The most important development assistance poor countries need is help in replacing bad economic and political ideas with good ones. Network for a Free Society is helping to achieve that.
4 September 2016
On my page Success tip: Decide which charities to support I stated that "I do not believe that giving money to overseas countries assists their economic development."
However I also mentioned one exception. "The exception is aid which directly improves the governance of the country and helps to embed an understanding of free-market economics and the rule of law." I cited that as the reason why I have supported Network for a Free Society since I met its Chairman Linda Whetstone at a conference during 2015.
The key point is my belief in the power of ideas to change the world. That is why I have given so much support to Curriculum for Cohesion.
I recently received the Network for a Free Society 2016 Annual Report. I was very struck by the introduction, and have reproduced that below with permission. I strongly recommend reading the full annual report as linked at the beginning of this paragraph.
"In ‘The Tyranny of Experts’ William Easterly argues that the true causes of poverty are not technical but the absence of economic and political rights and that only a model of development predicated on individual rights of poor people will offer them the opportunity to escape from poverty.
He cites Hayek’s vision of how “individual rights were both an end in themselves and a means by which free individuals in a free society solved many of their own problems.”
This leads him to conclude that advocacy of these rights is the only way that well meaning people can hope to increase freedom in general and opportunities for poor people in particular.
Easterley’s definition of individual rights includes ‘the political freedom from seizure of your person and the economic freedom from seizure of your property…. the political freedom to assemble with whom you want and the economic freedom to trade with whom your wish…. the political freedom to replace bad public-service providers with good ones, and the economic freedom to replace bad private-sector service providers with good ones.’
Hayek also believed in advocacy and that public opinion will only be influenced in favour of freedom if the ‘second hand dealers’ in ideas, teachers, preachers, journalists and politicians etc., understand the importance of political and economic freedom.
A strong belief in the principles and foundations of a free society and the power of advocacy is the basis for our mission which is to make the ideas and texts that explain the principles and foundations of a free society available in countries and languages where they are currently not accessible, which is the majority of the countries in the world.
Because of the high cost of supplying books we developed a mini library of classical liberal texts on a CD “Ideas for a Free Society”. Well over 100,000 of the English version have been shipped to partners in over 60 countries for distribution to students. We also fund translations of these texts and there are CDs in Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Kyrgyz, Turkish, French and Arabic and some of the translated texts have been published commercially in these countries.
Even in 2006 CDs were felt to be old technology in the West but that is not the case in developing countries where internet connections even now maybe non-existent or too slow or too expensive. We still get many requests and have very recently supplied CDs to Cameroon, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Myanmar. The texts can also be put on memory sticks and about 30 are available on our website, although many cannot be for copyright reasons.
We also support our local partners in providing student outreaches, conferences, seminars, camps, essay and debate contests and other activities which provide opportunities for people to learn about these ideas. Eventually some of them will become the teachers, journalists, think tankers and politicians who bring them to a much wider audience and change public opinion in favour of freedom.
In this report we look at our partners’ achievements over the last 12 months to show you how our/your support enables them to carry out this vital work in places where repression and poverty is often the norm."
Page 4 of the annual report mentions Network for a Free Society's collaboration with The Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), a free market policy think tank in Islamabad.
I came across this think tank for the first time only about five weeks ago, when an accountant friend of mine asked me to review their report Towards Flat, Low-Rate, Broad and Predictable Taxes. I am publishing my review with this page.
As someone born in Pakistan, I am often approached to donate to charities which provide medical services or school education in Pakistan. While both are worthy causes, I normally decline, as my funds are limited and I believe in prioritisation. In my opinion, in the long run far more will be achieved for Pakistan by contributing to the spread of good ideas, as is being done by PRIME in Pakistan, and Network for a Free Society globally.
If you have the time and appropriate expertise, think about getting personally involved with their work. Otherwise, you can make a difference by donating money to Network for a Free Society.