Summer Fun with the New York Times

Pick a card—any card. Actually, pick a New York Times editorial, any editorial, and have some fun.

Here’s one by Mark Malloch-Brown who, the Times tells us, is president of the Open Society Foundations and a former U.N. deputy secretary general—so you know trouble’s on the way. The title of the column is “The World Needs More Than Crumbs From the G7’s Table,” which means the man has an idea of how to save the world.

Such men are dangerous.

He tells us that “the Group of 7 summit in Germany ended last week with leaders of the world’s richest countries pledging to support Ukraine for ‘as long as it takes’” and that a call for a Marshall Plan for Ukraine is appropriate. But Malloch-Brown says G-7 leaders are “missing the bigger picture.”

Malloch-Brown is a big-picture man. And he says the big picture is “terrifying.” 

“Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he writes, “global food prices were near record highs. But the ripple effects of the war now threaten to cause hunger and suffering on an enormous scale.”

Well, yes: wars have a way of doing things like that. Actions have consequences. That may have been why some people opposed the war. In 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was overheard to ask at a meeting of G-7 foreign ministers, “Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” Listen carefully and you can still hear the cries of anguish.

“Besides food prices,” Malloch-Brown tells us, “crude oil breached $120 a barrel recently, fertilizer costs have soared, and interest rates have shot up. Add in extreme weather, unsustainable farming practices, high debt in many countries, lingering effects of the pandemic and other violent conflicts, and more than a billion people are at risk from what the United Nations has called a ‘perfect storm’ of hardship.”

How much of that is a surprise to “professionals” like Malloch-Brown who are paid to worry about precisely those things?

Malloch-Brown tells us that “the summit’s headline announcement was $4.5 billion for food security—a fraction of the $22.2 billion that the World Food Program needs now, and a minuscule pledge for a bloc that accounts for around 45 percent of global G.D.P.”

Then the Madison Avenue punchline: “The world needs a Marshall Plan. It got a Band-Aid.” Nice.

Malloch-Brown gets petty and complains about where the meeting was held: “a luxury resort and spa nestled in the Bavarian Alps.” Where did he expect the big-wigs to go? A Motel 6?

“The leaders of Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa were invited to discuss problems such as food, health and climate, but just 90 minutes of the three-day gathering were devoted to those concerns,” he laments.

“By treating the global food, energy and debt pressures as secondary to the war in Ukraine, the Group of 7 missed a golden opportunity to help the world’s hungry and disprove Vladimir Putin’s narrative of the liberal world order as a spent force that cares nothing for the poor,” Malloch-Brown writes. Do we know Putin thinks that? Does Putin think about anything other than how to make Russia great?

But why are all those people so poor, hungry, and sick? Whose fault is that, anyway? Ronald Reagan’s? Donald Trump’s? Donald Duck’s?

Maybe it’s Malloch-Brown’s fault. As a former high-ranking U.N. official, he’s an expert, presumably, at spending other people’s money to solve precisely these problems. Does he know how to do even that effectively? His only business experience seems to have been working at a public relations firm. Does he know anything about economics and production, markets and incentives? What was he doing all that time at the U.N.? Dining at fancy New York restaurants?

“Three months ago,” Malloch-Brown tells us, “the Western world mustered global support for a U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with 141 countries voting in favor. But even then, China, India and half of Africa abstained. As the war has progressed, the West has found it more difficult to rally the world, with subsequent resolutions drawing fewer votes partly out of concern that further measures to punish Mr. Putin could add to the global economic volatility.”

Why is he so surprised? And could he really have wanted unanimity? Isn’t diversity our strength? Do we really want everyone saying the same thing? And isn’t it correct that “rallying the world” to punish Putin further will add to the global economic volatility, precisely the point Malloch-Brown is making in this piece?

Maybe the people in those countries who think Putin could and would make even more trouble than he has already are on to something. If Ukraine is destroyed—destroyed even more than it already has been—who’s going to pay for rebuilding it? The United States? The G-7? George Soros?

And then how much will be left over to feed the world’s poor, whose diverse economic systems seem, er, inadequate—as they have for decades.

Naturally, something has to be done about Russia’s exports of oil and gas that are funding their war effort. “The Ukraine war also has laid bare the security risks of fossil-fuel addiction, which gives leaders like Mr. Putin leverage.”

Malloch-Brown’s solution? You know what’s coming. “[T]he most critical long-term step regarding energy is the transition to renewable sources.” Oh, please! South Africa, he tells us, plans to do that, at a cost of about three percent of its GDP. Other countries must do it too, which means another Marshall Plan—which means, he says, the U.S. must contribute around two percent of its GDP toward the effort.

Surely the whole world shouldn’t go renewable. What about the diversity angle?

Besides, shouldn’t Americans—Malloch-Brown’s piece was published in an American newspaper—worry about crime in Chicago (where 68 people were shot and eight were killed in shootings over the July 4 holiday weekend) and about poverty in Detroit (which has the highest rate of people living below the poverty line of all U.S. cities) before worrying about crime and disease in places they couldn’t find on a color-coded map with coaching?

We’re going to sacrifice Chicago and Detroit for the world’s poor and their decrepit and utterly corrupt economic systems? The economist Lord Peter Bauer described foreign aid as poor people in rich countries sending money to rich people in poor countries. And Malloch-Brown wants more of it?

This man is batty.

But then you knew that when you opened the pages of the New York Times. And tomorrow there’ll be another piece just like this one.

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About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

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