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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Basic Fairness and Third-World Debt Relief

A show of hands: How many people think Paul Wolfowitz, as head of the World Bank, will fulfill Bush's "Unshakable committment to alleviating 3rd World Debt"?

Imagine this scenario:

You're quietly sitting around your home in 1993, enjoying an episode of that year's newest comedy hit, Seinfeld. While George confesses that he's not the "master of his domain", an armed gunman breaks down your door, kills your wife, and announces he's taking control of your household. For the next five years, he runs up your credit cards, spends your children's college fund, and trashes your house. You call the police, who refuse to interfere with a "domestic dispute", and the banks respond to your pleas for help by giving your tormentor a higher credit limit in exchange for your family's heirloom jewelry and the produce from your garden, which you are forced to tend by your family dictator. Fortunately, your despot dies from a heart attack after engaging in a three-way with prostitutes from Sheboygan, but now you're saddled with debt, your children are starving, and your assets have been liquidated.

In such a situation, wouldn't basic fairness compel us to forgive the debt of this household, allow them to declare bankruptcy, and excuse the debts accrued during this tyrranical reign?

This is, in a nutshell, what has happened in Nigeria and elsewhere throughout the developing world. America, the World Bank, and Europe all turned a blind eye to despots like Sani Abacha and Mobutu.

It's time to stop holding the innocents accountable for the behavior of the tyrants we've supported.

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