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Africa, Aid, and Avarice

Granted, it was a provocative way to frame the question. But we had no idea that one word would fuel so much reader reaction. Most people who responded to "Can Greed Save Africa?," our Dec. 10 Cover Story, said yes, private capital must be a big part of the global approach toward sub-Saharan Africa, the world's poorest region. But, many asked, did we have to call this investment "greed"? Some readers did dig in along the lines we'd anticipated: arguing the case for government and nonprofit aid over private investment--or vice versa. Still others, like Global Venture, an antipoverty blog that deemed the article "insightful" overall, took issue with the notion ("tired and misguided") of trying to "save" Africa.—Roben Farzad

When someone has a job, is he "greedy" for accepting pay? Outside of a socialist setting, how is being capitalist greedy? Most advances in the last couple of hundred years arose because of the desire to make money.

Screen name: Mr. Obvious

"What a way to cut to the chase! The article probably makes most development and aid activists squirm.... [It] makes one point clear: altruism is not a precondition for development. It is the results, not the intent, that translate into growth and greater opportunity. Re-envisioning Africa as a multidimensional land of untapped wealth and possibilities...instead of a basket case of intractable poverty--this is important for empowering [Africa's] countries and individuals to push past the stigma and dependence of the last half-century.... 'Greed' is a pretty powerful word to blanket 'investments'.... What I'd look forward to, though, would be a follow-up article in a year or two, reporting on what these investors have been up to, how their investments have evolved, and what their presence has meant for all stakeholders."

Abigail Keene-Babcock

Business greed will save Africa where government greed and NGO [nongovernment organization] greed have horribly failed. Business built America into a powerhouse because business greed has a trickle-down effect.

Screen name: Daniel Mueller

The story sidesteps its own title question. It hardly mentions the long-run prospects and obstacles for "saving" Africa. Are current investors likely to cherry-pick Africa's natural resources and leave, as is done elsewhere? Will the investors pay workers in proportion to the pricing of their products abroad or just the barest minimum? And will they, backed by the World Bank, continue to insist on so-called free markets in these countries? That ideology blocks workers' demands and government taxation that might serve to spread local development.

Edwin Reubens


It is wrong to say development assistance [in the form of foreign aid] "hasn't made a dent." Since the year 2000, changes to the way aid is administered, renewed focus on the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, and conditions of good governance have achieved strong returns that deserve acknowledgement. Aid alone is not the answer. But it is certainly part of the solution.

Jamie Drummond


The true gold mine: the rich cultures of the people. Potential investors should understand the timetable in which Africa's cultures operate and embrace a balance between African and Western worldviews.

Molly Otiende


The article's title should be "Can Capitalism Save Africa?" There's nothing greedy about it. You have to make a profit in order to keep people employed.

Screen name: Chris

Governments in Africa are irrevocably corrupt. Billions have been spent on aid, only a negligible amount of which ended up where it was intended. Yet greed keeps driving money there, to the detriment of efforts in other places with huge potential.

Screen name: Why Africa?

If greed creates jobs, stops malaria, and repairs roads, bring it on.

Screen name: Kalu Aja

I guess "Can free markets save Africa?" was too austere.

Michael Powers


Higher Education: The Hypocrisy of the Plutocracy

"The dangerous wealth of the Ivy League" (In Depth, Dec. 10) is proof positive of the hypocrisy of institutions that decry plutocracy in other societies and fail to see themselves in the same light. Leaded glass for the rich. Everyone else, eat cake.

Joseph Troncale, M.D.


It's nice that these rich schools are generous to the brilliant poor who gain admittance. But the vast majority of students who don't qualify for these schools face rapidly rising tuition and predatory lending practices for their higher education. And while paying more, they often are getting less.

Judith Vance


It's not as bad as it sounds. The professors who move to research-intensive universities prefer research to teaching and may not be good at teaching at all.

Screen name: Postdoc

A Bailout for the Mortgage Mess Perpetrators

Regarding "Help may be on the way" (News, Dec. 10): If the U.S. government is going to bail out the fools that fed the speculative rush driving up home prices to ridiculous levels, honest tax-paying folks who were forced to overpay for a house should be given a 20% tax credit for the speculative premium they had to pay. We always put out one fire, economically speaking, then create an even bigger one.

Screen name: Mad as Hell

Taxes: Filing without Tears

Though I laud [HouseWays & Means Committee] Chairman Charles Rangel's efforts to address the inequities in the current tax code, I fear he will miss the opportunity for really drastic change (Facetime, Nov. 19). Any tax collecting system that requires average taxpayers to seek professional help to determine their taxes is broken by definition.

Robert Daniels


The Price of Cashing In on Patient Accounts

"Fresh pain for the uninsured" (Cover, Dec. 3) brings home the point that we who work on the business side of health care need to resist the siren song of the financial industry as it pertains to selling patient accounts. Hospitals may get cash in the short term, but in the long term, they will have to deal with negative publicity, angry patients, and even greater government regulation.

Scott Harbaugh


Retailing: Train Employees to Prevent Theft

I agree that the laws should be stricter for people caught stealing ("Shoplifters get smarter," News, Nov. 19). But retailers need to step up to prevent greater losses. Despite some incentive programs, employees are still not motivated to prevent shoplifting. Retail stores must make it their responsibility to train their workers to minimize losses.

Candice Fung


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