Billy Preston to Bono: Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’

By Jim Whitt

In his speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Food Security and Global Agriculture symposium Bono, front man for the band U2 said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that broke countries should continue providing foreign aid.

Based on this reasoning, U2 — which according to Forbes made $195 million last year — should give everything they make away then borrow even more money to give away. Then maybe they’ll understand the lyrics from one of Billy Preston’s biggest hits: “Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’.

“There’s a false notion that poor countries are poor because rich countries are rich,” says Peter Greer, President and CEO of Hope International, USA. I admire Bono’s desire to help underdeveloped countries but they will remain underdeveloped as long as they remain dependent on foreign aid. Broke countries giving money to broke countries will just make both even more broke.

Aid to poor countries — or poor people — has never been more than a temporary solution. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Giving away fish is a lose/lose proposition. It shackles both the giver and recipient to a codependent relationship that makes them both poor.

PovertyCure, an international network of organizations and individuals is battling global poverty by unleashing “the entrepreneurial spirit that already fills the developing world.” In other words, by teaching people how to fish. They have produced a brief video that shows why foreign aid is the problem and entrepreneurship is the solution.

One of the statements that jumped out at me from the video was, “Instead of training job seekers we train job makers.” Now, let me make a transition here. That statement is not only the solution to poverty in underdeveloped countries; it is the solution to poverty and the economic mess in our country.

I’m tired of hearing politicians drone on about how we need to create jobs. What we need to do is unleash the entrepreneurial spirit that already exists in our country. Entrepreneurs build businesses. When customers purchase their products or services those businesses grow. When they grow they hire people. That’s how jobs are created. It’s called capitalism.

Entrepreneurs love to fish. They jump in their boats every day and cast their nets. They experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Either way they load up the next day and do it again. That’s what built the most powerful economy known in history. But that’s changing.

We are killing the entrepreneurial spirit by taxing and regulating it to death. We tax the people who produce wealth and transfer that wealth to those who don’t produce wealth. In the process we have created a dependent class of people. Approximately 50% of households in the U.S. pay no federal income tax. Approximately 50% of households in the U.S. have at least one member who receives some form of government benefit. Why should you keep fishing if the government is going to take half of your catch and give it to someone else?

Why should you learn to fish if the government keeps giving you half of someone else’s catch? We are robbing people of their entrepreneurial spirit. We are robbing them of the joy of learning how to fish. We are robbing them of their dignity. People inherently want to be free. They inherently want to be independent. They want to pay their own way. No one says, “Hey, I’m on food stamps and proud of it.” There are no awards given to the welfare recipient of the year.

We’re nearly $16 trillion in debt and are adding to that debt to the tune of about $1.5 trillion a year. And yet we keep giving money away. We rob Peter to pay Paul. What happens when Peter goes broke? Paul is broke, too.

Sorry Bono, but Billy Preston is right. Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’.

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