A famine in the Horn of Africa killed 400,000 in Ethiopia in 1983-84. In response, two musician activists–Bob Geldof and Midge Ure–organized what became one of the largest television broadcasts of all time: Live Aid. On July 13, 1985, the concert took place simultaneously in London, England (72,000 people in Wembley Stadium) and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (100,000 people in John F. Kennedy Stadium). Live Aid was broadcast globally and viewed by an estimated 1.9 billion people in 150 nations. The effort raised $283,600,000 for famine relief.
The Irish rock band U2 was launched into prominence at Live Aid. Bono, the band’s lead vocalist, was interviewed there. In the interview he expressed his opinion that people should engage personally and publicly in helping the poor. He also indicated that governments are responsible to solve the problem of poverty.
Bono’s pilgrimage in thoughts about how to help to poor has mirrored that of many of us. At first, we have functioned from a closed system, “zero sum” economic model that regards the redistribution of resources as the key to helping the poor. Governments are responsible to use taxation to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. Bono actually says it like that in the YouTube interview linked above.
But the redistributionist model, a spinoff of socialism, has failed miserably. Government and private programs built around moving money from the rich to the poor do little to solve poverty. In fact, they often create more poverty by fostering dependency and encouraging corruption.
Now Bono has come to see that. Like many of us, the rock star—already a believer in Christ—has moved on in his journey to a sort of second conversion experience. He has come to see what actually lifts nations out of poverty: capitalism and free markets. This change of thinking came when Bono heard Ghanaian economic professor George Ayittey. Professor Ayittey, who founded the Free Africa Foundation, spoke at a TED conference. After hearing that presentation, and reading Ayittey’s book, Africa Unchained, Bono embraced the merits of an open system, “positive sum” economic model. This approach affirms the virtues of free markets for individuals and nations, the advantages of private property, and the essential of the rule of law. (Go here to view Professor Ayittey’s message that so impacted Bono, “Africa’s cheetahs versus hippos.”)
You can read more about Bono’s “second conversion” here.
When we try to cure poverty by engaging our hearts only, we usually end up creating more of it. By using our minds AND our hearts we can develop real solutions.
- Darrow Miller