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Old 11-17-2003, 09:13 PM   #1
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A critical view on Bono's Drop the Debt Campaign

What are your thoughts on this article? The more questions, comments, and cries of outrage, the better...

http://www.nationalpost.com/search/s...1-A8567B2E91FA

Robin O'Hood lives tax free

Peter Foster
Financial Post

Friday, November 14, 2003

Bono

I have no wish to make an argumentum ad Eminem against Bono, who is due to speak on Third World development at this evening's coronation of Paul Martin. There is no reason why the lead singer of Irish rock group U2 should not, at least in theory, present viable ideas on the topic. We should have no more a priori skepticism about his analysis than about the expectation that, say, Milton Friedman might be a dab hand with a Stratocaster. If anybody were to attack Bono, it should be on the basis of his ideas. So here goes. But first a few personal details.

Bono reportedly has a fortune of well over $100-million and lives largely tax-free. The "pesky Irish rockster," as he dubs himself, has in recent years become a "tireless crusader" for the relief both of Third World debt and AIDS, primarily in Africa.

Everybody, it seems, wants to rub shoulders with such a famous "social activist," that is, a person who seeks to indulge his personal charitable priorities with other people's money. Political leaders from George Bush to Tony Blair -- not to mention Messrs. Chrétien and Martin -- are keen to be photographed with him. He is supported by Bill and Melinda Gates and George Soros. He is on chatting terms with Warren Buffett. He has a free pass to the Pope.

Bono's self-righteousness has taken him beyond mere charity appeals; now he storms straight into the Oval Office and starts pounding the table.

While we may not doubt his sincerity, we may question his suggested policies. He will no doubt congratulate the Liberal government tonight for making Canada the first jurisdiction to flout the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies by forcing them to license AIDS drugs to "generic" producers for sale in poor countries.

There are a number of problems with this notion. The first is how much good it may actually do in the absence of health delivery systems. The second is the policy's longer-term implications. To artificially reduce the price of any product will cause shortages. It will not only reduce research funds, it will make drug companies less inclined to do research. They will fear that their rights will be expropriated any time a "public health" issue is declared to take priority over their profitability.

Even Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham has admitted that the policy has a downside for innovation. "But the problem," wrote Mr. Graham in the Toronto Star earlier this week, "is that sick people in poor countries cannot wait until new medicines are affordable." And so we must expropriate drug companies and damn the consequences.

Lenin must have used a very similar argument while grabbing peasant grain in order to feed the starving cities after the 1917 revolution. How could these selfish kulaks demand market prices when people were dying?

To declare that to steal property by legislation is OK as long as the cause is serious enough is a disastrous lesson for Third World countries whose main problem, as the brilliant Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has pointed out, is the lack of property rights.

Debt relief is also far less straightforward an issue than Bono is likely to portray it. There is certainly cause for relief from "odious debts" incurred by tyrants and which have offered no benefit to their people, but Bono wants a blanket write-off. Not only will this do arguable good to people who are, we are so often told, live on less than $2 a day, but it will greatly damage the prospect of future loans.

Certainly there should be a forensic examination of just where these loans went, and, above all, which bozos in the West approved them, but Third World development solutions lie beyond redistribution, which has failed time and again. Development is a self-generated process, not a gift.

The fact that people believe that the simple solution for poverty is to take from some and give to others resides in a primitive outlook which evolved in a much poorer, more collectivist world. When we lived in small tribes, this made sense. It was founded on, and promoted, a valuable sense of reciprocal obligation, of mutual support.

We no longer live in such a world. Merely to throw funds at failed nations half a world away without addressing underlying problems invites chaos, particularly when so many nations toil under dictatorships and lack the rule of law.

To question Bono's policy prescriptions is not to replace hope with cynicism, but to point out that redistributionism is both morally and practically flawed.

