October 20, 2014 by Liberty
When someone asks for the libertarian solution to the Ebola epidemic, it’s kind of like asking for a cure for lung cancer after 30 years of smoking. Sure, I’d love to offer you some awesome solution to the problem at hand but no one has it. People have spent years trying to educate people about the dangers of smoking. If the smoker still didn’t choose to quit then there is nothing anyone can do.
Actually, that’s not completely fair. It’s more like we’ve been selling cigarettes to someone for 30 years. Then we suddenly feel guilty when they get lung cancer. That, of course, while we count the money we made off him.
The outbreak of Ebola is not the problem. It hasn’t been the problem for decades now. Disease has been spreading throughout most of Africa like a wildfire. The only difference now is that Westerners are suddenly having their own lives put in danger. After decades of giving fortunes of money to the most violent dictators around, after decades of aids spreading everywhere, after starvation reaches horrifying levels, suddenly, after this disease, everyone is worried about a person’s right to leave Africa.
Anyone that insists upon flights from certain areas of Africa being cut off is accused of being a racist. Well… I hate to break the Utopian bubble you’ve been dreaming up but unfortunately, the same people that you’re saying should be allowed to leave Africa already aren’t allowed to go anywhere else in the world without special permissions anyway. The only people in that region that would be affected are the Westerners who are traveling in the region.
I don’t like cutting off flights. The only good it could do is prevent the disease from spreading but honestly, by now, that ship has sailed with multiple cases around the world including America. Asking for the libertarian solution to problem after a problem created by government makes absolutely no sense. (No, I’m not saying the US made Ebola.)
First World Solutions
There is almost no reason for any American (outside of a hotbed) to be concerned about the Ebola virus spreading. Despite the CDC’s miserable first effort at containing the virus, it’s not beyond anyone’s capability. The first world knows how to prevent the disease from spreading. The odds of the CDC screwing up this containment effort so bad that the average person’s life is at risk is so small that it’s’ pointless to consider right now.
Don’t believe me when I say Ebola can be dealt with? Just look at the story about the Firestone factory in Africa. The doctors at the factory’s clinic found a case of Ebola, contained it, and have virtually completely stopped it from spreading. How did they figure out how to do this? Well… they started by researching on the internet. Yes… that same old internet that you’re reading this article on.
Ebola is a preventable disease. Ebola is also significantly more treatable in a first world nation. Some estimates suggest that Africa’s 50% mortality rate would be cut in half in the United States.
The problem is not that Ebola is the most deadly problem around. (Even in Africa, Aids is still a much more dangerous problem.) The problem is that first world nations have been preventing the creation of developing nations that could fight the virus for decades now.
Creating Dependent States
Foreign aid is one of the most manipulative terms in international politics today.
Foreign aid is advertised as giving money and food to people starving in other nations. In reality, it usually comes down to giving money and food to the richest and most politically influential people in poor nations because someone always has to distribute the aid. This leads to a multitude of problems.
First of all, giving food to starving nations just doesn’t work. The people that get the chance to distribute that food don’t aim to give it to the poorest people. They just distribute it on the market. That may reduce food prices in the short term but it just forces local farmers out of business because they can’t compete. Suddenly, a dependency is created.
Even if the foreign aid is distributed by foreigners, many of these leaders have absolutely no incentive to allow aid to a region that isn’t politically favorable. They regularly refuse to allow shipments to undesirable regions that put their own power at risk. (AKA “terrorist regions.”)
Next, consider the benefits that come to the leader of any country with massive windfalls of foreign aid. We have nations with millions of people growing up hungry, poorly educated, and often surrounded by violence. People in charge of regions in this world are (relatively) rich and comfortable. This, of course, becomes a clear pot of gold for the most violent people in their society. That means the poor economy created by foreign aid just encourages more violent leaders to try and take over. Keep in mind, virtually every violent dictator in the region still gets foreign aid.
This violence perpetuated by foreign aid also makes the region very unattractive for foreign businesses. Why open your factory there when you could be forced out of business six months later when a new leader violently takes over?
Don’t forget that private companies could make a fortune if they could utilize the labor available in Africa. International restrictions prevent most of it from being possible. Politics gum up everything.
All of this adds up to a dependency on foreign aid. Foreign aid destroys the economy and becomes a major supplier of income for the nations.
A Personal Gripe
All this ridiculous coverage about the Ebola virus makes me a little sick to my stomach. I’d like to provide a metaphor to make this next point more clear but quite frankly, I can’t think of anything quite so cruel.
For decades, western society has virtually ignored problems in Africa. Sure, they might give a dollar every 5 or 10 years but for the most part, no one has given damn. African’s were starving to death. African dictators were being made rich by foreign aid. African’s were catching aids (mostly through superstitions that were preventable with proper education.)
Take note that none of these problems are easily spread to other regions in the world. While aids could theoretically be spread, virtually no first world doctor going to fight aids is going to accidentally contract aids. More importantly, most people from the first world don’t have the same superstitions that help it spread so fast. Ultimately, the outside world is unaffected.
Then comes Ebola. Suddenly, the possibility of a disease spread in that region affecting the rest of the world appears and everyone pretends they care about Africa instead of themselves.
There is nothing wrong with self interest but it makes me sick to watch people cloak it under the guise of empathy.
That being said, this is more of an emotional sting than something actionable.
Libertarianism’s solution to the Ebola epidemic is the same solution as the solution to every other problem in the world. Millions of people making non-violent decisions can create a much more effective solution than anything I could think up.
That being said, we can’t just pretend that an Ebola epidemic wasn’t preventable in the first place. If there were more major international companies like Firestone or even non-politically run local companies in the region then the problem would have never gone this far.
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