Advocating Free Trade, Not Foreign Aid for the World’s Poverty
A Review of the Poverty Cure Documentary Series
Poverty Cure is a six part documentary series directed and hosted by Michael Matheson Miller, produced by Acton Media, and was released on December 5, 2014. The film is a project of Poverty Cure, a Christian-based organization that puts together a network of institutions in an effort to defeat poverty through the means of capitalism and entrepreneurship.
This documentary series is primarily targeted at Christians who are presumably active in their faith-based communities. It proposes that Judeo-Christian values can serve as a beneficial moral code for entrepreneurs and businessmen. The series argues that this moral code will guide and serve as the means for businessmen to run companies effectively to serve the impoverished by providing them work and a place to start businesses of their own.
The Christian values are reiterated throughout the entire series, and at times the rhetoric distracts from the series’ main argument. However, once the viewer is aware of the organization’s values and their target audience, the Judeo-Christian language seems more reasonable.
That aside, the series argues its case successfully, convincing at least this viewer that the developing world does not need charity, foreign aid, or philanthropy. Further, it demonstrates that developing countries and poverty-stricken populations require a free market society, open trade, and accessible investment opportunities.
From the start, the series does well to discredit celebrity campaigns that “combat poverty,” massive foreign aid campaigns, and substantial corporate donations, which is also known as “dumping.” We see that these actions cripple local economies of developing nations. The series uses the example of a Rwandan farmer who provides his local market and community with eggs. When an aid campaign group decided that they were going to continually donate eggs to the village, they effectively drove the farmer out of business. The community then became dependent on egg donations. Consequently, when the aid campaign stopped donating eggs, the community was unable to react to the change and was forced to import eggs from another region. While the intentions may be good, they can actually cause local businesses to lose their customers, subsequently crippling the local economy by stagnating or even reversing business growth.
The series admits, correctly so, that people start these campaigns because they have good hearts and good intentions; they want to end suffering in the world and help those who are impoverished, so they think the easiest thing to do is donate goods and services to these people. However, Poverty Cure makes it evident that these strategies do not work, and can actually do more harm to the community.
Poverty Cure introduces an alternative to helping the impoverished out of their position, suggesting that small- and medium-sized enterprises require access to micro-financing. That is, these companies are so small that they can neither afford the interest rates on banks loans, nor come up with the money on their own. Instead, what they need is micro-financing loans from a service provider. Individuals can take these loans, use them to advance their businesses and then pay them back when they are done. This system provides both responsible loaning by the micro-financers, as well as responsible investing by the small business owners.
Another key factor the filmmakers point out is that developing nations need better conditions for justice and less bureaucracy. The series describes the importance of private property rights, as well as the rule of law that helps businesses in the developing world have a strong foundation. This is because you simply cannot get out of poverty without private property. In most of the developing world, you cannot invest in land that you do not technically own, nor can you get financed without proper ownership.
Lastly, the series touches on the idea of providing impoverished and developing nations with a free market economy. This sort of economic environment attracts direct investment, provides a platform for exchanges to be made, and creates economic opportunity. The series uses the example of Ireland to prove how a completely underdeveloped nation with a majority of its population in poverty can improve its economy, thereby helping its citizens; this was all accomplished through the opening of markets to a free enterprise system.
Poverty Cure argues a strong case for using free trade, not foreign aid, as a means of improving the developing world. The series provides first-hand examples, compelling data, and impressive speakers to back up its points. Open trade and free markets are proven to help the developing world actually develop. Charitable organizations need to realize that some of their actions are counterproductive and they should accept that trade and the free market is the best solution to poverty. Overall, this documentary provides a solid argument for these ideas.
If you are interested in the film or knowing anything else about the program and organization, you can visit their website at PovertyCure.org.