It was almost 20 years ago that Bono's older and perhaps wiser colleague Bob Geldof staged Live Aid for starving Ethiopians. The main difference now is that, partly as a result of that and other massive initiatives by the UN, there are more Ethiopians starving, even as they are beset by AIDS. And they still live under a dictatorship.

© Copyright 2003 National Post
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Old 11-17-2003, 09:39 PM   #2
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I again am posting when I said I would not. here goes.

Bono's wealth has nothing to do with it! (RICHARD)

The only two valid points that I feel the author makes are these...

#1 How can these nation's hope to receive future credit from anywhere else if their debts are completely forgiven?

#2 Pharmaceutical companies are in business to make money. That is a harsh reality. The incetive to continue to produce and create new drugs is hurt when the situation is described in tge manner above.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

let's see....2 points verses....Human Suffering, Poverty.....
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Old 11-17-2003, 10:21 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dreadsox
Bono's wealth has nothing to do with it!

I don't understand why the author even makes an issue of Bono's tax free status in relation to the rest of this acticle.

The fact that Bono lives in a country which offers some of its citizens a tax free status means NOTHING in his fight against poverty and AIDS.

He was born in Ireland, unlike some of the other celebrities/artists who have decided to make Ireland their home specifically for tax reasons (Elvis Costello/Ron Wood). And once again, we can all speculate that he's trying to fix these problems with "other people's money" but does anyone really know how much of his own income he gives?
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Old 11-17-2003, 11:28 PM   #4
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I hate it when they try to make Bono's wealth an issue. It's got nothing to do with this stuff dammit! Ireland is his native country, for heaven's sakes. Yes, pharmaceutical companies have to make money like any other businesses. Bono has made statements making it clear that he's not oblivious to this, so he knows of the conflicts and difficulties of the situation. I must admit I didn't read that article really word-for-word because I am so damn sick and tired of them trying to make his wealth an issue. It's stupid. That's how he has the time and the money to do this. Don't they understand that? Apparently not.
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Old 11-17-2003, 11:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bono's American Wife


He was born in Ireland, unlike some of the other celebrities/artists who have decided to make Ireland their home specifically for tax reasons (Elvis Costello/Ron Wood). And once again, we can all speculate that he's trying to fix these problems with "other people's money" but does anyone really know how much of his own income he gives?
exactly what I was going to say!
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Old 11-18-2003, 01:20 AM   #6
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I remember a while back when Bill O'Reilly made the similar statements saying something to the effect: "How naive is for Bono to think that Drop the Debt is easily feasible, given the facts regarding the Third World political corruption, etc. etc."

That irked me a bit... because O'Reilly made an ASSumption regarding Bono's naivete, O'Reilly didn't seem to mind reading up on Bono's knowledge regarding his causes... such as Bono having spoken to Harvard Professor Saches numerous times... Bono KNOWS the risks, factors, AND issues involved...

What the Third World is facing is economical imperialism... whereby they can never repay their debt, no matter how much they try. What is needed there are simple stuff most countries already have taken for granted... (as shown on the MTV Diary Special) fresh water pipe distribution, forms of birth control (i.e. condoms) and sex education, AND the medication. If these basic needs aren't met, they can never advance their society and civilization. It's a travesty!

As far as pharmaceutical industry goes, more money isn't going to find the cure for AIDS or any other epidemic like cancer or whathaveyou... What's needed is timing, brilliant research, and a lucky stroke of discovery... A lot of medical research, say like somekind of organ cancer, still require charity fundraising, but they're not charging the dying patients an arm and a leg for it... Bono made it clear... a lot of meds are made cheaply but priced ridiculously (as do most businesses), but pharmaceutical is a big industry, so they probably do have a right to charge what they'd like...

I dunno... I might be wrong on some issues I've just discussed... But I'd like to hear what others have to say...
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Old 11-18-2003, 02:14 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by theSoulfulMofo
I remember a while back when Bill O'Reilly made the similar statements saying something to the effect: "How naive is for Bono to think that Drop the Debt is easily feasible, given the facts regarding the Third World political corruption, etc. etc."

