The Derbyshire Kerfuffle

Tuesday, April 10, AD 2012

John Derbyshire set off a firestorm this past weekend when he put up this article called The Talk: Nonblack Version.  This was a response, of sorts, to a column published in the Orlando Sentinel in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Derbyshire’s column was swiftly condemned by commentators on all sides of the political spectrum.  By Saturday night National Review had severed its ties to Derbyshire even though his column had appeared on another site.

What did Derbyshire do this time to draw such harsh condemnation?  Derbyshire’s column  utilized the conceit of giving his child a talk about race relations and what to do when confronting unknown black people.  Though commenters objected to nearly all of what Derbyshire wrote, this was the most damning section:

Continue reading...

33 Responses to The Derbyshire Kerfuffle

  • “10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.”

    I laughed at this one since eight years ago my car got stuck in a snow drift. The only people who stopped to aid me were a black woman and her three sons who tried to dig me out. As for my own views on race they are an amalgam of those voiced by Chamberlain and Kilrain in this clip from Gettysburg:

  • Admittedly I joined the fun in expressing my angst at National Review’s decision, though not because I thought Derbyshire’s column had much merit, but because he has written worse things in the past. In fact I specifically alluded to this Corner posting from 2008. The entire post is just dripping with complete hostility to religious people. It is far and away more offensive than his latest missive, and far shorter on any sort of substantive reasoning.

    National Review has to act because of Coach Syndrome.

    My mom use to coach…well, lots of stuff, but softball was the biggest thing. She was also usually the only one willing to be the umpire. That meant that any time there was ANY question in a call, she had to call against her team– in an issue in conflict, she had to take the action that would leave her less open to accusations of wrong-doing.
    National Review, being conservative, doesn’t get accused of hating religion across the board; those who oppose them tend to be less religious, especially in regards to organized religion. Accusations of racism? THOSE fly all the time.

    Same reason a cop that’s being investigated gets suspended; got to avoid the appearance of something you’re likely to be accused of.

    Kind of funny… that was actually the first introduction I had to the idea of preventing scandal, although mom and dad didn’t use that phrase.

  • I think the guys at CMR nailed it: Derb’s view is utilitarian, not racist.

    Oddly, I think he was pissed enough to focus on the “tells” of race, rather than of culture. There’s a slight association, sure, but looking for indications of someone’s cultural group is a better way of figuring out what’s what. Didn’t congeal for a while, although when I read the now-famous article I instantly wondered what would happen to the scores if they corrected to make households match as closely as possible– parental education, economics, average income of neighborhoods, how religious the parent(s) are, criminal background of immediate family, EVERYTHING to account for other factors. I know that it tends to get rid of differences for crime stats.

    Example: first guy I dated, I can look back now and see that if I’d looked at the cultural “tells,” he’d be highly likely to lie and use those he dates.
    The first time I ever had a flat– and I’d swear this on a stack of Bibles– I’d just bought my first car as an adult, was about an hour from ANYWHERE I knew, hit a screwdriver in the road and took the first out off of a high speed road, limped along to a place wide enough to pull over… And a a totally black baptist church let out service two minutes later. Not a stone’s throw away. I know that the door-to-door witness folks tend to vary more on what denomination they are than on what color they are.

    Of course it’s not a 100% thing– some folks wear hip-hop style clothes because they like the look, some folks listen to Pennywise and wear a pound’s worth of chains because that’s to their taste, and their world view won’t match. Heck, I drink Pabst because I like it, especially for the price, not because I’m a hipster. It’s still a more accurate “tell” than race, and half of dealing with people is trying to figure out what they’ll do without knowing them. (The other half is remembering that they’re people who don’t have to stick to the script in your head.)

  • Incidentally– want something racist? How about this PSA I’ve been hearing on KIRO?

  • I bet if you’re white and have children you’d tell them the same things Derbyshire wrote about. Let’s be honest here even if it’s wrong or politically incorrect.

  • I’m dang near translucent–feather-Indian blood not withstanding– and do have kids. Two girls, so far, so I’m REALLY interested in threat-avoidance.

    I’d rather teach them to spot culture-signals, since it’ll help them ID trouble more accurately. I also hope to teach them a big dose of grain-of-salt-ism, since the biggest threats have to make you think they’re a friend, first, but that’s digressing.

