrea

                http://www.theafricareport.com/archives2/politics/5168012-ethiopia-and-un-accuse-eritrea-of-backing-al-shabaab.html

                Would that it was just about dice rolls and donations.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                I’m surprised, Tom, that you’re not a big social justice person, given your affinity for Aquinas, and that concept being derived from Aquinas (and it ain’t new).Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Chris
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                says:

                “Just Wage”that it’s immoral to pay a man less than it takes to support him and his family—applied in his milieu, but we have a mixed economy with help for the working poor. Any other invocation of “social justice” as used by today’s religious left is perhaps a neo-Thomism but not Thomas himself.

                As Benedict writes, “Charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine,” and I have noticed that the politics of “social justice” has replaced what the Western world used to call Christian charity. [I will continue to note it, as its secularized equivalent isn’t equivalent atall.]

                Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate is quite a sophisticated document, and I recommend it to anyone who seeks a genuine understanding of Roman Catholic social science, rather than the rather crude reduction that Christ’s Beatitudes means higher taxes and coerced redistribution of wealth.

                http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate_en.html

                Or if you don’t dig that, try Murray Rothbard, who although an atheist, was quite a Thomist.

                😉Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Fargus
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            says:

            Oh. I thought you meant economically plausible. I’ll grant that, given that people like to get stuff for free and hate foreign aid, it’s not politically workable in the context of mass democracy.Report

            • Avatar Fargus in reply to Brandon Berg
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              says:

              I mean, just making the numbers work is only part of the thing, and politics has to be taken into account for sure. I have a hard time believing such a plan as you outlined would be anything but a dead letter even if society turned all into pinko hippies.

              I do find it curious, though, that you’d target the people receiving government help for subsistence and survival as the ones whose money ought to be taken to cover folks in Africa. I think in a brute utilitarian sense, like you said, there’s an argument, but it’s a harsher version than what turned into death panels 2 years ago (that is, allowing older people better access to consultations about living wills that might have them refuse treatment and ultimately save the state some cash), so I don’t see it getting off the ground.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Fargus
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                says:

                I do find it curious, though, that you’d target the people receiving government help for subsistence and survival as the ones whose money ought to be taken to cover folks in Africa.

                Well, the model I have in mind is that we’re willing to spend a certain amount of money on helping the poor. Given that constraint, it makes sense to spend that money to help the third-world poor. You could argue that we should increase the amount of money we spend helping the poor, but I think that for any reasonable amount of money we’re willing to spend, it’s going to make utilitarian sense to spend it all on the third-world poor.Report

          • Avatar James Cameron in reply to Fargus
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            says:

            Tax fast food consumption, put it towards solving famine? Except this would hit the poor in the US quite hard, so change the value of food stamps to count more when purchasing healthy food, combined with new subsidies to support grocery stores in impoverished areas. Bundle it in with health care legislation.Report

  8. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Excellent. Very true.Report

  9. Avatar DensityDuck
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    says:

    You know, about a week ago, someone posted a link to an article that made a point like this, and there was a stampede to agree that it was OBVIOUSLY just a JUSTIFICATION TOOL for the RICH, because how DARE you suggest that POOR AMERICANS aren’t LIVING IN A CONTINOUS HELL.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to DensityDuck
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      says:

      No, the point of that other article was that the rich are slaving to support the idle poor, who are so spoiled that they won’t have silver in the house.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        The point of that article was “we’ve actually got it pretty good when you think about any other time or place in the entirety of human existence”, which is what E.D. Kain said up above, only the Heritage Foundation didn’t think they needed to use a picture of a starving orphan to guilt-trip people who read the study.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        No, the point of that other article was that the rich are slaving to support the idle poor, who are so spoiled that they won’t have silver in the house.

        I don’t think you read the same article I did. Where within it were stats about how much the rich work? All I saw was the items likely to be found in a poor person’s house.Report

  10. Avatar Fargus
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    says:

    My fiancee and I donated yesterday, and I called my mom and made her donate. This makes me feel bad about having ever complained about anything that’s happened in my life.Report

  11. Avatar James Cameron
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    says:

    I would go so far as to say the realization that life is chance and we are very, very lucky would be the best way to improve the West today.Report

    • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to James Cameron
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      says:

      Exactly the mix of prudence and gratitude that led Edmund Burke to disdain radical change. That and a certain humility that we don’t even quite understand how our society works even as well as it does.

