Jean Jean Flaubert says the Red Cross promised to transform his neighborhood. “Now I do not understand the change that they are talking about,” he said. (Marie Arago, special to ProPublica)
Disaster relief and aid to developing nations is big business. Really big. While the documentary “Poverty,Inc.” examines whether this business helps or hurts, it’s very clear from this NPR/ProPublica story that the Red Cross did not help Haiti. And the Red Cross didn’t help Haiti to the tune of $500 million.
The Red Cross claims all the money went to Haitians. Haitians say no. Former Haitian prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive:
I’m not a big mathematician, but I can make some additions. It doesn’t add up for me.”
In this edition of Radio Free Acton, Paul Edwards speaks with Luba Markewycz of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago, Illinois about the Holodomor – the Great Famine of the 1930s inflicted on Ukraine by Josef Stalin’s Soviet Government that killed millions of Ukrainians through starvation. They discuss the Holodomor itself, and the process undertaken by Markewycz to create an exhibition of art by young Ukrainians to commemorate the event. You can listen to the podcast using the audio player below.
More: Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined Luba Markewycz in November at the Acton Building’s Mark Murray Auditorium for an evening of discussion of the Holodomor and the Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child exhibit.
Friedrich Hayek once called intellectuals “professional secondhand dealers in ideas.” And the Preacher proclaimed, “There is nothing new under the sun.” So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising when ideas, memes, and other cultural phenomena pop up again and again.
I first noticed the song, which heretofore had been background Christmas muzak, when we screened the new documentary Poverty, Inc. earlier this year at the Acton Institute offices. That film includes a section discussing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
When Christmas rolled around, I had the idea to write something about the song, and connected it with William Easterly’s analysis of the differing perspectives on development offered by Gunnar Myrdal and Hayek. But I now think that even though I hadn’t read Loftis’ piece, I had seen the title before I wrote my piece. In fact, I checked Ben Domenech’s excellent email newsletter The Transom, to which you should subscribe, and there on December 3 is the following: ‘“Do They Know It’s Christmas” is the worst Christmas song ever. http://vlt.tc/1qf7‘
No doubt I saw the link, and got the idea for calling it the “worst ever” into my head. Then some days later I connected it to the Poverty, Inc. clip and wrote my piece. So the idea for calling this the worst Christmas song ever must be credited to Loftis and The Federalist. I’m sorry that I didn’t realize that Loftis’ piece had already appeared, or I would have pointed to it earlier, and given credit for the idea straight away. So in the interests of disclosure, I certainly haven’t been the only one to criticize this song or even to call it the “worst Christmas song ever.” I guess I’ve got egg(nog) on my face. The variety of voices that find the song problematic, however, should be a indication that there’s something rotten in “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” It is, after all, a song that includes a toast like this: “Here’s to them underneath that burning sun.”
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is like a bad earworm that won’t go away. And now I really, really hate that song!
The Acton Institute is currently hosting an art exhibit called “Holodomor: Through the Eyes of a Child” in our Prince-Broekhuizen Gallery at the Acton Building. It features artworks created by contemporary Ukrainian children commemorating the great famine of the 1930s that was inflicted upon Ukraine by Stalin, resulting in the deaths of almost 7 million people by starvation.
The exhibit is the brainchild of Luba Markewycz, whose aim is to shed light on this largely unknown chapter of Ukrainian history and expose the tyranny and inhumanity of Stalin’s Communist regime. On November 6th, Markewycz – who is a teacher by profession, and has served in many roles at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago – was joined by Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg to discuss the exhibit and to shed light on the terrible historical events that it commemorates.
This is the latest in a long string of similar phenomena over the last decade or so, as we see patriotic loyalty (or the lack thereof) becoming a political issue in the context of offshoring, globalization, outsourcing, and so on.
A response to the charge of being unpatriotic would seem to me to require at least two points.
First, the responsibilities of a business owner, CEO, or corporate board are different than those of a government politician. They have different loyalties, so to speak. So to judge the one by the standards of the other is an exercise in missing the point.
Second, I would respond with a query along these lines: Which is more unpatriotic, a greater disservice to a nation, for someone to be involved in: moving a business from one country to another or making the tax environment in a country inhospitable to businesses?
Since the era of Adam Smith economists have been asking, “What creates wealth?” One key answer is specialization and trade. On a timeline of human history, the recent rise in standards of living resembles a hockey stick — flatlining for all of human history and then skyrocketing in just the last few centuries.
As economist Don Boudreaux explains, without specialization and trade, our ancient ancestors only consumed what they could make themselves. How can specialization and trade help explain the astonishing growth of productivity and output in such a short amount of time—after millennia of famine, low life expectancy, and incurable disease?
“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’–but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Cor. 10:23-24).
Christians are called to productive service of others in our work. The fact that someone will pay you for your work is a sign that they value it, and we must say that they are better-positioned than anyone else (other than God) to decide what’s best for them. But human beings are not infallible. In fact, we are highly fallible. We deceive ourselves and desire things that are not good for us.
Does the provider of a good or service have a moral obligation not to provide certain goods (or bads) or services? When does a “service” become a “disservice”? (more…)