African Governance, Then And Now, And Revealed Preference

Paul Theroux`s article in a recent Barron`s [ “Africa`s Aid Mess“,  December 2, 2013] has drawn a response from PC enforcer George Kenny.Charles Kenny of the Center For Global Development.

You may remember Mr. Kenny from such items as Bloomberg Columnist Says US Immigration Laws Same As Apartheid, Attacking IQ in Foreign Policy Magazine, and The Urge to Purge: IQ and the Wealth of Nations.

There are some significant problems with the piece, however.  Take this statement: “I can testify that Africa is much worse off than when I first went there 50 years ago to teach English: poorer, sicker, less educated, and more badly governed. It seems that much of the aid has made things worse.  I am not alone observing this fact. In his new book, The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality, economist Angus Deaton questions the usefulness of all aid.”

After saying that Africa does have more money per capita than it did in the 1960s, Kenny has this to say about Theroux`s suggestion that Africa is “more badly governed” than it was 50 years ago:

Governance, of course, is a harder thing to measure.  But for what they are worth, the Polity II measures of democracy suggest considerable improvements towards democracy and away from both colonial rule and autocracy since 1960. 

Ahem! Saying it has moved away from colonialism towards democracy doesn`t mean it`s better governed, but worse. In 1963, when Theroux first went to Africa, a very significant part of the governing of Africa was being done by white people, who are badly missed by  many Africans.

Most black Zimbabweans would now prefer Ian Smith as leader to Robert Mugabe – though the human instinct of freedom remains high on the agenda. The Mugabe regime has perpetrated serious crimes against its own people – black-on-black.

 For what’s the purpose of freedom when freedom kills you, when freedom denies you free speech, when freedom kills your relatives, when freedom starves you, when freedom excludes you on tribal grounds?

Life in Rhodesia was better than Zimbabwe, By Faith Moyo, Zimdiaspora.com, April 21, 2012

Not only have blacks historically preferred white-ruled countries to African ruled ones, they still show a “revealed preference” for them today. As I explained in 2012,

There`s a lot of traffic between Jamaica, Haiti, and Africa and the United States. It`s all one way, from Africa and the Caribbean to the US.