    Hm… a thought… I’ve spent most of my life not-in-cities. Bet that makes the race angle a lot less of a big deal.
    (Although I think I’ve told the story about the other way of tweaking results… a pair of siblings in my high school that I knew growing up. The elder was a book-hitter of the first blood, the younger was a dumb thug. One parent was from some sort of Islands that are around the Caribbean, I can’t remember at the moment. Guess which one self-classified as “mixed/multiple” and which as “black”? I’ve stripped all possible identifying information, sorry for the wishy-washy terminology.)

  • Basically, I object to Derb’s format for the same reason I object to the talks he was responding to– if you format everything in terms of race, you’ll find almost everything fits in that format.

    I remember being accused by one black Muslim lazy blanker on ship of “trying to threaten” him because I was cracking my knuckles every time he saw me. It was the middle of winter, I’d just walked across the hangar bay in sub-zero stopping wet weather, and my hands hurt. Also, confrontation wears on my nerves, and he never did the job he was supposed to be doing because he was working on college stuff. So, every time he saw me, I was on my last nerve, in pain, and uncomfortable.
    (Never mind that he was a foot plus taller, a hundred plus pounds heavier and I’ve never tried to pull ‘threatening’ in my life.)
    EVERYTHING in his life was either because of his race or his religion, because that’s what he expected to see. It wasn’t because he never got his paperwork in on time, screwed up his job, or any other objective failures….

  • “I bet if you’re white and have children you’d tell them the same things Derbyshire wrote about.”

    You’d lose that bet with me since I am mostly white, with some Cherokee blood, and have three kids. My wife and I have taught them that there are good and bad among all races and you judge people as individuals and according to their actions.

    All Derbyshire accomplished, other than getting a mediocre, at best, writer fired by National Review, is to underline his peawit status and give the Left in the country someone to point to underline their contention that all conservatives are racist. The Left of course is the political movement in this nation that is completely obssessed with
    race, but, in an election year, I guess Derbyshire figured it was only fair to try to give them a hand.
    I do rejoice in his forced departure from National Review. I have long found repugnant his views on both race and religion. Go to the link below for Derbyshire’s musings on religion, including this gem on Catholicism:

    “Q. Are you anti-Catholic?

    A. Yes, mildly. I say this with proper embarrassment. It’s really absurd, I know it is, to nurse remnants of those 17th-century prejudices up here in the 21st. And it’s doubly absurd in the U.S.A., where, despite occasional frictions, Christians of all varieties have fought side by side on behalf of liberty for 200 years and more. Still it’s there, and lots of readers have spotted it, so I had better try to explain myself.

    A lot of it is just English mother’s milk. Our school history books, for example, were full of popish plots against the crown, Catholic traitors spying for Spain and France, and so on. Mary Tudor and James II did not get good press (though Bonnie Prince Charlie was allowed some romantic glamour, since he was such a pitiful loser), and we heard all about Pope Alexander VI. Those early impressions — scheming, hatchet-faced Jesuits lurking behind curtains, whispering treason in Latin, plotting to murder Good Queen Bess and hand us over bound and shackled to continental tyrants for the good of our souls — are hard to erase.

    Of course, as you got older and filled out your understanding, you realized there was much more to it, that it wasn’t just white hats and black hats (I guess that second hat should be red). You came to understand how different people make different claims on history. Thoughtful English people have a very good lesson in this close to hand, their country being adjacent to Ireland. Now there are two different claims on history! If you mix with Irish people, work with them, and live in Ireland for a spell (I have done all three) you get a pretty good grounding in historical relativism, unless you are a person who likes either to wallow in racial guilt or to take a stubborn, fact-denying stand on national honor (I am neither).

    Please remember, too, what Roman Catholicism was like when I was growing up, as seen from England. It was the religion of Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, chaotic and communist-trending Italy, recently-keenly-pro-Nazi Austria (don’t let The Sound of Music fool you — the Anschluss was more a wedding than a rape), Latin America as then personified by the buffoonish Juan Perón and his sinister wife, and, yes, Éamon de Valera’s nasty, corrupt, willfully under-developed, people-exporting Ireland. That’s not even to mention France. As I looked out on it from the England of the 1950s and 1960s, Catholicism was the religion of poverty, fascism, obscurantism, and bad government; and I don’t think you can say that this was a wildly distorted picture. Taking the Roman Catholic church as an institution, there just wasn’t anything to like about it, if you hadn’t been raised in it — or even, in countless cases of apostasy encountered by me from childhood onwards, if you had.

