Many econobloggers tend to be a bit grumpy at the best of times, but this weekend's Live 8 concerts have certainly brought out their inner curmudgeons. Well-known bloggers have characterised the concert organisers and their supporters as boring, stupid, naive or ignorant.
Stephen Pollard, for example, claims to have found Live 8 concerts a tedious yawn:
Some people staged a pop concert yesterday. It was a big one. A lot of people went to see it. Even more watched it on the telly.
But far, far more of the country than watched it had zero interest in either the music (most of which, when I heard it on the news, seemed quite painful to listen to) or the deeply misguided campaign which prompted it.
In terms of news impact, nothing which happened yesterday in Hyde Park was of any more importance than what I chose to eat for dinner.
...So why is every paper today stuffed full, almost to the exclusion of all else, with reports and pictures? And why are the TV bulletins today still banging on about it? Tedious doesn't even come close to describing it all.
Stephen, I feel your pain. How dare the biggest musical event in history, featuring many of the most popular musicians of our time, merit front page attention? Oh, the horror!
Dave at VoluntaryXchange thinks "It's particularly galling to me that low lifes who promulgate the sort of drivel found on the Live8 site get any attention at all. Folks ... they are statistical murderers." He recommends the latest rant from Michael Stastny at Mahalanobis:
Live8 organizers apparently believe in some syndicalist-marxist-mercantilist theory of economics. Bill Gates, Kofi Annan, Brad Pitt, etc, they aren't stupid, they certainly aren't dishonest, but they are naive, ignorant about empirical data on trade, aid, and growth, and most importantly needing to master the basic model of international trade so they understand exactly what kind of market power is necessary for trade to make a country worse off.
Stasny does highlight some dubious arguments on the Live 8 website, particularly on 'trade justice'. However not all G8 activists, donors or people attending the Live 8 concerts share those mercantilist views. And in an era of massive US and European agricultural subsidies, surely no one really thinks small developing countries face either genuinely free trade or a level playing field in trade negotiations?
Stephen Pollard, while bored by Live 8, has nothing but praise for the Allister Heath's "excellent critique of the Make Poverty Permanent/Live8 crowd" in Sunday's The Business. Heath's piece, Live8: a triumph for sentiment, not for results, contains both a rant and some more sensible points:
Welcome to the brave new world of pop star economics, where sentiments matter more than results, emotion triumphs over reason and hedonistic Westerners can feel good about themselves in Londons Hyde Park, safe in the belief that they are doing their bit for starving African babies while listening to Madonna, U2, Pink Floyd and the rest.
Predictable enough. The more important point is the scepticism about aid among economists in developing countries:
Geldof is wrong to question the motives of those with whom he disagrees. What unites protesters, concert-goers and politicians on the one hand and their critics on the other is a passionate belief in tackling global poverty. ...The disagreement between the two camps is about means, not ends.
The real question is: why are some countries rich and others poor? To the Make Poverty History crowd, the answer to this question, by far the most important in economics and all of the social sciences, usually lies with Western exploitation, insufficient aid and the alleged ravages caused by free trade or greedy multinationals. This conveniently omits to explain how so many poor nations in Asia have got rich; and many economists in developing countries no longer agree.
Heath then recounts the views of "a growing band of young and educated Africans" who argue that more foreign aid is not the answer. (Of course, not all their fellow Africans would agree).
Dave Altig at Macroblog has a more measured and interesting blog entry. I also appreciate his picking up the Christian Science Monitor piece (via Mark Thoma), How can the West help Africa? A global Q&A, which interviewed both Africans and people attending the Live 8 concerts.
And Chris Dillow at Stumbling and Mumbling calls Gordon Brown "a contemptible hypocrite" for calling the campaign to Make Poverty History "the greatest moral crusade of our times" but preferring to spend £6bn on ID cards.
What's next? Why, the G8 summit at Gleneagles, of course. For media and other G8 links see Robin Grant's post on blogging the G8. Meanwhile Channel 4 asked some bloggers Does the G8 Summit matter? Most of the blogger's replies were short, provocative and worth a read.
Of course there is plenty of other blog comentary on this topic. Amazingly, over 12,00 blog posts have tagged Live 8 so far according to a special Technorati sub-site. One example is Thinker's Room, a black African who is "deeply sceptical" about Live 8. His 28 June post generated plenty of comments and a long follow up. His conclusion? "The only people who can solve Africa's problems are Africans."