Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Friday, June 17, 2005
The Enablers. Here is the Make Poverty History manifesto.

Some of it is good: the call for the EU to unilaterally put an end to its damaging agricultural export subsidies, for instance. There is room for doubt in my mind on debt cancellation (peverse incentives and loss of future creditworthiness versus the unfairness of making people suffer for the sins of their thieving leaders). Nor am I always against foreign aid per se; I see it as like opium for an injured person, addictive but sometimes a lifesaver. But when I saw this

... it ["trade justice"] means ensuring poor countries can feed their people by protecting their own farmers and staple crops; it means ensuring governments can effectively regulate water companies by keeping water out of world trade rules and it means ensuring trade rules do not undermine core labour standards.

We need to stop the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) forcing poor countries to open their markets to trade with rich countries, which has proved so disastrous over the past 20 years; the EU must drop its demand that former European colonies open their markets and give more rights to big companies; we need to regulate companies – making them accountable for their social and environmental impact both here and abroad; and we must ensure that countries are able to regulate foreign investment in a way that best suits their own needs.

I thought of the role of MPH as being something like that of the "enabler" in the household of an alcoholic.

An enabler is “a person who unknowingly helps the alcoholic by denying the drinking problem exists and helping the alcoholic to get out of troubles caused by his drinking” (Silverstein, 1990, p.65). The enabler will clean up the alcoholic’s vomit and make excuses to his or her boss, teacher, or friends. The enabler lies for the alcoholic, and thus enables the alcoholic to continue drinking.
For drinking read "ensuring poor countries can feed their people by protecting their own farmers and staple crops." You don't need two separate books to read about the history of agricultural protectionism and the history of famine! Over the last twenty years the countries that have followed (even imperfectly) what MPH calls the "disastrous" policy of opening their markets have suffered... unprecendented rises in prosperity. Those that have kept doing what MPH want them to do have stayed poor. (Added later: "want them to do" might be better phrased as "give them permission to do," in the same sense that an Enabler gives an alcoholic "permission" to carry on drinking.)

I was especially struck by questions two and three in this quiz called Are You an Enabler? But the metaphor resonates for all of them.

1. Have you ever "called in sick" for the alcoholic, lying about his symptoms?

2. Have you accepted part of the blame for his (or her) drinking or behavior?

3. Have you avoided talking about his drinking out of fear of his response?

4. Have you bailed him out of jail or paid for his legal fees?

5. Have you paid bills that he was supposed to have paid himself?

6. Have you loaned him money?

7. Have you tried drinking with him in hopes of strengthening the relationship?

8. Have you given him "one more chance" and then another and another?

9. Have you threatened to leave and didn't?

10. Have you finished a job or project that the alcoholic failed to complete himself?