December 30, 2016

A SIMPLE DISTRIBUTION PROBLEM:

2016: Best Year Ever -- No, Really : Buck up, you pansies: (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, December 28, 2016 , National Review)

Let's take a ride in the Wayback Machine to the ancient, practically antediluvian days of 1984. Remember 1984? The big news that year was a drought in Ethiopia, an ordinary natural occurrence turned into a humanitarian disaster by the fact that the country was one of the worst-governed places in the world. Of the major famines of the 20th century (four of which were in Ethiopia), almost all were caused not by natural forces but by political forces. During the 1984 drought, Ethiopia's economy shrank by 15 percent and more than 600,000 people died. Americans engaged in the characteristic pursuit of their time: making it about us, in this case convening a celebrity super-group to record "We Are the World."

Stardom in action, as Pete Townshend would say. But there was a lot more than stardom in action, as it turns out.

In 2016, Ethiopia had another drought. It is still one of the worst-governed countries in the world, one in which the government fixes agricultural prices and interferes with the normal operation of food markets. (That is how Venezuela went from being a rich country to one that literally cannot produce what it needs to wipe its own ass.) But you know how many people died from the famine resulting from the 2016 drought?

None.

In spite of the drought, Ethiopia's mortality rate remains unchanged.

Alex de Waal reported what he saw there in the New York Times in May:

I've studied famine and humanitarian relief for more than 30 years, and I wasn't prepared for what I saw during a visit to Ethiopia last month. As I traveled through northern and central provinces, I saw imported wheat being brought to the smallest and most remote villages, thanks to a new Chinese-built railroad and a fleet of newly imported trucks. Water was delivered to places where wells had run dry. Malnourished children were being treated in properly staffed clinics.

The situation in Ethiopia in 2016 was, as one government official put it, the worst food crisis the country has seen in 50 years. But here's the weird thing: Despite all of the promises from the Malthusians and environmentalists, there is enough food in the world. There's more than enough, in fact. Here in the United States, the government is dumping cheese into landfills because there's so much of the stuff that the bureaucrats believe they have to save consumers from the threat of low dairy prices. (No, it doesn't make much sense.) The problem isn't -- and for a long time hasn't been -- having enough food. It's getting politicians out of the way to get it to the people who need it. Ethiopia, in spite of its corrupt and stupid government, has figured out that much, and it had $800 million of its own on hand to invest in staving off crisis this time around. Which is to say, Ethiopia took a lead role in saving Ethiopia, albeit with a good deal of help from abroad.

Posted by at December 30, 2016 10:23 AM

  

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