March 27, 2006

Third-World Aid and Farm Subsidies

The technological, financial, and intellectual changes in the world all seem to be moving us toward a more global culture. The Internet, globalization, and the changing attitude toward the War on Terror are all pushing Western values onto the developing world.

These changes have some very negative effects, including the loss of indigenous culture and the all-too-often empowerment of dictators or religious zealots. However, there have been, and will be, some benefits to our changing global attitudes. We have begun to see ourselves as part of one global family, and to take the problems of other nations more and more seriously. International aid to the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia, for example, was unprecedented. The United States alone, according to one blog ( donated over $1 billion dollars from non-governmental organizations.

In addition, the plight of the world's poor has become in international concern, unlike ever before. There are non-profits and corporations doing much to try to alleviate the hunger and destitute poverty in third-world countries. Governments are donating hundreds of millions of dollars a year to this cause. There is, however, an avenue which we should be using in order to help the poor, and which political silliness is causing us to ignore.

Most of the industry in developing countries is agrarian. Many of the world's poor are sharecroppers or resident farmers. By maintaining farm subsidies and agricultural tarriffs in America we are not allowing the world's poor access into our produce market. We should let our free market work to enrich the world's poor in a way that will be economically beneficial to us and them.

Further reading:

March 2, 2006

On the Problem of Immediate Media and Democracy

The 2-party system that characterizes America seems to lead to a politic that agrees on little, and never agrees on anything substantive. Even good ideas are opposed first and examined second. When the opposing party proposes an idea it seems that politicians feel it their duty to find evidence against the proposal instead of trying to find the truth. A prime example is President Bush's Social Security privatization plan. His approach was very open and inclusive - identifying an acknowledged problem and asking for help from both sides of the aisle. Instead of help, he immediately dichotomized the hearers into camps, and he was immediately criticized by the left and praised by the right - and this before any details of the plan had been released or even decided.

The source of this problem is the interplay between our culture of immediacy and a first past the post electoral system. As the name implies, our system leads to a horse-race style of politics, and eliminates all but the top two parties. The unintended consequence of this system is to make every issue a part of the competition. Unless there is unanimous national support for a position, it can be almost assured that the parties will take opposing positions.

This dichotomy is furthered by the immediacy of the news media. For example, the media expects a response to presidential State of the Union addresses 5-10 minutes after the speech is over. This is not enough time to think about and digest what has been said, and the opposing party feels disposed to focus only on that which makes their party look better and the president's look worse.