    And to this day, to tell the truth, and setting aside the attitudes and sacrifices (which latter I gratefully, sincerely acknowledge) of individual Catholic Americans, I have trouble seeing the Roman church as an institution as being any friend of liberty. When I say this to my Catholic friends, they always say: “What about John Paul II?” Though I greatly admired the man, I am not completely convinced. Sure, he hated Communism, and hating Communism is a very good thing. It was partly by his magnificent courage and efforts that the Soviet Union collapsed, and the collapse of the Soviet Union was a very good thing. I don’t know that JPII’s thinking had much in common with Anglo-Saxon concepts of liberty, though — my concepts. He was mad that the communists presumed to think that they owned men’s souls because in his mind the Church was the rightful owner of men’s souls. That’s why he hated Communism. Well, nobody owns my soul. That’s why I hate Communism. That’s liberty, as I understand it.

    The Holy Political Trinity of the 1980s, in fact — I mean, Reagan, Thatcher, and JPII — all saw liberty in different terms, terms characteristic of their backgrounds as, respectively, generic-Christian American, nonconformist-Christian Englishwoman, and Roman-Catholic Pole. You can’t escape your upbringing. Which is the excuse I started this answer with…”

    And then there is the fact that Derbyshire is a pro-abort and in favor of euthanasia:

    Derbsyhire: racist, bigot and pro-abort. Amazing how hate and ignorance tend to spill over into many aspects of life.

  • I bet if you’re white and have children you’d tell them the same things Derbyshire wrote about.

    I’m white and have two daughters, and no, I won’t be telling my kids to avoid black people because of their sub-optimal IQs. In fact, as Foxfier alluded to, it’s actually a rather counter-productive talk to give because you’re telling your kids to use race rather than other signals to indicate your level of safety.

  • To expand upon my previous comment, take a look at Israeli airport security. It is well known that they profile, but they don’t just profile on race or ethnicity. They engage in behavioral profiling. By limiting yourself to a focus on race, you’ve really narrowed your focus and actually dulled your ability to recognize danger.

  • National Review has long commissioned pieces from a stable of writers (e.g. Christopher Buckley, Florence King, and Meghan Cox Gurdon) who contribute humor pieces. Derbyshire’s book was playing the boozy and opinionated pub denizen, quaffing his warm beer over what’s left of his rotting teeth. I doubt the editors ever intended his writing be taken seriously. In fact, he was never properly edited. (His remarks on C.S. Lewis or the political economy of Ireland evince a man given to being quite vehement about things of which he knows nothing). I will wager he was issued a letter of warning some years ago when he issued an asinine and intemperate attack on the writings of one of the magazine’s salaried editors (Ramesh Ponnuru).

  • You may offer your links, but they should all be taken with several tons of salt as they link to the execrable Charles Johnson. Johnson has a long history of seeing racism where there isn’t and in twisting other people’s words – as he does with the link to Dan Riehl. But I do welcome everyone to click on those links and double the Liazardoid’s traffic for the day.

  • Latin America as then personified by the buffoonish Juan Perón and his sinister wife

    Peron burned churches. Hardly would he be considered the face of Latin American Catholicism. Does the Derb even know his history?

  • “Does the Derb even know his history?”

    I think history and Mr. Derbyshire c matt are apparently not on speaking terms.

    The Church excommunicated Peron which led to his fall from power in rhe Fifties:

    Argentinian politics always makes me feel better about American politics:

    “In 1971 the military government decided to allow free elections to be held once again and in 1973 a Perónist candidate became president and the party once more assumed control of the congress. Perón was immediately invited home, at which point the newly-elected president resigned and a special election was held allowing Perón to take on a third term as President of Argentina. It was a shallow victory. He was nearly eighty and suffering from ill health. Adding to the ignominy of the election, he chose his third wife, Isabel, an ex-dancer with a grade-school education, to be his vice-president. The following year, on July 1, 1974 Perón died of a heart attack. His wife feebly ruled for a little over a year before being ousted by the military. Yet the Perón legacy did not die. On the contrary, the party continues to be active in Argentina and still stirs political passions. In 1987 grave robbers cut off the hands of Perón’s corpse, demanding ransom from loyal Perónists.”

  • I hope he can find the means to provide for his wife and children.