      I appreciate the sentiment of the OP, however, what we do know is that bad guys in Somalia called “al-Shabaab” have made things very much worse, sealing off Somalia from outside help until very recently, and killing UN aid workers.

      And we know that we’ve already been-there-done-that in Somalia, from GHWB’s Operation Restore Hope to Black Hawk Down in the following administration.

      And then there’s Eritrea

      http://www.theafricareport.com/archives2/politics/5168012-ethiopia-and-un-accuse-eritrea-of-backing-al-shabaab.html

      Would that it was just about dice rolls and donations.Report

      • Avatar James Cameron in reply to tom van dyke
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        says:

        I’m confused. Am I the OP, and if so, I would agree that it’s never “just” about dice rolls and donations. And I do agree that radical change is usually a poor choice, though I normally cite Hayek instead of Burke, I really should read more. But then, I should always read more, hahaha.Report

        • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to James Cameron
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          says:

          The OP is Mr. Kain’s. I agree w/you that gratitude for what we have would be best. Between ingrates and those who favor radical restructuring of our nation’s society and government, I found your call for realizing how lucky we are to be refreshing.

          As a bit of a student of history—and geography—that man’s life on earth has mostly sucked is the overarching realization.Report

  12. Avatar Scott
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    says:

    E.D.:

    “Nearly everything we’ve achieved, every brilliant thought, every dollar we’ve earned has been the result of the serendipitous occasion of our birth.”

    Sorry, I have to say BS. Yes, our country does offer us opportunity but the individual must take advantage of it and decide to prosper. Despite all the advantages of being born in this country some folks still choose to squander those opportunities. If being born here was all that was required to be successful then we would all be like Bill Gates but we aren’t and by the same token many folks that aren’t born here proposer in their native lands.Report

    • Avatar Fargus in reply to Scott
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      says:

      Seems an awful lot like blaming the victims of poverty and famine, to me. Like, “Well, sure they got stuck with bad cards, but the ones who want to get out of there do, so we shouldn’t really feel sympathy for the ones stuck there because it’s their own fault for lacking initiative.” Bull.Report

      • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to Fargus
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        says:

        As for the poor in Africa born into situations they have no control over and hardly any power to escape, to determine the causes would require a herculean effort tracing effects back to orginal causes, but cause and effect are so far removed in time, that it’s almost impossible — it’s worth the effort though to prevent it from happening again — much of the effects we see today were caused mainly by intervention from outside sources in the long historical battle between domination and freedom. It’s not a matter of finding villians and victims, but simply understanding as best we can what caused what and why. Much has been written, for sure, but it’s a complex history. Having read the history of intervention and the battle between domination and freedom, in the present it seems that progress (?) has had casualties which have never recovered, and, going forward, the part of the world which has found a way to prosper, for whatever reasons, should reach out and do what’s possible, but, also, learn from the history of intervention — we know a lot more now, and that’s why I’ve become a non-interventionist — help when possible, yes, but intervene and dominate, no.Report

    • Avatar James Cameron in reply to Scott
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      says:

      A small child born to a rich family. The family hires tutors, sends him to the best schools, gives him an excellent diet and exercise routine, trains him in important life skills not taught in school, and uses their connections to ensure that he can make his own. Clearly, the child’s later success in life is entirely attributable to his own “merit”. Why, he’s just that much better than everyone else!

      People don’t want to recognize the large role chance plays in their lives because it means they aren’t nearly as special as they think they are.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Scott
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      says:

      “Yes, our country does offer us opportunity but the individual must take advantage of it and decide to prosper.”

      Most of the people here are career server-rebooters and software-installers who have a lot of self-worth tied to the notion that success is a completely random accident, and that the only difference between them and Bill Gates is that he was in the right place at the right time.Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Scott
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      says:

      Scott: “Sorry, I have to say BS. Yes, our country does offer us opportunity but the individual must take advantage of it and decide to prosper.”

      Meh… To a certain extent, sure. But I have know too many lazy, pot smoking, heavy gaming and tv watching slackers livings comfortable middle class lives to take this too seriously.Report

  13. Avatar mythago
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    says:

    It is and it isn’t. In a real-life craps game, the high rollers can’t pass on luck to the less fortunate. We who are lucky in being in a modern, wealthy nation, however, do have the means to spread some of our good fortune to those who need it.Report

  14. Avatar Elias Isquith
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    says:

    The mismatch between the sentiment and humanity of the OP, and that of the ensuing comment thread (for the most part) is truly bizarre, striking, and sad.Report

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