Bono Raises Money for Africa's Impoverished, But Does It Do Any Good?
By Staff News & Analysis - February 28, 2013

U2 rocker Bono gave a TED talk in California this week addressing global poverty. But has the wealthy TED audience found what it's looking for? … If you want a living demonstration of American inequality, the details of this week's TED conference in Long Beach, California, might do the trick. TED is a non-profit which aims to spread good ideas, through conferences, projects and a video site. In the conference's fifth and final year here, attendees have paid US$7500 apiece to attend … —

Dominant Social Theme: There is too much poverty in the world and we need to help governments erase it.

Free-Market Analysis: Singer Bono was back in the news again with please to support the charity he cofounded called ONE. But Bono's campaigning for poverty relief in Africa inevitably brings up larger issues that have plagued almost all modern relief efforts.

The biggest issue is that the kind of aid that Bono is involved with inevitably funnels funds to governments in developing countries – and it is often these governments that administer the funds and then provide glowing statistics about the results.

A critical article in Bloomberg back in 2007 profiled the singer's charitable activities as well as forays into commercial war games and the fluctuating line between his charitable and commercial activities. But for free-market oriented critics, it is where money ends up that determines its effectiveness.

The Bloomberg article states, "Whether or not Bono gives money himself is immaterial to ONE … When U2's fans sent text messages to ONE, they were helping pressure U.S. politicians to increase federal aid to developing countries."

That Bono apparently doesn't seem overly concerned about how his aid money is distributed – only how it is raised – is part of a larger problem with poverty-relief efforts generally. It is one the reasons that the United Nations has so much trouble delivering effective funding.

While the UN and various agencies clustered around the UN often speak of coordinated efforts between the private and public sector in reality top government officials usually act as go-betweens. This means that much of the aid money does not arrive at its destination but is diverted for various reasons.

During his speech at the TED conference, Bono reportedly raised the issue of government transparency. As we have often pointed out, this is an elite dominant social theme that seeks to correct official mismanagement by mandating public openness.

Unfortunately, the real problem is that the Invisible Hand has not been allowed to work in most impoverished countries. Providing funds to the same governments that have repressed freedom and competition and then insisting they honor "transparency" is probably not a viable strategy.

It is a strategy that is being heavily promoted however. The head of the world's largest transparency organization is a former top World Bank official. People like public-fiat money proponent Ellen Brown are also involved in the transparency movement.

It would be much easier simply to work toward openness in government that allows competition to take effect. But this is something Money Power is not willing to allow. Always, solutions are to be proposed by government that then must in turn be regulated by yet more bureaucracy when the original official strategies go awry.

Bono's ONE campaign, for instance, has made use of US politicians including former Bush advisor Mark McKinnon and Mike McCurry, an advisor to the Kerry campaign. The ONE campaign has been financed by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. ONE has reportedly argued that governmental development assistance "plays a critical role in the fight against extreme poverty and disease."

The website itself cites impressive statistics regarding poverty elimination but even here there are elements that could be construed as controversial, beginning with a prominently featured quote by Bono: "The world is more malleable than you think and it's waiting for you to hammer it into shape." The quote is superimposed on the chest of a young woman who is giving an Illuminati horned-hand signal.

It is certainly possible that Bono and ONE have achieved all they claim to have done. But given the nature of poverty in the world today and its continued prevalence despite a half century of United Nations efforts, the chances are that the poverty-relief paradigm itself is still misapplied and this is one of the big reasons for the lack of success.

After Thoughts

Even the efforts of charismatic leaders like Bono probably won't make a huge difference in the long term unless the market itself is employed to utilize anti-poverty funds being raised. And if the market was allowed to work in many impoverished countries, there probably wouldn't be a need for these programs in the first place.

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