  • the execrable Charles Johnson. Johnson has a long history of seeing racism where there isn’t and in twisting other people’s words

    You forgot the part about him being an intolerant, religion-hating wannabe-inquisitor with an infallibility complex.

  • I’m refurbishing for sale a house in a very tough part of a northeast city…came down from a nice NY suburb…but grew up in a bad white Irish neighborhood. Before coming down here, a black member of the rap group, Mobb Deep, who is well off now but had hood roots, said to me during a business transaction, when I told him my project down there in the hood…”be careful down there my man”. He raps about the hood but has a mini mansion in an area where no one gets mugged. One of his songs goes like this: “what’s the deal deal…never leave home without your steel… steel.”. It’s accurate about his former neighborhood but not about his current neighborhood. He would not stroll after dark in parts of Newark, Jersey City, Camden because those parts are poor and poor in America means violence. Poor in Fiji maybe does not. But poor in America means violence in the cities. In the distant past that meant Irish and Italian. Right now it means largely black poor. Mobb Deep members were assaulted by poor blacks in the rap world as were other rappers who made it. I tutored a very rough black girl in Newark when young and sent her to Catholic school for years where more cultured black children felt threatened by her with reason. She lived above a crew who sold heroin, her mom was a prostitute…and she herself was prone to fighting. Mobb Deep would not stroll her hood at night now that they’ve reached comparative safety. It’s about poverty that multiplies into various poverties here in the US if not in Fiji and not in Tibet. Here in a very competitive country, poverty is often dangerous besides being simply poverty.
    When young and working on the waterfront in Jersey City, two blacks, one with a huge neck and a broken nose, came up to me and said…” we hear you’re tough…fight us after work”. I said no. But my own Irish poor violence and ego boiled and I found them separately and said to each…” yeah….I’ll fight you after work”. Each of them backed down separately. I asked the big one why his nose was broken. He said, ” We jumped a black dude Saturday night near the YMCA…dude pushed one of us in front of a car and pulled a bat out of the garbage can and nailed me in the nose…ripped a gun off one of us and shot one of us…we fled.”. He smiled about their having picked the wrong middle aged black man to jump. Lesson. There are black areas that sensible blacks do not walk at night. 7 or 8 decades ago such areas were dangerous white areas…same blocks really.

  • There’s a whole lot to say about this topic, but frankly it grosses me out. I hate the whole race thing. I think the religious angle is more interesting. From Derbyshire’s perspective, a lot of the advice he’s giving his child is statistically sound. But to a religious person there’s an obligation to move past such things.

    He says not to be a Good Samaritan. He should take a closer look at the story. Who is my neighbor?

  • @Donald R. McClarey, @Paul Zummo: I don’t mind losing my bet as long as you and your children are safe.

  • i’ve been keeping myself safe for 55 years and my family safe for 30 of those years, so I guess I’ll go on doing what I have been doing, which includes judging people by their actions and not their skin color.

  • Donald McClarey: Derbyshire speaking of John Paul II: “He was mad that the communists presumed to think that they owned men’s souls because in his mind the Church was the rightful owner of men’s souls. That’s why he hated Communism. Well, nobody owns my soul. That’s why I hate Communism. That’s liberty, as I understand it.” And I know you already know what I will write. Man, body and immortal soul is God’s Intellectual Property. Individual man, the sovereign person, created by our Creator exists in the mind of God, without Whom, man cannot exist, because God made all things (man, man’s soul) and keeps them in existence. Therefore, Derbyshire’s rejection of our Creator inevitably erased his understanding of our unalienable rights and the place of the Catholic Church in bringing all souls back to our Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, our God. Derbyshire’s atheism mortally wounds his soul and scandalizes all souls, especially the uninformed. The heresy that Derbyshire is free of God owning his soul makes him free of infinite love and glory. Atheism is his choice and good riddance to Derbyshire’s invincible ignorance. By the way, my friend, Linda Morris was invited, yes, invited to attend Princeton University. Poverty does hurt.

  • I come to bury the Derb not to praise the Derb.

    Today’s race inquisitions are similar to the Medieval and Spanish Inquisitions. Just as in Medieval Inquisitions, acts are not the issue. The denounced racist’s divergent beliefs and thoughts are actionable offenses susceptible to condemnation to perpetual confinement on bread and water.

    The racial inquisition has jurisdiction only over whites; as the medieval only covered Christians. Case in point: the current occupier of the White House spent 20 years listening to “God Damn America!” and ”The white man is the devil.”

