Poverty – An Industry?
There is big money to be made in foreign aid, yet aid has not made poor countries wealthy, and poverty has not ended. Is the global aid industry based on a series of errors? This past month on Eagle Forum Live, in a fascinating expose, Phyllis Schlafly interviewed Michael Matheson Miller, Director and Producer of a new documentary, Poverty, Inc.
A select few benefit highly from foreign aid, but the poor are not among them. Miller identified what he called the ‘poverty industry,’ pinpointing how and why first-world charity is not lifting the poor out of poverty. “If we really want to alleviate poverty,” he insisted, “the poverty industry as we know it will have to go.”
What are the barriers to wealth in the third world? Miller outlined several. Access to trade is the missing ingredient for many third world entrepreneurs, but in some cases, foreign aid actually creates a barrier between entrepreneurs and the market. Poverty, Inc. documents how in Haiti after the earthquake, Haitian farmers were pushed out of business due to the influx of free rice from abroad, and local business owners had to lay off workers long-term after being unable to compete with free technology and services from abroad.
Then there is the problem of bureaucracy – Miller’s investigation found that it took nearly 300 days of full-time work to start a legal business in some 3rd world nations. Most American small businesses could not exist in that environment – how can we expect 3rd world nations to do so?
Poverty, Inc. outlines several cases of foreign aid gone wrong, but highlights several stories, too, of aid done well and yielding strong results. “No one in Haiti wants to be a beggar his whole life,” one Haitian man told Miller, and yet American foreign policy and aid practices frequently incentivize begging and dis-incentivize work.
Michael Matheson Miller is a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute, has lived and traveled in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and lectures internationally on political philosophy, economic development, entrepreneurship, and ethics. To find or host a screening of Poverty, Inc. visit povertyinc.org
The entire conversation between Phyllis Schlafly and Michael Matheson Miller can be found by visiting the radio archives page at EagleForum.org/radio.