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September 25th, 2016

Max’s View

Poverty, Inc
***1/2
In 1947, Germany was still in ruins.

German cities had been bombed into oblivion. The people were devastated, disheartened, and destitute.

The Marshall Plan was an American-funded initiative to help the cities of Germany. It gave poor people food. Marshall Plan charities gave away free clothing and shoes. Orphanages were established so unemployed German parents could give their children a chance a better life.

None of that is true.

The Marshall Plan was a capitalism-themed rebuilding initiative. It built factories, removed trade barriers, encouraged union membership, and introduced American-style business practices.

In a remarkably short time, Germany was self-sufficient. Today, Germans are amongst the richest and most productive people on earth.

The Marshall Plan worked because it gave the German people jobs, not charity. The depressing documentary “Poverty, Inc” exposes how we ignore the lessons of history and use charitable institutions to infantilize and impoverish the countries that we are trying to help.

Inspired by the American Revolution, Haiti overthrew its slaveholding colonial French overlords and established its own republic in 1803. For 200 years, Haiti was self-sufficient and independent. It wasn’t wealthy, but it was a functioning country.

“Poverty, Inc” exposes how Americans, in the name of charity, reduced the Haitian people to pathetic colonial subjects once more.

It started with the mass importation of American rice in the late 20th century. Government money and charitable contributions made it possible. Donors felt good, American factory farmers got richer, The Clinton Foundation got to boast about all the great work it was doing, and the Haitians got free rice. Win, Win, Win, Win.

Not exactly.

Rice farmers in Haiti couldn’t compete. With more Haitians eating rice, other farmers went out of business, too.

Farming villages that had been producing the country’s food for centuries became ghost towns. Haiti became totally dependent on American donations. Tens of thousands of displaced farmers moved to crime-ridden neighborhoods in Port-Au-Prince.

The 2010 earthquake that shook Haiti was far more destructive and deadly than it should have been because so many people were crowded into hastily built urban slums.

After the earthquake, Western charities doubled down on their folly. We donated so much clothing that the Haitian garment industry was decimated. TOMS shoes donated one shoe for every shoe that it sold online. Haitian cobblers were pushed out of business.

“Poverty, Inc” introduces us to a couple of Haitian entrepreneurs who had built a solar-powered street-light company from scratch in the early 2000s. After the earthquake, Western charities supplied so many free solar panels that the Haitian company had to lay off most of its staff.

Thousands of Haitians children were left parentless by the earthquake. Western charities responded by founding hundreds of orphanages. Unfortunately, too many orphanages had the unintended consequence of creating more orphans.

Of the 30,000 Haitian kids living in orphanages, only 20% are actually parentless. Most of the children were dropped off by parents who didn’t have enough money to support them.

So instead of investing in Haiti and helping adults get decent jobs, Western charities created a generation of kids who feel unloved and unwanted and never learned lessons of hard work and responsibility from their parents.

“Poverty, Inc” argues, sadly, that the international charity system is unlikely to change. Because even though poor people don’t benefit, Presidents of charitable organizations and corrupt Third World leaders absolutely do.

So next time you want to do some good, go out and volunteer in your community. Don’t give to an international charity because 21st century charities treat Haitian families worse than the Marshall Plan treated former Nazis. That’s the ugly truth.

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