Capitalism Rocks, Africa Doesn't…

Mark Steyn: 

Africa needs business, not showbusiness


Africa is a hard place to help. I had a letter from a reader the other day who works with a small Canadian charity in West Africa. They bought a 14-year-old SUV for 1,500 Canadian dollars to ferry food and supplies to the school they run in a rural village. Customs officials are demanding a payment of $8,000 before they’ll release it.

There are thousands of incidents like that all over Africa every day of the week. Yet, throughout the weekend’s events, Dave Gilmour and Co were too busy Rocking Against Bush to spare a few moments to Boogie Against Bureaucracy or Caterwaul Against Corruption or Ululate Against Usurpation. Instead, Madonna urged the people to “start a revolution”. Like Africa hasn’t had enough of those these past 40 years?

Let’s take it as read that Sir Bob and Sir Bono are exceptionally well informed and articulate on Africa’s problems. Why then didn’t they get the rest of the guys round for a meeting beforehand with graphs and pie charts and bullet points in bright magic markers, so that Sir Dave and Dame Madonna would understand that Africa’s problem is not a lack of “aid”. The tragedy of Live8 is that its message was as cobwebbed as its repertoire.

Don’t get me wrong. I love old rockers – not for the songs, which are awful, but for their business affairs, which so totally rock. In 1997, David Bowie became the first pop star to hold a bond offering himself. How about that? Fifty-five million dollars’ worth of Bowie “class A royalty-backed notes” were snapped up in minutes after Moody’s in New York gave them their coveted triple-A rating.

Once upon a time, rock stars weren’t rated by Moody, they were moody – they self-destructed, they choked to death in their own vomit, they hoped to die before they got old. Instead, judging from Sir Pete Townshend on Saturday, they got older than anyone’s ever been. Today, Paul McCartney is a businessman: he owns the publishing rights to Annie and Guys & Dolls. These faux revolutionaries are capitalists red in tooth and claw.

The system that enriched them could enrich Africa. But capitalism’s the one cause the poseurs never speak up for. The rockers demand we give our fokkin’ money to African dictators to manage, while they give their fokkin’ money to Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts to manage. Which of those models makes more sense?

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