Over the past eight posts in this series on Paul Collier’s The Bottom Billion, we have briefly surveyed four poverty traps and four instruments that free the poor from those traps. The four traps are:
- The Conflict Trap
- The Natural Resources Trap
- The Landlocked by Bad Neighbors Trap
- The Bad Governance in a Small Country
The four instruments for breaking free from these traps were:
- Military Intervention
- Laws and Charters
- Trade Policy and Reversing Marginalization
In the final chapter of the book, Collier lays out an agenda and identifies pitfalls that need to be avoided. I’m not going to delve into those here. If you have a strong interest in these issues, then I’d recommend reading the book.
Instead, I want to highlight two emphases Collier lifts up. First, Collier writes:
The second emphasis is that, yes, we need aid; particularly in the area of building infrastructure to grease the wheels of poor economies. But we desperately need trade. Collier identifies public opinion as the primary obstacle to the aid community making transformation toward more prosperous and sustainable economies. The well is deeply poisoned by a variety of activists groups against these needed shifts. Regrettably, a sizable number of Christians, including many of my own PCUSA tribe and the emerging church, are some of the most vocal opponents.
If nothing else, what I hope these posts on Collier’s book have illustrated is the great complexity of the issues and the intractable nature of the problems facing the bottom billion. Sloganeering calls for “Free markets!” and “Redistribute the wealth!” are in the end merely words that nurture the sanctimony of the sloganeers and do precious little to address the context of “the least of these.” These issues are difficult to digest and sometimes require counter intuitive, even paradoxical, responses relative to our surface reading of the scripture. While the world may be content with identity-politics, our identity is from one who leads us, if need be, to sacrifice our standing with right-wing activists or approval of intellectuals in the academy for his mission.
In the next post, I will try to pull this whole series back together.