That irked me a bit... because O'Reilly made an ASSumption regarding Bono's naivete, O'Reilly didn't seem to mind reading up on Bono's knowledge regarding his causes... such as Bono having spoken to Harvard Professor Saches numerous times... Bono KNOWS the risks, factors, AND issues involved...
More proof that O'Reilly doesn't know what he's talking about (just out of curiosity, how much time has Bill taken to help people in need?).

It also ticks me off when people bring Bono's financial status into these things. . If they'd only read up on the fact that he himself has donated to charities and organizations and so on and so forth...not to mention, as others have pointed out, the fact that he's wealthy has nothing to do with the issues at hand.

Quote:
Originally posted by theSoulfulMofo
What the Third World is facing is economical imperialism... whereby they can never repay their debt, no matter how much they try. What is needed there are simple stuff most countries already have taken for granted... (as shown on the MTV Diary Special) fresh water pipe distribution, forms of birth control (i.e. condoms) and sex education, AND the medication. If these basic needs aren't met, they can never advance their society and civilization. It's a travesty!
Yep, exactly.

And this also all ties into the dictatorships thing, the war on terror, as Bono has pointed out many times. By helping get this stuff to these people, that makes America look good to these countries, so when some power-hungry guy comes in and starts spouting anti-American spheel, the people of these countries could look at him and go, "You're crazy! Look what America's done for us!"

As a result, these power-hungry people are unable to gain a following, and therefore cannot rise to become dictators of these people and cannot screw them over as a result.

So in the long run, not only does giving all that stuff to the Africans benefit them, but it benefits the rest of the world, too.

Quote:
Originally posted by theSoulfulMofo
As far as pharmaceutical industry goes, more money isn't going to find the cure for AIDS or any other epidemic like cancer or whathaveyou... What's needed is timing, brilliant research, and a lucky stroke of discovery... A lot of medical research, say like somekind of organ cancer, still require charity fundraising, but they're not charging the dying patients an arm and a leg for it... Bono made it clear... a lot of meds are made cheaply but priced ridiculously (as do most businesses), but pharmaceutical is a big industry, so they probably do have a right to charge what they'd like...
Yep.

Course, I'd love to think that pharmaceutical companies would be more focused on helping others than how much they make for themselves.

Not saying that they shouldn't try and make a good little profit for themselves-like you've all said, they are a business and do intend to make money, but when some of them charge such high prices...it makes them seem kinda greedy...at least, that's what I'd see it as.

Angela
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Old 11-18-2003, 07:55 AM   #8
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If I were to make an assumption, I would think the author here raised the issue of Bono's personal wealth to support his stance that Bono himself is naive in the bigger picture. What better way to support such an idea than to point out a perceived hypocracy by showing how this rich man has simplified it. To people like us (being U2 fans in general) we would rather look a bit closer than immediately criticise. Bono though has to take on many people so any simplification is almost necessary when you have so many people to convince. Whether Bono is really naive on the finer points I dont think is for us or this author to decide. Criticism like the author of this article has raised is valid but first you have to yell loudly to get everyone's attention.
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Old 11-18-2003, 08:38 AM   #9
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I also love how the lack of helth delivery systems card is played yet again. Gott love it when people assume Africans are too dumn to take their medicine. Yet another bit of proof that Western paternalism isn't dead.

And his otehr excuse that the worl dis too complicated for redistribution isthe best cop out I've heard in ages. And how this some how makes redistribution immoral... Then there's the idea that all this is doing the Africans a favour, that this is them feeloading.... Gee is it just me or are memories of colonialism fadign fast....

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Old 11-18-2003, 08:49 AM   #10
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I read that article yesterday

I am not someone who thinks Bono is perfect, because obviously no human being is. And exactly, who DOES know how much $ he gives? Many people want that kept private, because they don't want any attention for it.

