Tuesday, 14 June, 2005

Doof briefly discussed the merits of the decision taken by Ebay to block sales of the upcoming Live8 concert tickets. In this post, I'm going to echo his objection and hopefully and expand a little more on the argument.

I object to this action for a number of reasons. First of all, regardless of the morality of selling these ticket for profit on Ebay, Ebay is a public company owned by private investors. Ebay's responsibility is to maximize profit on behalf of its investors and not act in the interests of one Bob Geldolf. Since Ebay would stand to make a profit on sold tickets, this decision has reduced the profit Ebay will make this year and as a result will lead to a reduction of each shareholder's dividend. This is breach of fiduciary duty by the directors of Ebay and consequentially leaves them open to being sued by their shareholders; although, I admit, this is pretty unlikely to be perused. The responsibility of a public company to maximize its profits on behalf of shareholders is, for better or for worse, enshrined in law and despite the morality surrounding the situation the law of land should be observed.

My second objection is on the grounds that the people selling these tickets actually own the tickets and not Mr Geldolf. They paid for the ticket legitimately and by doing so bought rights of ownership to the tickets. Under the European Convention on Human-rights, every person is entitled to the enjoyment of their possessions. One of the principles under-pinning the idea of property is that it can be sold to another party in exchange for money. It would seem natural, to me at least, that enjoyment of the property involves the ability to liquidate it. It is not the place of Ebay or Mr Geldolf to tell private citizens what they may or may not do with their personal property regardless of the surrounding moral debate.

My third and final objection is on the grounds of pretension. Live8 may well raise millions of pounds for charity. It may even raise awareness of the issues in Africa but do not be fooled that Mr Geldolf's campaign; the money collected by that campaign will not be felt at all by the actual people of Africa. I'm afraid that the sad reality is that a bunch of celebrities is not going to change the deep seated problems in Africa.

The problem in Africa is not a lack of wealth, as such, it is the fact is is owned by corrupt and powerful minority. It lies with the fact that many African states are run by dictators who put their own self-interest before the people of their country. It lies with the fact that many African states have failed to liberalize their economies. In Ethiopia, for example, all the land is owned by the government; there are no private land owners.

But the blame does not lie squarely at the door of the African states, we must shoulder some of that responsibility ourselves. The way we issue African aid is all wrong. When there is famine, it's only when people start seeing malnourished children that they give money and that money takes months to arrive at the door of the people who need it most. The problem is, by the time the money arrives there, they've already sold their tools for food. Items such as tractors, plows, seeds and horses and these tools are the very things they will need next year to stave off starvation in the next year. Solving Africa's problems is about solving this cycle of decline. If aid is going to do any good it has to arrive before people become desperate.

This is why I like the idea presented by the Economist of setting up a multi-billion Euro slush fund, funded by the European tax payer. That way when a crisis occurs in Africa, the money can be released nearly instantly and help get the aid to people well before they sell the tools that drive their fragile economies. We should show support for these bolder thoughts rather than the failed vision of Mr Geldolf. The African problem is multi-dimensional and a battle that needs to be fought on many fronts. Live8 amounts to nothing more than a mutual backslapping by pretentious artists and will do nothing to further the African cause.


21:58:50 GMT | #Randomness | Permalink
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