Steven Poole, a frequent cultural commentator and critically acclaimed author of “Unspeak” (2006), has warned that as the UK election draws near, it is going to be difficult to avoid an avalanche of Growthspeak. He notes that the term economic “growth” is so familiar we can easily forget that it’s a metaphor, and is quick to point out that nothing is actually growing.
Economic growth, Steven explains, means that some number representing GDP is higher than a previous such number. He goes on to say that there are well-known problems with taking GDP as a measure of how excellent everything is; for example, the economy might be “growing” even as income inequality goes up at the same time.
Because we associate growth with positive things, Steven demonstrates that the economic metaphor of “growth” helps persuade us that policies leading to such growth are always good. However, he argues that “growth is good when it is ‘steady’ or ‘strong’, but bad when it is ‘unsustainable’…[therefore] growth might be cancerous rather than nutritious.”
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In MP Douglas Carswell‘s latest column for the Daily Telegraph he explains why, to help develop Africa, we should buy its products rather than giving money to the foreign aid industry.
He opens his article with the points that some charity chiefs have over £15,000 salaries, a figure which has increased over the past few years, whilst research has shown that public donations have gone down.
Reflecting on his childhood in Uganda in the 1970/80s he says, “I am highly sceptical about big Western corporate charities.” Douglas goes on to describe his first-hand experience of the “gap between” claims made by organisations and the reality of what they achieve. Small organisations were helping Ugandans through civil war, invasion and famine until “the big corporate charities decided Uganda would be a great gig.”
Douglas admits that with their huge budgets, it would have been hard for charities not to do some good, however, a lot of money was wasted – “Many development programmes sank without trace in a sea of dollars and wishful thinking.”
Interestingly he notes studies which have shown that there is zero correlation between per capita overseas development assistance and changes in GDP. His example of Uganda also reveals this as the country is now greatly improves “despite, not because of, Western aid”, instead thanks to the number of Ugandans joining the global economy.
Concluding his article Douglas encourages us to help develop Africa by buying “some Kenya roses, Zimbabwe fish, Zambia vegetables.”
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