The “conventional wisdom” is full of it

Set America Free Coalition member Cliff May fires a strong salvo in the direction of those that haven’t learned that teaching someone to fish so he can feed himself is always better than giving him a fish:

It’s become the conventional wisdom and William Tucker, writing in The Weekly Standard, expressed it most eloquently: “Right now, we’re trying to run our cars on corn ethanol instead of gasoline. As a result, we suddenly find ourselves taking food out of the mouths of children in developing nations. That may sound harsh, but it also happens to be true.”

Give this a little thought: The suggestion is that American farmers are growing corn primarily to feed children in the Third World. And since people in these nations lack not only food but also money, it assumes that American taxpayers must buy this corn for them and pay to ship it across the ocean to them.

In other words, implicit in this argument is the notion that developing nations are not developing at all, and never will be. Instead, they must depend on Americans for their basic subsistence. Is this what we believe? Is this the model — the Third World as permanent American ward and welfare recipient — that we accept and envision for the future?

Cliff discuss the difference between relief (give a fish) and development (teach to fish) and notes:

the moment you send in free food, you collapse local prices and pauperize those farmers who have managed to raise crops and who want to sell them, make money, improve their farms and increase their production in the future.

In Africa, where I once served as a New York Times bureau chief, people are not poor because they are unwilling to work hard or because they can’t master agricultural skills, or because the land lacks the potential to produce bounty. They are poor largely because they are oppressed by governments that range from the inept to the tyrannical.

He discusses the real drivers of famine and food price increase, that have nothing to do with biofuels, and explains how biofuels can help lift the world’s poor from poverty:

[developing countries] could use indigenous crops, crop residue, weeds and, possibly, bio-engineered plants developed specifically to produce fuels for their own use and to sell overseas. Instead of importing American food as charity, they could be importing American farm equipment at market prices, the better to both feed themselves and produce additional products for export.

But the regimes that profit most from high oil prices want none of this. Most of all, they want no competition. So they are selling the notion that alternative fuels are impractical or environmentally disastrous or “take food out of the mouths of children in developing nations.”

Read the whole thing, for it is good.

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