Sunday, February 18, 2007

Comic relief: I'm not laughing

I wrote some time ago about the pointlessness of Fair Trade juice: how, essentially, it is just a convenient way for the bleeding heart brigade to feel good about developing world poverty without actually having to do anything.

We are used to hearing about the hypocrisy of the EU: Glenys Kinnock and the Development committee cantering in on their white horses, promising to eradicate global poverty by next Thursday if we all attend their cheese-dip reception for 'lesbian equality officers in Africa'...

The parliament itself has now found one way of combating this imbalance by selling Oxfam 'fair trade' juice in its subsidised cafeteria. If I was a dairy farmer in the developing world, trying to survive when EU and US dairy subsidies keep world prices 34% lower than they should be, I would be grateful that three people a week were buying my products rather than getting to the crux of the issue.

More recently, my delight in finding some lovely sun blushed tomatoes which don't actually taste like bits of carpet someone has spilt tomato puree on has been hampered by a patronising little addition to the label informing me that 10p from every 'special pack' is being donated to Comic Relief.*

I've never been much of a fan of Comic Relief. When I was growing up, my father used to rage at the TV saying something along the lines of 'why don't they just put a load of guns in a boat and ship them over to Africa? ' in an effort to highlight that a countries torn apart by war are never going to develop either economically or socially.

That apart, if we really want to help the developing world, 10p from my overpriced culinary knick knacks isn't going to do much good.

I don't know how many times people actually have to say this, but if you want to help alleviate poverty, there's a rather handy trick you can employ.


It increases global parity. It allows countries to specialise in what they have either an absolute or a comparative advantage in, thus making global production both more productively and allocatively more efficient and shifting the global productivity curve out to the right. Everyone gets richer, albeit some at different rates to others.

And yet, we in the UK are still part of this hideous monster known as the European Union. A statist organisation which allows countries not to develop and adapt to globalisation, but instead gives them money when they are inefficient.

As I have written before,

Trading blocs are bad. They encourage protectionism and, particularly when they become political, non tariff barriers which people can't immediately see unless they are embroiled in the technical details of trade negotiations. We don't want retarded trade blocs, we want free international trade which exploits comparative and absolute advantage, shifts that global production possibility curve a large wedge to the right and which increases global parity. This does not happen with tariff barriers on shoes and health and safety rules imposed on barely above subsistence level farmers in Africa.

So all you people who are going to fanny around with your red noses, slapping yourselves on the back for being so caring and so thoughtful and really thinking that you are doing your bit to help out those less fortunate than yourselves, think again.

If you really want to do some good, help get the world's fifth largest trading nation out of the EU, back with their own seat at the WTO and leading the way in free trade. It made us rich when we did it unilaterally in the nineteenth century, and it can make us and everyone else who gets involved rich in the twenty first.

And there's a very simple way of doing that....

*Ironically, underneath this is the special offer price of '2 for £4' which does rather highlight the futility of the exercise.


CityUnslicker said...

Comic Relief is bad enought ot wathc. I wish they could at least be funny. perhaps they can only do that when they are paid?

Instead we are focred to watch the dross and as you rightly say, most of the money raised is wasted in pointlessness anyway.

Trixy said...

Is the point of it to equate their suffering with ours at having to watch it, I wonder?