2013 October 26 Saturday
Arrant Nonsense Philanthropy From Buffett Son

Warren Buffett has given his son a few billion dollars to try to save the poorest parts of the world. The headline from Christian Science Monitor: Howard Buffett seeks lasting solutions to the world's food and water crises.

Lasting solutions? His water pumps and other similar purchases aren't addressing root causes. Africa's population will quadruple in the 21st century to 4.2 billion in 2100. Nigerian women average 6 babies each. In some African countries fertility has stopped dropping and is 5.2 babies per woman overall. The Buffett's do not have a plan to cause African fertility to drop to replacement levels. Therefore Buffett philanthropy activity will be stampeded over rising numbers of successive generations of very poor people.

Africa is stuck in a Malthusian Trap. Any philanthropy not aimed precisely at ending that trap will just enable a population expansion into an even bigger Malthusian Trap.

Is it too much to expect the richest and most powerful people in the world to think rationally and aim at root causes when they intervene? Yes, that is too much to expect. Humans think and try much harder to get money and power than they think and try on what to do with it once they get it.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 October 26 09:02 PM 

Engineer-Poet said at October 27, 2013 9:25 AM:

That's "arrant nonsense".

James Bowery said at October 27, 2013 11:17 AM:

This is more than an academic question for me as I've been working, avocationally, on algae cultivation systems since the mid '90s when I discovered that in my virtual back yard Earthrise Farms was producing 20 times the protein of soybeans per acre in the Imperial Valley, while using far less water. That long-term investigation has yielded the discovery of a technology that scales, and the South African government (Industrial Development Corporation) is putting up $7.5M to go into production if a similar amount is raised in the private sector. The numbers say it will displace soybeans while producing far higher levels of omega-3s in diets.

This has the potential, along with introduction of iodine into the diet, of preventing brain-damaging effects of malnutrition in the exploding African population, while eliminating the Malthusian pressures in protein and quote possibly carbohydrates. A "side-effect" is that it may be possible to eliminate habitat pressure on the wild populations of endangered species which, otherwise, appear doomed.

Although Charles Robertson's recent TED Talk on the coming African boom economy suffers from the typical Pollyannaism he does point out a potential that might be realized under the right combination of circumstances -- particularly if the brain-damage can be ameliorated.

But we're back to the old problem that Norman Borlaug faced in creating the Green Revolution: Does the "demographic transition" set in fast enough once the nutrition problems have been solved to avert falling back into the Malthusian Trap?

All I can say is that it may buy time... during which general advances in human ecology might progress to the point that intellectual fashionistas to will offer reasonable advice to the managerial elite.

Agreed, it is a pathetic situation but that is all the more reason to try to find technological fixes that bypass the moral vanity if our so-called "leaders".

Randall Parker said at October 27, 2013 11:33 AM:


Thanks, fixed. Though I have to say that "Errant Nonsense" has an appeal. It is more directed and has more structure than just total complete gibberish.


I expect natural selection to bring an end to the "demographic transition" in every country eventually.

James Bowery said at October 27, 2013 11:53 AM:

Yes, that's been my stance with regards to the "demographic transition" since before the phrase was coined -- that you can't fool natural selection in the long-run. However, my point about "buying time" still stands tempered by my agreement that the situation remains pathetic and urgent even with that additional time. The track record of the social sciences seems to be one of regression from common sense that preceded their inception. I keep pointing out that this is due to the lack of "sortocracy" -- sorting proponents of social theories into governments that test them -- so that there is something resembling genuine social experiments. I understand that even with controlled experiments in human ecology, it will take a long time for us to recover even common sense in the social sciences and that, by then, the time bought by advances in food production may have been used up. However, my hope here is that the very prospect of having their intellectual fashionista social theories put to something resembling falsifiable testing might put the fear of Nature and Nature's God into the social "sciences", and they might let us have back, at least, our Galton-era sense.

Abelard Lindsey said at October 27, 2013 1:32 PM:

The conventional solutions; increased female education and empowerment, economic prosperity in general, and birth control; which have worked for every other culture on the planet, including the Muslim middle east and India; seem to not work at all for Sub-Saharan Africa. Its almost as though Sub-Saharan African people are fundamentally different than all other humans on the planet.

It is worth noting that new-world African populations (African-Americans, Caribbean, Blatino) have birth-rate at around replacement of 2.1. Perhaps whatever social changes that have happened with these populations can be applied to Africa.

WJ said at October 27, 2013 1:37 PM:

Here I think you're mistaken about Buffett. Warren has been known to support family planning in the past - it's been one of his bigger causes, in fact. You have to give the Democrats more credit than Republicans on this particular issue, although it would get more bipartisan support if abortion were taken out of the equation.

Randall Parker said at October 27, 2013 7:34 PM:

WJ, I am aware that Buffett says he thinks birth control is important. But that's not how he's spending his money. Buffett stopped his funding of population control philanthropy in 2003. From what I can tell Buffett still thinks population growth is a problem but won't spend money on it.

Abelard Lindsey,

Free TVs and soap operas would do the most good.

Michael L said at October 31, 2013 5:53 PM:

Gates Foundation press releases talk about the "helping the poorest" too, but they are heavily into birth control and allegedly even de facto bio warfare like stealth vaccines via mosquitos. These "charitable" activities are just a front for political, economic etc control over everything the globalists can get their hands on. Just because it is done part by part by various foundations and individuals does not make it any less of a unified agenda than if it were all done by a single UN directorate.

Rev. Right said at November 4, 2013 8:27 PM:

Is it too much to expect the richest and most powerful people in the world to think rationally and aim at root causes when they intervene? Yes, that is too much to expect.

Root causes are racist.

Fb masterclass said at November 7, 2013 10:22 AM:

FB MasterClassStep By Step Advertising Traning FB MasterClass
FB MasterClassMario Brown

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Web parapundit.com
Go Read More Posts On ParaPundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright