The White House Can Not End World Hunger

The Obama Administration has announced that it wants to spend at least $3.5 billion—and I wonder where they’re getting that kind of money?—over the next 3 years to help as many as 60 poor nations feed themselves.

While it is very good news that this involves ending the practice of sending U.S. crops to such countries, which development economists from at least the time of Peter Bauer have shown undermines local farmers, the thinking behind the new plan is no less fallacious:

With the initiative, Feed the Future, the administration said the countries would be required to draw up their own development plans, which could include breeding better seed and giving farmers access to credit, insurance and markets.

There is not one example of a country that has developed as the result of such central planning. On the contrary, there are countless which have flipped from self-sufficiency or even net food exporting to dependency on food aid as a result of a switch to central planning, including Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela.

As our books, Lessons from the Poor and Making Poor Nations Rich show, if Obama truly wants to help the world’s poor feed themselves, the U.S should pledge $0 to such aid and call for the economic and political liberalization, secure property rights, and the rule of law that has resulted in transforming formerly poor nations like Botswana, Estonia, and Chile (and let’s not forget North America) into middle- and upper-income nations.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Chairman and Chief Executive of the Independent Institute.
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