I’ve already weighed in on Bono’s “humbling” realizations about capitalism and commerce, noting that although I’m still not overly confident in the direction of Bono’s efforts, such a realization is an encouraging sign. Yet despite my original skepticism — which Greg Forster found a bit too heavy-handed — Bono has continued with this theme, arguing more recently that “commerce and entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid.” Consider me pleased.
Last week, Josh Good of AEI’s Values & Capitalism project (where I also blog), used Bono’s comments as a springboard for a broader discussion about the role of aid and entrepreneurship in the developing world. Columnist Michael Gerson leads the discussion, followed by HOPE International’s Chris Horst and Andrea McDaniel of the As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative.
You can watch a video of the event here:
Although I routinely have strong and significant disagreements with Gerson’s overall approach, particularly on the topic of aid, his remarks in this particular talk are pretty close to the mark. Even where we disagree, I continue to find his arguments on particular global health initiatives to be compelling challenges to my own less interventionist positions.
The most striking point, however, comes from Horst, who points to an important Nicolas Kristof column that I’ve discussed in the past. Reminding us that the developing world faces more than just a resource problem, Horst emphasizes that our goal of empowering entrepreneurship in these countries needs to stretch beyond the material:
Poverty is not a bank account problem alone, and if we, in our work to help the poor and to promote entrepreneurship, are simply enabling people that are in poverty to be able to afford more liquor and more prostitutes, that is not progress. We might simply be replacing the problems of poverty with the problems of prosperity. Look at our own country — the country club, Hollywood — we know that the fame and riches do not in themselves bring peace. Even King Solomon, who had everything a man could ever want or imagine, said this: “All was vanity and striving after the wind.”
Regardless of your religious convictions, we can all agree that financial prosperity in itself…does not bring peace. To be clear, I’m not saying that this is an excuse for inaction and not helping the poor. There are millions living in squalor and we are called to respond to those needs. But I would suggest that we need to broaden and expand the definition of progress to include more than rupees and dollars. It must include hearts and minds if we’re going to see real progress.