    Now, if Willard Romney ever received a $2 donation from a former KKK man, he’d be toast.

  • Seems to me that this is an example of “it isn’t WHAT you say, so much as HOW (or in what context) you say it.” It’s possible to make statements that are all 100 percent accurate and verifiable, but do so in such a way that they paint a grossly distorted portrait of the subject.

    For example, suppose you carefully documented every instance in which your spouse did something that disappointed or hurt you. You could probably make even the most saintly spouse look like a total nincompoop or cad who cannot be trusted to do anything right — and when they protested, you could say “But I’m just telling the truth! What is wrong with being honest?”

    What Derbyshire is doing here is taking bits and pieces of fairly accurate observations (e.g. that predominantly black urban neighborhoods tend to be dangerous) and putting them all together into a composition whose unwritten but still obvious theme seems to be “Prejudice against black people is entirely justified, and whites should not feel obligated in any way to respect them.”

  • @Donald R. McClarey,
    I’m glad for you and your family. May you and yours never be in any of those situations Derbyshire described above.

  • “May you and yours never be in any of those situations Derbyshire described above.”

    Too late for that Michael, since I have been in many of those situations, and those experiences have not altered my views as to how people should be treated: as individuals and with justice.

  • @Donald R. McClarey,
    I agree that we should treat people as individuals and with justice but how did you deal with crowds and mobs?

  • By getting away from them as quickly as possible. I have been present at two riots in my life, one involving a mostly white mob and one involving a mostly black mob. In each case a rapid retreat out of the danger area proved effective. I might add that I felt more personally threatened by the white mob, as that was in the seventies, the mob consisted of anti-war protesters and I was wearing Army green at the time.

  • Donald R. McClarey,
    Good on you. I once took the subway in NYC and missed my stop at the Museum of Natural History and ended up in Harlem. I just turned around and walked back. No problem (this was in 1968).

  • Michael,

    I was often the only white person on my subway car after Lorimer St on the L train (this is before Williamsburg had its hipster infestation). I often took the subway very, very late (and not always very sober). No harm ever came. Again, it’s about keeping your head, knowing your surroundings, and just using common sense.

  • As a white guy, the only racial paranoia I am regularly subjected to comes from my job and is from non-whites; this Derbyshire article allows me to see the other side of racial paranoia – how the other half lives.

  • Paul Zummo,
    Thanks, I hear you.

Derb the Social Con?

Wednesday, December 1, AD 2010

John Derbyshire is sort of the cranky uncle in National Review’s the Corner.  He’s someone I used to find amusing, but he often goes off the rails when it comes to social and religious issues.  I was prepared to ignore his scathing attack of a George W. Bush op-ed in which the former president defended his efforts to increase funding to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa.  Derb’s not much impressed by Bush’s perceived moralizing, and objects to the public financing of something that he feels should be done through private charity.  It’s a sentiment worthy of debate on its own merits, but I was struck by this comment:

The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.

Perhaps the future of sub-Saharan Africa would be brighter if the people of that place changed some of their customs; but now, thanks to us, they don’t have to. (A similar point can be made about domestic AIDS-relief funding, currently around $20 billion a year.)

By “customary practices,” I’m assuming that Derb is talking about both promiscuous sexual activity and rampant drug use.

The reason that this jumped out at me is because it’s a rather familiar argument.  After all, isn’t this an echo of what we argue when we note that the encouragement of condom use in Africa won’t solve the AIDS epidemic there?  Don’t we, too, claim that we need to change cultural practices, not hand out condoms?  In essence, Derb is making a similar argument.  By contributing money, he’s saying,  you’re absolving people of some of the responsibility for their behavior and perhaps encouraging them to continue in that very behavior which leads them to contract the AIDS virus.

Now it’s not exactly the same thing.  Charitable contributions and condom distribution are, to say the least, not morally equivalent.  Also, one of the arguments against condom use is that it simply encourages people to have sex outside of marriage.  Aside from the moral problems associated with this, even “protected” sex is not 100% safe.  Donating money to help people who have already acquired the disease – many through no moral failing of their own – seems to be a rather humane response and should not be scrapped.

