February 2021

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« Falling Dominoes? | Main | Freeexchange on Chris Coyne »

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Your editorial in the Journal, Economic Affairs was right on point. Your note regarding the Malthusian impact on Africa was especially critical with the addition of the natural resources. I forget where I read or heard it, but the author spoke about natural resources. They said that the natural resources are truly not “natural.” Up until that point I hadn’t thought about it at all. Crude bubbling up to the surface is nothing more than a hindrance to farming. A rock containing iron ore or aluminum is just a rock, not a resource. It is human ingenuity that makes the ability of that resource come to life. This was the problem with Malthus and the classical economists. They did not understand how technology can make things better, cheaper and more abundant.

I have always thought that if Africa had better property rights I could make a killing. Rail road’s could be put into place, water pumped from far off places to farms. But because most countries in Africa have found, with the help of rich western countries, to violate property rights enriches those in charge. There will be no irrigation to places where that water is most highly valued, there will be no rails going to the places that would benefit most from those rails. Those natural resources lie dormant because human ingenuity hasn’t been able to extract the benefits from them.

How is it that a place in the middle of a no-man’s land desert can become a thriving tourist attraction? How is it that a man can put rail across the northern states without the help of the government? How is it that the uneducated of Europe can create a country so economically robust, but poorly educated Africa can’t without the help of the West? There was no one there during the beginning of the colonies that redistributed the wealth of Europe to the western states. There was no one there providing aid to farmers on the plains. The only difference seems to be a “lawless” country in the west and a overly regulated continent. I am glad to hear progress is finally being made, hopefully places like Zimbabwe and the Sudan will pull their governments out of the hole by providing freedom in the form of property rights.

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