But it's easy for other people to sit on their butts and criticize him. He could just be sitting on his living the high life, but he chooses to try to help others. And I think it's pretty pathetic to criticize him for that. I have never questioned his motivation, because I truly believe it's pure.
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Old 11-18-2003, 09:40 AM   #11
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I have a couple of points to add to the ones above.

1. I appreciate this author's tone, esp. compared to the sneering tone I've seen in some other articles. But it's strange that he starts out saying he won't discredit Bono's ideas because he's a rock star...and then does precisely that.

2. If he imagines that somehow, since Bono is rich that he could write a check and solve even a part of the problem, he grossly misunderstands the way debt has been *manufactured* to trap impoverished nations in their poverty. (That shouldn't imply malicious intent, but being trapped is indeed the effect of perpetual debt restructuring, esp. when austerity measures such as stripping away subsidies, job and health care are forced upon governments).

3. Despite the concerns of many to the contrary, the World Bank recently released a report that stated 100% of debt relief $$ has gone where it is supposed to go. Yes, corruption has wasted millions, but that's larely due to ODIOUS LENDING, loans that shouldn't have been made in the first place, and because they are odious, as this author seems to agree, they should simply be cancelled.

4. He says (and I see this a lot) that we need to address "underlying problems" but doesn't identify any. What does he mean? Infrastructure? That takes money. Jobs? Ditto. Good governance? Yes, this is sometimes an issue, but it doesn't justify not cancelling at debt that is being paid at the expense of kids eating, and "good governance" is a nebulous and culturally specific concept anyway. It's like the AIDS debate--you'll hear ppl argue that we need education, not more money--as if education doesn't COST anything!

I think that's about it. Rock on the fight, Bono!

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Old 11-18-2003, 10:59 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dreadsox
I again am posting when I said I would not. here goes.

Bono's wealth has nothing to do with it! (RICHARD)

The only two valid points that I feel the author makes are these...

#1 How can these nation's hope to receive future credit from anywhere else if their debts are completely forgiven?

#2 Pharmaceutical companies are in business to make money. That is a harsh reality. The incetive to continue to produce and create new drugs is hurt when the situation is described in tge manner above.

His wealth and the fact he's tax free doesn't mean a damn thing.

#1. True, but do you ever see them getting out of debt this way in order to ever get to a point for future credit? The world's placed them in a everlasting vacuum. Future credit shouldn't even be an issue right now. These countries have no future as things stand the way they are.

#2. You are right, but these companies can still make profit without charging market prices.
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Old 11-18-2003, 02:01 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
I read that article yesterday

I am not someone who thinks Bono is perfect, because obviously no human being is. And exactly, who DOES know how much $ he gives? Many people want that kept private, because they don't want any attention for it.

But it's easy for other people to sit on their butts and criticize him. He could just be sitting on his living the high life, but he chooses to try to help others. And I think it's pretty pathetic to criticize him for that. I have never questioned his motivation, because I truly believe it's pure.
Exactly.

Sherry and Blacksword and Angela, good points from you guys as well.

Angela
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Old 11-18-2003, 07:02 PM   #14
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This article is from the National Compost. That's point number 1.

Point number two is one that the author makes himself at the end but is apparently too blindsided to see it. Ethiopians cannot be helped by a one-time charitable donation. You need to build up African societies and it needs to be a collaborative effort including people, goverments, health care, economics, trade, etc. That's why Bono's argument and DATA's positions are unique - they have integrated a number of issues, and have recognized that not one can be fixed unless all are addressed.
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Old 11-19-2003, 12:01 AM   #15
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Exactly, animtram. Many of you have raised excellent points. I simply wanted to get these points in a thread together, and read your responses. Thanks for partaking.

I have noticed that many of the detractors of this cause have been very black and white, yet very unspecific in their arguments. Many of them come across as knowing much more about the issues as Bono would/does, but once we examine their points closely, they're not as knowledgable as they try to come across.

Please feel free to add more to this thread...
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