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January 14, 2005

Jim on the United Nations, Development and Aid.

Assiduous readers may have noticed that a rather angry commenter known as Jim from North London keeps on at me about my rubbishing of the UN, promotion of private sector aid, development and so on. The latest little piece I see at his place contains this:

Meanwhile, cretins in the UK have quietened down somewhat. Tim Worstall stopped responding to comments on his anti-UN snipes once the posts had fallen off his blog's front page. When criticised by The Obscurer, though, Worstall is quick to say that "yes, indeed, everyone who is helping deserves both our thanks and our support" (directly contradicting his previous insistence that anyone who works for the UN deserve none). Don't hold your breath waiting for a similar admission on his own blog, though.

As I’m not in the UK I assume the cretins bit doesn’t apply to me. As to the responding to his comment, well, do have a look at what he says. I must have missed that lesson at the Blogging Academy where it is pointed out that I have to respond to every passing crank, especially when there are other posts here which explain exactly my views on such matters.

Just to make it clear, as I do in response to The Obscurer, of course anyone and everyone who has helped save lives deserves our thanks and support. What Jim manages to miss is that this blog uses economic arguments a lot of the time. We are always interested in relative results, not absolute. Or, if you prefer, we are aware of the existence of opportunity costs around here. Doing something in an inefficient manner, no matter how well intentioned, is worse than doing something in an efficient manner. Sure, we can all have a great global love-in called the UN but if that organisation is less effective than, say, the US Military, at delivering disaster aid then we should be using the latter, not the former, to deliver disaster aid.

This, of course, requires observation of which is the more efficient system, even commentary on which is.

Not a complex set of reasoning that but then if you want to see why Jim doesn’t get it have a look at his page on 10 ideas for development. A more absurd and preposterous series of economic ideas is difficult to imagine outside the syphilitic ravings of Lenin on Imperialism. I’ve actually finally come round to the idea that Jim and his site are in fact a spoof, a long lasting one but one that I have finally seen through. No one who honestly wanted to improve the lot of the world’s poor would seriously suggest that more money and more economic power should be given to the liars, thieves and economic incompetents who currently run the poor countries. I mean, really, they wouldn’t, would they? Surely no one can be that blind to economic reality?

Allow developing countries to selectively protect and nurture their industries, just as every one of today's rich countries has done in the past.

Bob Mugabe gets to decide which industries get tariff protection? Oh, Puhleease, get a grip dear boy.

January 14, 2005 in United Nations | Permalink


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I think that what Jim and myself were saying is not that it is wrong to fairly criticise and comment on the aid effort, and what is the bestway to save lives, but that you comments suggested you were grasping any oppurtunity to indulge in a bit of UN and EU bashing for the sake of it.

You initially also criticised the actions of the State in general, saying how ineffective they were when compared to the actions of Private companies and Charities; I take it you have changed you tune on that, what with your praise of the fine work being done by the US Military?

Tim adds: As to the first paragraph then we seem to be in agreement. My critiques of the outcomes of the actions of the EU and UN were indeed made as comparison to those acheived by others. My jeering tone was simply that I expected nothing different. I am therefore also justified in my abhorrence of the two organisations now that we have this nice little proof of how it works out in practice.

As to the second paragraph even the most froth at the mouth libertarian, like myself, agrees that the State should provide a stong military. It’s all the other stuff we don’t like, as per the meetings, conferences, planning sessions and bureaucrats that I have been complaining about.

So, rather to both our shocks, it appears that I have been consistent, even if you think I have been wrong.

Posted by: Quinn | Jan 14, 2005 2:53:31 PM

The Tobin Tax

Lovely idea isn't it, and as unworkable as a Cannibals and Missionaries Friendship Picnic.

1) What kind of system is needed to trace multibillion dollar currency transactions round the world round the clock. Very expensive to run however you do it.
2) How would a tiny percentage deter speculator? Where massive profits and losses are available it would need to be expensive.
3) Why do we want to deter speculation, capital flight is usualy caused by politicians incompetence. Speculation keeps the bastards honest.
4) Who collects? Kofi Annan's son?

I could fisk all the other points all day, but that will do.

Tim adds: Plus, of course, if we actually do slow the market down as desired then we won’t be raising much moeny as the tax will have slowed the market down.

Posted by: EU Serf | Jan 14, 2005 3:55:59 PM

You economists and your cold-hearted calculations! Don't you realize the object is not to help the poor, but to make them like us?

Posted by: Brian Jones | Jan 14, 2005 10:58:17 PM

Oops, left off the scare quotes.


Posted by: Brian Jones | Jan 14, 2005 10:58:45 PM

Don't worry Tim. Many blogs get complete nutters in the comments. Although I don't agree with a lot of what Quinn says, he's an intelligent, clued-up guy who's no more cranky than you or I, and you should be thankful that you get to have interesting, thoughtful arguments in comments.

(Not so sure about Jim, though).

Posted by: Scott Campbell at Blithering Bunny | Jan 15, 2005 12:07:36 AM

Wow, that list is certainly impressive. It takes "reality-based community" from ironic to outright lie.

Quinn: But the UN is such a target-rich environment. Oil-for-Food, Food-for-Sex, Sex-for-Hiring, Hiring-for-Nepotism... sometimes it seems like the UN's primary mission is actually to discredit themselves.

Brian: Of curse the object is not to help the poor. The object is to feel like we're helping the poor, hold parties where we talk about helping the poor, and generally impress everyone with how much we care about the poor. Whether the poor is actually helped by any of this is not important.

Posted by: TallDave | Jan 15, 2005 12:07:41 AM