Can a Concert "Make Poverty History"?



Murrayfield Stadium

Edinburgh, Scotland

Live8: The Final Push

After attending the final Live8 concert Thursday night 6 July, in Edinburgh, I left you in the wee hours of Friday morning with a teaser — Bob Geldof’s challenge to the G8:

We’ve got 3.8 billion people in our back pockets. What are you going to do about that?

Then he said they expected politicians to either respond to the Live8 movement or:

When you come to us and ask for our approval at the ballot box: F**K OFF!

Of course, Friday morning dawned with news of bombs in London, and my promise to follow up was trumped with more pressing events.

But I want to come back to the concert, and here’s why. On Thursday afternoon, we looked out the window of the Media Center on the second floor of the Balmoral Hotel and saw protestors gathering further down Prince Street. So Steve Beard and I grabbed our cameras to head in that direction. When the elevator doors opened up, there stood Geldof.


We had been on the plane with him from Heathrow to Edinburgh and, frankly, the guy is so amazingly scruffy that in person he doesn’t seem like a Big Deal. We chatted very casually in the elevator. But then the doors opened, we walked into the lobby, and the air molecules changed. Steve and I were right behind him as he walked out to the waiting crowd and the scene was pandemonium. Geldof is a walking Ion Generator.

Keeping that image in mind, here’s my larger point: we found out later that he was headed to catch the helicopter to Gleneagles to meet with President Bush. He then came back for the triumphant concert that night, to celebrate this remarkable access to world leaders: 3.8 billion people in our back pocket.

A pretty megalomaniacal claim, even for a rock star.


Edinburgh: The Final Push

But then came the announcement from Gleneagles: Aid to Africa increasing by $50 billion; debt forgiveness for 18 countries. A large portion of the Bono/Geldof agenda moving forward.

There is something significant afoot here and Americans need to pay attention. If for no other reason than that there really are children dying in Africa.

Trying to watch the concert from a detached perspective was difficult to maintain: it was impressive to see world-class entertainers at work. . .manipulating public sentiment and mobilizing public opinion.

It wasn’t perfect: The repetitive, canned appeals from most of the entertainers was wearisome. In some cases humorous —

“$50 billion dollars is a lot of money. Really, it is. Think for a minute, if you move from $25 billion to $50 billion and you think of how you spend your own money. . .uh, well, uh,. . . . . . it’s a lot of money,[entertainer panicking with mind going blank]. . . and now we’re going to show you a video . . . “

In other cases screechy and shrill — “It’s about JUSTICE. We demand JUSTICE.

But still, the music was great and interspersed with powerful, evocative videos played on the JumboTron. The most emotional one was the “Click” video. If you’ve not seen it yet, take a minute to watch it.

The video is built around the statistic that every three seconds a child dies in Africa. A celebrity comes on screen every three seconds, and “click” — snaps their fingers. A child has died. Click. Another one.

Click. Another.

The mother in me was deeply moved. How can we just let these children die?

The policy analyst in me replied: We have to get it right.

I left the concert with ambivalent feelings. There had been so much of the typical liberal silliness: Nobel Peace Laureate, Wangari Maathai, challenging the crowd to “plant ten trees to take care of carbon dioxide.”


Get Serious. Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt.

t-sirts 107.jpg

John Hinderaker and I talked before I left for the trip. We were both curious about whether or not the potential for a right-left convergence on this issue is real.

It could be. The boos of the Live8 crowd any time President Bush’s name was mentioned left me skeptical. But in Bono and Geldof’s praise for President Bush, George Clooney’s refusals to accept bait to criticize the administration, and other obvious efforts to craft a coalition-building message, I saw a glimmer of potential.


We do have to get it right. To Make Poverty History will take more than eight concerts.

And more than more money . . .


JollyBlogger rethinking negative comments.

Mudville Gazette serving the country and mankind at Open Post

Paul Hogue has Anti-Americanism in Perspective

GOPBloggers have the real answer to Africa’s problems,

Our leftwing friends will wonder why this is important – but each and every conservative knows that the way to make people determined upon personal liberty, stable and free government and the rule of law is the widespread ownership of property. You don’t let your community become a haven of criminals when you’ve got equity value in property you hold title to.

Professor Drezner has citations and analysis on Africa’s Digital Divide — a most interesting perspective with cell phones.

Asymetrical Information says not to throw good money after bad debt in Should We Give?

Unfortunately, aid can make things worse, by entrenching the incompetent or corrupt governments and institutions that keep people poor. The world community has tried to tie aid to good governance committments, but these rarely pan out in practice. The aid community has the same problem as the financial community: it is in the business of giving out money. When there are no good opportunities available, the tempation is to start piling into the bad ones, rather than give the money back and look for a job selling shoes.

Professor Becker at The Becker-Posner Blog suggest we consider India,

India and other examples of poor countries that managed to grow rapidly indicate that large scale and general foreign economic aid is not the solution to slow growth. Indeed, general aid might delay the reforms necessary for growth because it can take away the crisis mentality that appears crucial to galvanizing the political will necessary to implement radical economic reforms.

Enjoy the wealth of intellectual property of Outside The Beltway at Traffic Jam


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4 Responses

  1. Great post, thanks for the insight into the events there. I’ve been a huge fan of Steve Beard’s Thunderstruck for quite some time, and its great to have come across your blog through the concerts and events.

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