Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Give Me All Your Money
Oh Yeah, And His Money Too

Let me be clear right up front here, I admire Bob Geldof and Bono. Both of them have gone far beyond making pleas for charity. Both of them have gotten involved in the nitty gritty details of the distribution of food and medicine. Both of them have sat down with the leaders of African nations, and have taken time to hear the concerns and excuses of those leaders. And both have been brave enough, and clear headed enough, to call those leaders on their excuses.

What's more, I think Bush's policy towards Africa, which Bono endorses, is a wonderful step in the right direction. America is a very wealthy nation, and we can afford to help Africa.

And there is the added bonus that if we do a good job at helping the African people they will get on their feet and start buying stuff from us. In capatalism, it's in everybody's best interest that everybody does well. If corporations sometimes need help, then so can countries.

All that said, I love this article from the Telegraph, where Mark Steyn deconstructs the Live8 concert:

Not because Sir Paul was any better or worse than Sir Elton or Sir Bob or any other member of the aristorockracy, but because it reminded me of why I'm sceptical about the "generosity" which these events "embody".

Seven years ago, you'll recall, Sir Paul's wife died of cancer. Linda McCartney had been a resident of the United Kingdom for three decades but her Manhattan tax lawyers, Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts, devoted considerable energy in her final months to establishing her right to have her estate probated in New York state.

That way she could set up a "qualified domestic marital trust" that would... Yeah, yeah, yeah, in the immortal words of Lennon and/or McCartney. Big deal, you say. We're into world peace and saving the planet and feeding Africa. What difference does it make which jurisdiction some squaresville suit files the boring paperwork in?

Okay, I'll cut to the chase. By filing for probate in New York rather than the United Kingdom, Linda McCartney avoided the 40 per cent death duties levied by Her Majesty's Government. That way, her family gets all 100 per cent - and 100 per cent of Linda McCartney's estate isn't to be sneezed at.

For purposes of comparison, Bob Geldof's original Live Aid concert in 1985 raised £50 million. Lady McCartney's estate was estimated at around £150 million. In other words, had she paid her 40 per cent death duties, the British Treasury would have raised more money than Sir Bob did with Bananarama and all the gang at Wembley Stadium that day.

Given that she'd enjoyed all the blessings of life in these islands since 1968, Gordon Brown might have felt justified in reprising Sir Bob's heartfelt catchphrase at Wembley: "Give us yer fokkin' money!" But she didn't. She kept it for herself. And good for her. I only wish I could afford her lawyers.

So why, if I love Bono and Bob so much, would I post an article which criticizes the Live8 folks in this manner? Well, Steyn articulates that as well. Simply put:

... that's why the Live8 bonanza was so misguided. Two decades ago, Sir Bob was at least demanding we give him our own fokkin' money. This time round, all he was asking was that we join him into bullying the G8 blokes to give us their taxpayers' fokkin' money.

Yes, that's right. When George Bush tripled aid to Africa, he did so assuming it would be ok with us. It's our money. He didn't reach into his pocket. He reached into our pockets. Why is it that people around the world think they ought to be able to dictate what our leaders do with our money?

I think it's up to us Americans to decide. If you, in the other countries of the world, want to cede your freedom of choice to your government, then I guess that's your right. But, we Americans reserve the right to make those choices for ourselves.

Oh, and by the way, about that canard about Americans being cheap; let's look at the facts about Americans and giving:

Actual dollar contributions reveal that the U.S. is the world’s largest donor. The OECD calculates U.S. development assistance (based on bilateral assistance, humanitarian assistance, and contributions to multilateral institutions like the International Development Association of the World Bank) in 2003 at $16.2 billion—more than double the amount given by France, Germany, or any other European nation.[2] Japan is second at $8.9 billion.

Private aid is ignored. These numbers do not include private assistance. This is not a major factor for most other nations because private charity is not large in most countries. It is a gigantic oversight when calculating America’s aid ratio, however, because the U.S. Agency for International Development estimated that private assistance was $33.6 billion in 2000.[3]

Therefore, the calculations ... severely shortchange the generosity of the United States.