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Hardcover The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity Book

ISBN: 0684828006

ISBN13: 9780684828008

The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity

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Book Overview

Michael Maren spent years in Africa, first as an aid worker, later as a journalist, where he witnessed at a harrowing series of wars, famines, and natural disasters. In this book, he claims that... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

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Road to Hell leads to American grain merchants

Michael Maren began his journey to Africa as a Peace Corps worker. His first introduction to corruption occurred when school construction materials he obtained were diverted to add new rooms to local officials homes. But this was nothing compared to what is revealed in the rest of the book. Basically, when we provide food to African nations, much of it is stolen and used to build the wealth and power of whatever dictator is ruling at the time. Efforts to help local people grow their own food are often stopped, because the power base of the dictator would be reduced if people could grow their own food rather than depending on the dictator to provide it. The resulting suffering, wars, and corruption cannot be blamed entirely on evil African dictators. In fact, if I were to apportion blame based on the material in this book, most of it would fall on American grain merchants and the politicians who aid them. And some of the blame goes to the aid agencies who know this is the way the game is played, and say nothing so they can have a small piece of the corruption pie. American farmers see a pittance of the money made by the excess grain they grow. When extra grain is sent to foreign nations, or bought with Food Stamps in America, it's the American taxpayer and farmers who lose out. Who does get rich? The money goes into the pockets of corporations like A. C. Toepfer, Continental Grain, Interstate Grain, Cargill, Ferruzzi Trading, Matsui, Richo Grain Limited, Archer Daniels Midland, Louis Drefus, and Mitsubishi (page 191). These corporate parasites continue to suck on the public wealth by promoting ethanol, which according to the Department of Energy, takes more energy to make than it contains (see Chapter 11, Pigs at a Trough or Patzek "Ethanol from Corn: Clean Renewable Fuel for the Future, or Drain on Our Resources and Pockets?" ) This is an important book, one that ought to be read to understand how the grain industry ought to be reformed in America, and how aid agencies affect the economies and politics of African nations. This book is hard to put down. The stories it tells are very interesting and passionately written.

More harm than good

There are very few books that can claim to fundamentally change the way you see the world; this is one of them. Michael Maren brutally exposes the hypocrisy, corruption and inefficiency that will destroy forever the reader's attitude about foreign aid and charitable work overseas. A reader who wants to retain his belief in the myth that the billions of dollars we spend on foreign aid actually benefit the poor and starving of the world should NOT read this book - it will shatter your illusions forever. After reading about how aid to Third World countries ends up perpetuating the very conditions it is supposed to eradicate, how it enriches the corrupt elites of those countries and helps them consolidate their often violently dictatorial rule, and how a surprisingly large proportion of it ends up in the pockets of those actually running the charities, it becomes clear that foreign aid and charity to the Third World is part of the problem rather than the solution.

Understanding how "help" can harm...

This book shows, in an uncompromising way, how people with the best of intentions to help others end up doing more harm than good. Specifically, Maren takes his first-hand experience, the anecdotes of others and the words and records of the organizations he criticizes, to show how international charity, aid organizations and the United Nations are less set up to help poor people than they are to further their own bureaucracies. As an aid worker himself and later a correspondent, Maren examines 19 years of foreign aid in Kenya, Burkina, Faso, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Ethiopia and the U.S. to show how foreign aid did far from improving situations in these countries; instead, these organizations made things worse, far worse. Aid organizations, Maren concludes, end up epitomizing ethnocentric colonialism at the expense of the poor people they allege to help. Maren's unforgiving research paints a picture the commercials of Sally Struthers are incapable of and stridently resistant to telling. Humanitarian intervention, as Maren pens it, is a destructive force preying on the guilt of those who appear to be better off--middle class, American consumers . As Maren convincingly shows, however, the road to hell is paved with the illusions of modern civilization. The overt victims are evident while the less-obvious victims remain naïve and in denial. With any luck, The Road to Hell will change that.

One of the most important books of recent years

At a time when the answer to most problems seems to be throwing money in their direction, Maren points out graphically and convincingly that a) it doesn't help; and b) it often does more harm than good. As I read his argument he seems to be saying simply that the problems in poor countries are generally caused by the corrupt and/or indifferent practices of thier leadership. Aid and charity always support that leadership and therefore perpetuate the problems.He uses the example of Somalia and other African countries but it's easy to see the full breadth of his argument. Further he shows that most charites like CARE and Save the Children are actively aware of the damage they are causing (he cites internal memos) but continue on their way because they are dependent upon Western governments for tens of millions of dollars in financing that goes along with doing their projects. To my mind, two things make this book unique: First, it's part memoir (Maren has been both an aid worker and journalist in Africa) and told in a riveting narrative style. Unlike most "policy" books, the characters come alive in this one. Second, and most important, Maren is not one of those right-wing cranks who wants do abandon the poor to rot in their own poverty. He believes that the rich countries have a moral obligation to help the Third World. This is the ultimate insider exposé. He does a great job tossing the money lenders from the temple.

Do we need to be needed?

Michael Maren makes it very clear that we're rarely fully informed about the nature and the ultimate value of foreign aid. As Americans, we want to bring democracy, peace, and abundance to nations who don't enjoy these blessings. And from our chauvinist point of view, we can't imagine how the people we're trying to help could possibly resist our benevolence or look upon it as imperialism. But they do. There are places in the world where our notions of democracy and equal rights are viewed with suspicion or hostility. Take Afghanistan. Or Somalia. Or Red China. Or Iraq. Or Iran. Or Lybia. They're not ready for democracy, and all the free food we can send won't turn a Somali warlord or Mengistu into Thomas Jefferson. What Maren's book proves is that when we try to force-feed our culture to these countries, it does nothing but cause harm and turmoil. Let's face it. Some places aren't ready for the fruits of democracy. The best thing we can do for them is leave them alone. Somalia did just fine for thousands of years before Westerners "civilized" it. They'll do fine without white busybodies trying to turn them into Rotarians, Born-Again Christians and K-Mart shoppers. Let's accept the fact not everyone on the planet is ready for free elections, free markets and a military under civilian control. Let's let them find their own way in the world. And if they ever genuinely want our help, the best thing we can send them is a copy of the Bill of Rights.
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