Richard North, 01/07/2005  

There are days, especially rainy ones, when one has to ask oneself whether there is any point in carrying on writing, posting, making points, trying to get them across. After all, do we deserve freedom? I can hear that resounding no among our readers.

The news that Christopher Booker’s column has been suspended to make way to an all-singing, all-dancing spread on the G8 and the moronic Live8 is enough to make one weep copiously, for two reasons.

Firstly, of course, there is the thought of a Sunday without the Booker column, a thought that is probably incomprehensible to our readers who are resident outside Britain. Suffice it to say that with the dumbing down of most of the British media (The Business remaining an honourable example on Sunday) one can do no more but look for the odd column for serious news and analysis.

If the Sunday Telegraph under its new editress really is going to dump all those serious writers then another nail is going into the coffin of the British MSM. The idea that people who read the Sunday Telegraph want pages and pages of breathless prose about Geldof, Madonna or U2 is so seriously flawed that one cannot help wondering where the woman spends her waking hours.

This comes at the end of a week during which we found out that German television covered the Trafalgar celebrations at greater length than the BBC and to my certain knowledge the International Herald Tribune had a clearer and more informative caption about the battle, what it was about and who won it, than any of our own newspapers, except for the Daily Mail. (The Daily Telegraph after much huffing and puffing produced mealy mouthed descriptions that carefully avoided any information about what the celebrations were actually celebrating.)

All of which makes me think that my project of an academy that teaches British history is an extremely good one. I have, incidentally, had very positive responses, including one from a South African friend of Scottish extraction, who demanded clear and detailed accounts of the Scottish contribution. I am not likely to argue with that.

Another friend of long standing, who immediately signed up his entire family, suggested that I call it after my father. That would make sense, as he taught me English (and Scottish) history first. So, we may yet see the Tibor Szamuely Academy of British History.

There is a possibility of linking in with the new Anglosphere project that is beginning to develop in the United States and is taking in other Anglophone countries that subscribe loosely to the Anglospheric ideas in law, politics, economics and constitution. Alas, it is this country, the fons et origo of it all, that will be left out.

The most likely beginning of the project will be on our forthcoming website that is being discussed at the moment.

But to return to the Sunday Telegraph. What is also depressing is the thought that the newspaper should become part of what can only be described as Live8 hysteria. Despite carefully argued pieces in its own sister paper and other publications, including the Guardian; despite well attended conferences and talks given by people from every continent, who have studied the subject; despite papers produced by experts in various fields to do with development the fragrant editress of the Sunday Telegraph seems not to have grasped something that is patently obvious to most of this country’s and many other countries’ population.

Aid does more harm than good. Forty years of aid have helped to reduce African countries to chaos and their people to complete poverty.

Aid helps the political elites of Africa, who are the problem, and the NGOs, who have a vested interest in not seeing any real development. Aid means that people spend their time filling in forms and applying for money from various donors instead of participating in the economy.

I could go on. Instead, let me quote two people on the subject, who, astonishingly enough, express similar views.

“At the root of Africa’s problems is ruling political elites that have misused the economic surplus generated by the African continent over the last 40 years. African political elites have exploited their position in order to

- bolster their standard of living to Western levels,

- undertake loss-making industrialisation projects that were not supported by the necessary technical, managerial, and educational development, and

- transfer vast amounts of money from agriculture and mineral extraction to overseas private bank accounts, while borrowing vast amounts from developed countries.”

All this was eased by the perpetual aid giving, debt writing off and more aid giving that seems to have been the West’s only response for a long time. The G8-Live8 farce, to be lovingly covered in this week’s Sunday Telegraph perpetuates this vicious circle.

Here is the second quote:

“Economic development is not something we do four countries; it is something they achieve with us. Their leaders, by definition, must play the main role as agents of reform and progress, instead of passive recipients of money.”

Money that is then mis-spent in a system where the donors know nothing about the ultimate destination of the money and the people who are in the power of the “leaders” have no way of calling them to account.

The two quotes say make very similar points, despite the vaguely Marxist phraseology of the first one. That was made by Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of Thado and deputy chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs. The paper was first published by Cato Institute in Washington DC and, just two days ago, by the London based International Policy Network, who also organized a meeting that Mr Mbeki addressed. Clearly nobody attended from the Sunday Telegraph.

The second quote is from President Bush. It is part of his explanation why American aid is being targeted to certain particular projects and is tied to democratic development.

Are you listening Ms Sands? Silly question.

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