This is a great day. For years, Bono has been something of a pain, banging on about the need for billions of dollars in Western foreign aid to Africa. I have criticized him for ignoring the real source of African poverty – lack of capitalism – on numerous occasions.
But, unlike many who hate capitalism without reservation, Bono is open to changing his mind. Here is Bono giving capitalism its due recognition during a recent speech at Georgetown University. As the musician put it, when it comes to poverty “free enterprise is a cure.”
Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming.
According to the World Bank, global poverty is declining rapidly. In 1981, 70 percent of people in poor countries lived on less than $2 a day, while 42 percent survived on less than $1 a day. Today, 43 percent live on less than $2 a day, while 14 percent survive on less than $1. “Poverty reduction of this magnitude is unparalleled in history,” wrote Brookings Institution researchers Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz in a recent paper. “Never before have so many people been lifted out of poverty over such a brief period of time.”
Yes, we should still share with the less fortunate — preferably out of our own wallets. But we must use good discernment with giving to ensure that it isn’t counter-productive. Know the charities you support and ensure that they are really making a difference and are run efficiently and effectively. Use good discernment and pray for wisdom! But don’t forget that making people more self-sufficient may be the greatest gift.
For example, one of the reasons we love and support the AIDS Orphan mission in Kenya is that it doesn’t just cost effectively (literally $10/child/month) feed, clothe and educate these orphans (and the widows who take care of them), it also gives them life skills. We met many kids who baked bread, sewed, did hair care, planted trees, etc. and made such good livings that they supported themselves and their siblings. Their joy was contagious. We feel blessed to be a small part of that and feel confident in giving to the program because we’ve seen it first hand many times and have gotten to know the leaders well over a number of years.