Smith: Learning from Bono: Capitalism ... a cure

Smith: Learning from Bono: Capitalism ... a cure

August 19th, 2013 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Who said this:

"Aid is just a stop-gap. Commerce, entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid.

"In dealing with poverty here and around the world, welfare and foreign aid are a Band-Aid. Free enterprise is a cure.

"Entrepreneurship is the most sure way of development."

Ever heard of Paul David Hewson? I'll bet you've heard of Bono, the lead vocalist of the Dublin-based band, U2.

The 53-year old Nobel Peace Prize nominee known for his devotion to the impoverished people of Africa and the countless initiatives he has begun and assisted, Bono is regarded as a champion of international aid to the world's second largest and second most populous continent.

His philanthropic bent is driven, according to his own biography, by his Christian beliefs. A few of his projects include a clothing line with production based in poor communities to "promote fair trade and sustainable growth," partnering with global brands in the RED campaign with a portion of sales going to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and work with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to effectively utilize foreign aid awarded through the Millennium Challenge, circumventing government corruption and fostering policies of free enterprise.

But how does a rock singer - who in a June interview said, "It's very annoying following this person of Christ around, because he's very demanding of your life," - also equate foreign aid to a temporary fix and capitalism as "a cure" to the ills of poverty?

How can this man, so committed to the elimination of poverty reject the notion of giving and identify the solution with the parable - give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime?

Even President Barack Obama seemed to share these sentiments recently in Chattanooga: "Jobs are about more than just paying the bills ... more than just statistics ... A job is a source of pride, is a source of dignity. It's the way you look after your family. It's proof that you're doing the right things and meeting your responsibilities and contributing to the fabric of your community and helping to build the country."

But why do we see so much of our foreign aid being pilfered by corrupt government dictators and bureaucrats with so little reaching the poor, the hungry, or the infirm?

Why do we have a system in the United States that focuses on distributing fish rather than ensuring the skill of fishing?

Sadly, in a big government system, the "ruling class" views the efficiencies of central planning as the pathway to seemingly produce prosperity. In reality, having millions of government dependents who believe an agency or bureaucracy is responsible for their daily existence destroys dignity, crushes the innovative spirit of the creative and extinguishes the fire that burns within a productive, industrious individual.

The pattern of both prosperity and poverty is found in the Law of the Harvest: You reap what you sow, more than you sow, later than you sow, and of the same kind that you sow.

To assist the poor, is Bono correct in saying: "Job creators and innovators are just the key, and aid is just the bridge"?

And how does Bono address his critics?

"... They're the same people: cranks carping from the sideline. A lot of them wouldn't know what to do if they were on the field ... will always be in opposition, so they'll never have to take responsibility for decisions ..."

Spoken like a man who isn't worried about tickling the ears of the voting public.

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm.