Monday, September 10, 2007

Inflicting pain on the poor for the sins of the wealthy.

Today’s New York Times has a sad tale of needless pain and misery disproportionately inflicted on the poor of the world by wealthy politicians in the West. Of course that description could cover numerous chic policies that Western politicians impose from biofuel policies to agricultural protectionism to banning DDT. In this case people suffer because of the so-called war on drugs.

The article notes, in passing, something often forgotten by well-off Westerners. Cancer is a disease of ageing. It didn’t kill as many people in the past because people tended not to live long enough to die from it. “But as vaccines, antibiotics and AIDS drugs become more common, more and more are surviving past measles, infections, birth complications and other sources of a quick death. They grow old enough to die slowly of cancer.”

Half of the world’s cancer deaths are now in the poor countries of the world and about 80% of all such deaths are very painful. And for the most part the war on drugs has demanded that such people be treated, for severe pain, with aspirin.

To some degree this is true in the West but not nearly as true.
Figures gathered by the International Narcotics Control Board, a United Nations agency, make it clear: citizens of rich nations suffer less. Six countries — the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Britain and Australia — consume 79 percent of the world’s morphine, according to a 2005 estimate. The poor and middle-income countries where 80 percent of the world’s people live consumed only about 6 percent.
Politicians of all stripes impose needless pain and suffering on the world. In the West people tend to be wealthy enough to purchase their way around some of the misery. Political policies that drive up food costs, to benefit a few wealthy farmers, are ignored because wealthy Westerners have enough disposable income to pay the extra for food. They may bitch about food prices, and then stupidly blame the wrong cause: globalization, greedy grocers, capitalism, etc., but they don’t go hungry. In poor nations hunger is their only option.

The world’s poor can’t buy their way out of the problems inflicted on them by the political class of do-gooders. The wealthy people of the West can. The actions of our politicians are often nothing more than a minor irritation. The same actions, when their consequences are imposed on the poor nations of the world can literally kill.

What we need to remember is that this sort of pain is almost always inflicted by individuals who claim to be well-intentioned. Noble motives always justify illiberal policies that create needless suffering. Biofuels are justified to “save the planet.” That slogan, drummed into the heads of school children and repeated endless on television justifies almost any interference by politicians.

No price is too high to pay to “save the planet.” Save it for whom? If the planet is being saved for humans then we might want to consider whether or not political “solutions” cause more harm than benefits to human. If humans are not the object of concern then stop using them as a smokescreen to hide beyond. Admit the policies put humans last on some perverse hierarchy of values. But, because the advocates stand on their moralistic soapbox, it is assumed that their policies must be good because their intentions are so pure.

So too the war on drugs. No one disputes that drugs can be a problem for those who choose to consume their recreationally. So we institute sledgehammers once again, to swat at flies. And the poor of the world, inflicted with terrible diseases, are victimized again in order to address the problems of the wealthy West. The absurdity is that these “solutions” don’t even make the West better off. But how often have politicians inflicted useless, counterproductive policies? Enough times to warrant a multi-volume series of books exposing the issue.

But in an age of sound bites and 60 second news reports the only thing the brainless voters want to know is: Are the motives of the proponents pure? Cloak bad policies in the name of helping someone, or solving some problem and the actual results of the policies you propose will be ignored. And challenge these misguided policies and watch how quickly you are smeared and accused. They have slogans galore to describe the skeptics about sledgehammer soluitons:

“global warming denier”
“friend of terrorism”
“enabler of abuse”

ad nauseum.

Note: You can find more on the war on drugs at our video blog, TVLiberty. You might wish to watch Judge Jim Gray, or the late Milton Friedman, discussing why drugs should be legalized.

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