Friday, May 31, 2019


One of Belladonna's friends at college is from Ghana.

I had a chance to talk to her recently, much to Belladonna's annoyance. Bella is not a political animal and discussions about land ownership patterns and legacies of various colonial powers puts her to sleep.

It was a wide ranging discussion.

"J" seemed to believe that there were vast tracts of vacant land in Ghana waiting to be claimed. I suspect that she is a city person and automatically believes that land that is not actively under the plow does not belong to anybody.

We talked about tropical agriculture. She is of the belief that temperate agricultural practices have little to offer compared to traditional, tropical methods. Since the primary tropical method is slash-and-burn with a ten year fallow followed by one good harvest and one mediocre harvest, the method is limited.

And those wide open spaces? The southern third of the country has a population density of 400-to-600 people per square mile, about on par with Maryland or Connecticut. Hardly unsettled.

Her professors told her that third world countries are poverty stricken due to lack of infrastructure. Like all generalization there is a degree of truth to the statement. Most roads and rail lines exist to carry resources from the interior to the port.

"J" shared an example one of her profs gave as "Proof". A village might have a crop failure due to flooding while another a mile away had a bumper crop due to the excellent rains. The village that flooded will starve out because there is no infrastructure to move the food from the village where food is abundant.

I got the sense that "infrastructure", from the prof's perspective meant taxes, officials and forced redistribution.

I asked about markets "Do they count as infrastructure?"

The professor never got around to discussing the role of free markets in moving goods from where they are abundant and cheap to where they are scarce and dear.

Mrs ERJ wanted to talk about the brain-drain. Many smart people from third world countries go overseas to get an education and then do not return to their home countries.

"J" was adamant that nearly all of her peers want to return but that there are no jobs.

That is when I twisted the knife. I said "It seems like many of the jobs are make-work jobs in government. The people in power create sinecures to employ their sons and nephews. Those make-work jobs raise taxes and create more administrative burdens for job formation and are a tremendous economy killers."

"J" agreed that if you were not a member of the area's dominant tribe or related to the people in the power structure you were basically screwed.


  1. Hmmm...just from that short description, it would seem that "J" is sorely lacking in the fundamental education area. And my impression of "higher education" these days is that it's not real strong on teaching kids anything that develops critical thinking skills.

    1. Compared to most nineteen-year-olds she was an absolute delight to talk with.

      If you figure that the first fifteen years of life lack scope for large horizons, then comparing a twenty-year-old to a sixty-year-old is to compare five years of drinking from a fire hose with forty-five years of the same.

      One disconnect I saw was that she thought selling smart phones and apps would make a pile of money back in Ghana while my perceptions is that lower, more fundamental technologies would make a much bigger difference.

      Critical thinking skills: Bad judgement leads to questionable decisions. Questionable decisions lead to unfortunate outcomes. Unfortunate outcomes leads to wisdom. Wisdom leads to better judgement.