Michael Matheson Miller
Run time: 94 minutes
Available now on DVD & Netflix
In the early 1980s, Ethiopia was in the grip of a terrible famine. I visited that country last summer and things have improved, but they still talk about the song that helped save millions: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
The problem is that the song’s lyrics are steeped in an ignorance that perpetuates the idea that Africa is a barren: “Where nothing ever grows. No rain or rivers flow.” The lyrics give the wrong impression of the resource-rich continent. Too many people believe Africans live with their hands out to the wealthy developed world and that they’re incapable of looking after themselves.
Poverty, Inc., exposes the reality behind foreign aid (aka the “poverty industry”) and the “hand out” mentality to fighting global poverty. The truth is that it just doesn’t work. The film was produced by Michael Matheson Miller, a Legatus columnist and research fellow at the Acton Institute, a Michigan-based think tank which promotes free enterprise within the framework of Christian theology. Acton president Fr. Robert Sirico narrates.
Miller conducted over 200 interviews in more than 20 countries. His documentary leads with a quote from Machiavelli: “The reason there will be no change is because the people who stand to lose from change have all the power. And the people who stand to gain from change have none of the power.” And its tagline is also telling: “Fighting poverty is big business, but who profits the most?”
For anyone interested in philanthropy, global trade, relief organizations or the roots of poverty, this film is a must-see. The film shatters current perceptions of global charity and promotes entrepreneurship as the most effective method of alleviating world poverty. It shows how the “aid industry” perpetuates poverty by inadvertently removing the factors necessary to helping the poor get ahead.
PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.