Post by William Easterly

The world economy with its multiple crises is a frightening place. To confront our fears, we have a new global religion. It developed slowly over the last couple decades, based on the sacred writings of the world’s leading shamans. The shamans have been releasing a new scripture of prophecy and comfort every year after secluding themselves in a remote location for several days of prayer and reflection.

There used to be only seven of these shamans, and they were known for short as the G7. As of their latest retreat to the Burgh of Pitt last weekend, the number of shamans has grown to G20.

This year’s scripture, called The Communiqué, was the longest in G-ism history at 15 pages. It offered prayers of healing for many different ailments, from the pestilent OTC Derivative Contracts to the noxious Gas Emissions. It condemned the unholy Excessive Compensation in the Financial Sector as well as the evil Non-Cooperative Jurisdictions.

One of the greatest attractions of the G-ist religion is its concern for the poorest among us. G20 reserved their most fervent prayers of comfort and restoration for those who newly suffer, such as those who now hunger when they did not before. There are 90 million more who go hungry than at last year’s G-shaman meeting, after the Great Backsliding of 2008, whereupon “the financial crisis followed close on the heels of a global spike in food prices…{when} even before the crisis, too many still suffered from hunger …{and} recognizing the crisis has exacerbated this situation.” G20 offer to feed the hungry with GPAFS, CAADP, UNCFA, IDA, ADB, NGOs, FAO, IFAD, and WFP, using the holy mysteries of “coordinate efforts,” and “country-led mechanisms,” and “complement and reinforce other existing multilateral and bilateral efforts” (page 11, verse 39 of The Communiqué).

G20ism has proven to be tolerant and inclusive of other religions. According to a story in the Florida Catholic:

“Most people in high levels of government “really do want to do the right thing for the poor. They really do have a moral compass,” said Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace, at a press conference in Pittsburgh Sept. 23. Part of the power of prayer and bringing together religious leaders at such an event is “the belief that we can influence people,” he said. Some 30 leaders of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths attended the press conference before processing in full clerical garb to the Omni William Penn Hotel to meet with representatives of the U.S. delegation to the G–20 summit.”

Alas, there are still many who do not believe, even mocking the true faith of the G20. The nonbelievers claim that reason and evidence is the best path to alleviate suffering, rather than belief in the mystical powers of the G-shamans.

The evidence on increased hunger numbers is a wee bit shaky when the last reliable numbers on undernourishment are from 2003 to 2005. Nor is hunger either necessarily the result of the crisis or a black and white categorization. Most malnutrition is chronic, not crisis-driven, and includes many different categories of nutritional deficiency, such as vitamin A deficiency, as well as not having enough to eat.

Then to make things worse, even the crisis narrative on hunger is faulty: the food price spike crisis and the global recession are not additive but partially offsetting. Global food prices in real terms fell because of the global recession to pre-spike levels (although lower income because of the crisis of course makes buying food more difficult).

Faith-based analysis leads to faith-based actions. Only the most fanatical G20-ist religionists could believe that more Coordinations, Frameworks, Partnerships and Programmes will feed the hungry.

To show the contrast between G20-ism and reason & evidence, here are two questions that address hunger:

(1) If you are an aid agency that covers hunger, exactly what is your excuse for not meeting the unmet needs for nutritional and vitamin supplements? These supplements are cheap, they have been demonstrated to work, and they fit well into other aid programs like conditional cash transfers.

(2) If you are the US government, how can you take a solemn vow to feed the hungry when there ARE food emergencies and yet you still insist the food come from American farmers and shippers? This leads to months of delays while people are dying from hunger. Sometimes the food arrives after the emergency is over, and then makes sustainable future food supplies worse by driving food prices down and driving local farmers out of business.

G-ism has already survived for many years even though the G-shamans did not keep previous promises. That is the tragedy of faith without reason.

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