Based on the tenor of his post it’s clear that Derb isn’t exactly coming at this from a cultural point-of-view, but is criticizing the program based on an extreme libertarian notion about foreign aid.  It does occur to me, however, that this might be one of those moments, discussed on this very blog in recent weeks, where libertarians and social conservatives can find some common ground. Though Derb’s advocacy of a complete abandonment of any American aid certainly feels harsh and is, I believe, an extreme solution , it seems that he shares our end goal of changing behavior.

On the other hand, perhaps one commenter on the Corner has the right response to Derbyshire’s post:

`I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned – they cost enough:
and those who are badly off must go there.’

“If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population…”

Continue reading...

22 Responses to Derb the Social Con?

  • You are absolutely correct; we can debate all we want about whether it is the proper role of government to help people in need (whether in this country or another country) or rather that should be left to private charity alone.

    As Catholics however, what can’t be debated is our obligation to help the poor and the sick. Further more, we cannot simply write off some of the poor or sick, saying that the others would be better off if we let these ones die (Note I am not talking about triage; if our resources for charity are limited, I see no reason not to target that charity to where it will do the most good, I am talking about deliberately with-holding charity). Each individual must be helped to the extent that it is possible for us to help (Note most of us, including myself probably fall far short of that mark, but that should be our ideal).

    Ultimately, some, if indeed most of our charity may do little physical good to those in need. What it might accomplish however is far greater. By allowing ourselves to be conduits of Christ’s love, we let those in need feel Christ’s love in a way that might bring them to salvation.

  • I remember reading similar moral hazard arguments against Pope Clement and the Church of Rome’s sacrament of reconciliation.

    Charitable contributions and condom distribution are, to say the least, not morally equivalent.

    You’re making the wrong comparison. Would charitable contributions for condom purchase be moral? The correct comparison is between STD treatment and condoms. Catholics strive for uncompromising ideals and care for those who fall short of perfection. Derbyshire wants us to strive for uncompromising ideals and chalk up the weak as the price to pay for the advancement of the species. It doesn’t just “feel” harsh. It’s evil.

  • Right or wrong, President Bush was “charitable” with someone else’s $$$ billions. Not mine: my tax money buys weapons.

    And, it is not “charity” when you extract other people’s money at gunpoint.

  • Echoing Shaw, here. It’s not something we could do like flicking a switch, but it would be a VERY good thing to change over to– not in the least because government charity tends to involve a whole lot of fraud!

    My cousin and his wife were volunteers for a Catholic aid program of some sort, so I know they’re out there.

  • I’m basically in Bill and RR’s camp, and I would say that RR’s analogy is a better one that the one I gave. That said, looking over at some of the comments on Derb’s posts (they’ve reached about 60 as I write this, which is about ten times what you get on a typical Corner post) I’m intrigued by the reaction. About half are like T. Shaw and Foxfier and agree with Derb, and the other half seem ready to grab the pitchforks. Again, I disagree with his overall opposition to the aid, but is what he said so beyond the pale? I’m genuinely curious.

    It seems that some of what he said is in fact right on the money, in particular his criticisms of Bush’s statement that this somehow is beneficial to American foreign policy interests, a claim that is dubious at best. And even if you don’t fully support Derb’s libertarian-inspired opposition to foreign aid, as my post indicated, his notion that our efforts are wasted if we don’t ultimately change the behavior is I think something most of us would agree with. Granted Derb’s tone is a bit callous – that’s par for the course – and ultimately he seems a little to eager to punish those people who are clearly victims of other people’s bad behavior. But are these concerns so absurd that they merit the sort of feedback he’s gotten from some quarters? I should add that I don’t particularly care for Derb and almost wish I had an excuse to grab a pitchfork along with the others, but this doesn’t seem that off the wall, even if wrong. Or am I just a meanie myself?

  • Even Jesse Helms supported foreign aid to Africa to treat those with AIDS. Being that far to the right of Jesse Helms on not only a foreign aid issue, but one pertaining to AIDS, ought to give one pause.

  • Is opposition to taxpayer-funded foreign aid really an “extreme libertarian” position?

    Didn’t Pope Benedict just say something recently about how foreign aid often harms the recipients more than it helps them? I don’t recall the details, but I thought he touched on that, and others certainly have. I’m sure Derb is talking about the reality of foreign aid, which tends to encourage corruption, line the pockets of dictators, and interfere with local economies. Perhaps some ideal Catholic version of foreign aid would be a good thing, but that’s not what he’s talking about here.

