Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hotel Rwanda Hospitable Again

Have you seen Hotel Rwanda? See it. I make all my Introduction to Politics students watch it (or Schindler's List, The Killing Fields, or The Inner Circle) to dramatize the fact that the stakes involved in politics are deathly high. In 1994, in a genocidal rampage, Rwandans from the Hutu tribe slaughtered 800,000 Tutsis and Tutsi sympathizing Hutus.

Now, 13 years later, Nicholas Kristof reports in The New York Times ("Africa: Land of Hope," July 5, 2007): Rwanda "is clean, safe and enjoying economic growth more than twice as fast as the U.S. or Europe." After the transition of many African nations to independence, "Africa drove over a cliff. Of those countries with good data, one-third now have lower per capita incomes than they did at independence (typically about 1960), and the five worst-performing economies in the world from 1960 to 2001 were all in Africa. What went wrong? The two most important reasons were that Africa was terribly governed and that it was torn apart by wars."

It is academically unfashionable to suggest that individuals, even "great men," shape and direct history, but Kristof points to the presidency of Paul Kagame who is "honest, intelligent and capable. President Kagame reads Harvard Businesss Review...." Kagame is candid in recognizing that his country lacks "that culture of hard work, that culture of being ambitious and wanting to achieve. I believe that those values were in Africans, but I don't know what dampened it -- what killed it." Kristof suggests that "malaria, anemia, worms and misrule" explain a lot. Of course, the misrule explains a lot of the malaria, anemia and worms. Marxist sympathizing, U.S. Constitution despising American leftists should take note.

Africa is the one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century. National independence, western educated leaders and an immense wealth of natural resources, yet devasting poverty, disease, despotism and bloodshed. Will the 21st century see the rise of Africa? Kristof sees hope: "when African countries have enjoyed stability and sound policies, they have often thrived. Indeed, the fastest growing country in the world from 1960 to 2001 was Botwana (South Korea was second, and Singapore and China tied for third). More and more African countries are now following the Botswana model of welcoming investors and obeying markets."

Hey, Mr. Kristof! Can you convince your friends in the Democratic party to show a similar respect for markets? (See The Wall Street Journal on the same day: "Trade Double-cross: House Democrats Go Protectionist," the lead editorial, and "Dodging the Guest-worker Bullet: the last thing our economy needed was the Senate's ham-handed attempt to regulate the flow of low-skilled labor," by Gordon H. Hanson, pp. A14-15.)

The words preached by Benjamin Colman in a 1730 sermon delivered in Boston are aptly noted here:

God hath set the world upon the gorvernments and rulers, whom he has made the pillars of it. ...[T]he peace, tranquility and flourishing of places are made to depend on the wisdom and fidelity of their rulers, in the good administration of the government. While the utmost misery and confusion defalls those places where the government is ill administered. The reason is given in the text [I Samuel 2:8], "God has set the World" on this foot; it can't stand on any other bottom. The virtue and religion of a people, their riches and trade, their power, honour and reputation; and the favour of God toward them, with his blessing on them; do greatly depend on the pious, righteous and faithful government which they are under." -- Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, Ellis Sandoz ed. (LibertyPress, 1991)

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