At the G-8 meeting now underway in Japan, the talk is all about targets. Double aid to Africa. Funnel resources as directed under the UN’s 8 millennium development goals, to be met by the year 2015. Halve carbon emissions by the year 2050.
No wonder so many people are struggling. This isn’t how poor people get rich. This is how for much of the 20th century the Soviet Union and its satellites stayed poor. Back then, the labels were different. Moscow wasn’t slick enough to have millennium development goals. The politburo had Goskomstat issuing five year plans, setting productions targets, calculating inputs and rationing outputs — which resulted in an impoverished and oppressed population waiting in long lines for such luxuries as toilet paper. In the West, it was then the fashion in professional do-good circles to attack under the label of “capitalism” the vibrant all-American productivity now widely reviled under the proxy label of “carbon emissions.”
Real wealth comes from setting up fair rules of the game, and leaving people free to choose. If the G-8 countries want to work on that, we’re on our way to a better world for all. But on the current course, maybe we should just rename the G-8 the Grand Rationing Committee, and batten down for a shabbier world, in which amid all the doubling and halving and UN millennium goals, the only clear beneficiaries are the planners themselves.