    This is another one of those arguments that usually goes like this:

    Nice, caring person: “We have to do something.”
    Realist: “But what you’re doing isn’t helping, it’s hurting.”
    Nice person: ” But we have to do something! People are dying/sick/starving!”
    Realist: “But your solutions only make things worse. Here, look at these numbers from your own organizations that prove the harm you’re doing.”
    Nice person: “I can’t believe you want people to die! Racist!”

  • Some of us don’t calibrate our philosophy by what others think on a left-right spectrum.

  • Oh, dear!

    RR said, “Derbyshire wants us to strive for uncompromising ideals and chalk up the weak as the price to pay for the advancement of the species.”


    “uncompromising ideals” as in: not fornicking everyone and everything in sight?

    “weak” – search and replace: “evil.”

    Give alms out of your substance. That is charity. Tax (steal) from people and give it to the cause celebre du jour: that is politics; no it’s hypocrisy.

  • Aaron B., what you mention is part of what Derbyshire talks about. The problem portion is where he says that treating AIDS victims is bad policy.

    Also, how often does aid never help? Even if some of the aid perpetuates corruption, it doesn’t render the entire aid package harmful. I’d wager that in most countries that receive aid, the good outweighs the bad.

  • RR, the point isn’t whether you’d wager it, but whether it’s true. Also, should we only oppose aid if it “never helps”? How about if it helps 10 people and harms 10 others? Is that acceptable? And do we count those who are harmed in the first place by having the money taken from them, or those who could have been helped by that money in the source country if it hadn’t been shipped away?

    These are open questions, but they can’t even be discussed in polite society today, as is evident from the reactions to Derb’s piece. As soon as you say, “maybe the governments of wealthy nations shouldn’t use their citizens’ money to play social engineer in poorer countries,” that’s immediately translated into, “I hate those people over there who don’t look and talk like me.” Conversation over.

    The Holy Father has suggested that wealthy nations should help developing ones by forgiving their debts. Over 40 ‘developing’ nations have debts to Western countries and the global bankers. This money came with strings that are used to try to mold the recipients in the image of the givers, not just in things like condom distribution, but in everything else, from the way they select their leaders to the way they grow their food. Stopping that, and letting them keep their own cultures and ways of living, would be a better way to help them than treating them like poor Americans.

  • Also, how often does aid never help? Even if some of the aid perpetuates corruption, it doesn’t render the entire aid package harmful.

    The evidence is that foreign aid has an overall negative effect on political and economic development comparable to the “resource curse” (where having lots of natural resources in a country tends to make the people their poorer because it provides governments a means of getting rich besides the prosperity of its citizens). See e.g. here. I would say that this is a decisive argument against development aid. It is not a decisive argument against humanitarian aid, as the aid could still have positive effects that counter-balance the negative effects on democracy and growth. But it is a reason to be cautious. To the extent possible humanitarian aid should be directed through churches and other independent organizations rather than governments.

  • Aaron B., the faux exchange your posted assumes that aid does not help at all. I’d favor aid that does more good than harm. Maybe you believe that aid does more harm than good which is a reasonable view but that’s not what you posted.

    I’m not making up what Derbyshire said. He says that AIDS treatment is bad policy. It’s not possible to have a discussion when you ignore the point of the discussion.

    The Holy Father has suggested that wealthy nations should help developing ones by forgiving their debts. Over 40 ‘developing’ nations have debts to Western countries and the global bankers. This money came with strings that are used to try to mold the recipients in the image of the givers, not just in things like condom distribution, but in everything else, from the way they select their leaders to the way they grow their food. Stopping that, and letting them keep their own cultures and ways of living, would be a better way to help them than treating them like poor Americans.

    I disagree.

  • Since it is that time of year– remember the heifer international (14% to fundraising, 6% to admin costs) or World Vision (9%, 5%, probably protestant) and all their cousins! (BBB charity numbers. Full list here.)

  • Blackadder, thanks. It is important to distinguish between development aid and humanitarian aid. Do you believe development aid has or can be beneficial when there are strings attached? E.g., regular monitored elections, Washington Consensus.

  • Sorry for another post, but I finally found the one I was looking for:
    Catholic Relief Services. They’re 4% fundraising, 3% admin, and their description reads like what *I* wish we could put money into, instead of a gov’t program:

    CRS supports projects designed to help communities in countries throughout Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America identify long-term solutions to poverty and build self-sufficiency. In most programs, CRS collaborates with one or more local partner agencies. The child survival, water and sanitation, and HIV/AIDS education and care projects give priority to the most vulnerable, typically women of reproductive age, infants, and the very young. Approaching farming as a family business, CRS is involved in furnishing assistance that includes processing, storage, and marketing of crops; weed, disease, and pest control; livestock production, fishing, and forestry; and irrigation and soil and water conservation. CRS also helps establish village banks to invest in loans to persons who have little or no access to other credit alternatives. As a means of achieving increased enrollment and regular attendance of children, especially girls, CRS supports school feeding programs. CRS also carries out humanitarian assistance operations in response to natural and man-made disasters, supplying aid in the form of food, medicines, shelter, and other relief supplies. CRS also conducts workshops; sponsors solidarity camps, prepares training manuals, stimulates inter-religious dialogue, and monitors early warning signs to promote the principles of tolerance, conflict resolution, and reconciliation. Furthermore, CRS operates programs in the United States that focus on parish outreach, fair trade, advocacy, and farmer-to-farmer support. These programs inform and engage American Catholics about poverty and injustice overseas, and provide them with the opportunity to get involved as individuals, with their families, and in their schools.

    My dad has been in ag work since he was 14 (with time out for Vietnam and getting his AA) and doesn’t get excited about much…but even offhanded mentions of foreign agriculture practices will get him lecturing.

    He’s STILL learning tricks, because he was taught the basics and how they work (his grandfather was a successful Scott shepherd whose wife helped teach the local Indians how to farm when you can’t just move to the next area over and let the land recover– totally different training style) and encouraged to try to teach himself more.
    (Did you know that when you’re calving in winter, it’s best to feed in the evening? The cows will mostly give birth in the morning, because they won’t miss their feed time. That cut WAY down on the number of calves lost because it was a difficult birth in the cold and dark.)

    Shipping in tons of food for a long time kills the local farming economy, setting up camps keeps folks clustered together, money will be stolen, food given to existing infrastructure to be distributed non-centrally will usually be stolen, teaching folks a mechanical understanding of ag will fail (especially if it depends on modern US agricultural tools in a place without the support for them), and we (the first world nations) have a bad habit of getting these poor nations hooked, then telling them to do what we say or we’ll stop giving them stuff. (Doesn’t help that those making the decisions are usually the same ones getting rich from us giving them stuff, either.)


    Sometimes, I really don’t like humans.

  • It strikes me that where Derb’s argument breaks down is on the assumption that subsidizing AIDS drugs will encourage people to be casual about getting AIDS. While it may reduce the danger of actually dying from AIDS, my impression is that the level of care available in Africa from foreign aid is still pretty low, and thus the incentive to not get AIDS is still pretty strong regardless of medication availability.

    Handing out condoms, on the other hand, I think pretty clearly sends the message, “Go have sex, don’t worry about who it’s with, it’s safe!”

    In that regard, I’m not clear you can make the argument that funding AIDS treatment in Africa is keeping other, more positive change from happening in the way that throwing condoms around does. And so although the argument is similar in structure to the pope’s in regards to sending condoms to Africa, I don’t think it has similar validity.

    One can, of course, easily argue as to whether US government funding is the right way to get AIDS treatment to Africa on the basis of a whole lot of practical or prudential basis, but I’m not clear the “social conservative” argument works.

  • Darwin-
    if we were talking about folks with our background and education, yes. But we’re talking about unscientific folks. *Realistically*, the care isn’t amazing; word-of-mouth, you get sick, they treat you, and you can move on.

  • I have long suspected Richard Lowry employed Derbyshire half for philanthropic reasons and half as an addition to the magazine’s stable of humor columnists (albeit as the weakest entry in the latter category). Click on the link below and scroll down, and you will see the factuality of his comments disputed (no surprise that).

  • Thanks for that link, Art. One of the problems with most of the responses against Derb in the comments on the Corner as that most simply rebuked him without really offering any substantive arguments. Wehner’s was one of the more thorough critiques I’ve seen.

    As for why Derb continues to find employment at NR, it’s a bit of a mystery. I suppose it’s nice that NR continues to employ people with radically different viewpoints within conservatism. Even though I’ve had my frustration with NR, it seems to me that there is more ideological diversity there than most partisan magazines like The Weekly Standard, Mother Jones, etc.