It’s not often that an eminent and Nobel prize winning scientist is blacklisted. And even rarer when his work is not only non-controversial but a foundation of much of modern medicine and human genetics. But that’s just what’s happened to Dr. James Watson. The co-discoverer of DNA found himself disinvited from addressing London’s Science Museum after he stated in an interview that:

[he is] inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa [because] all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really

and, just in case someone mistook his meaning, went on to point out that:

people who have to deal with black employees find [equality of intellect to be] not true

As the interview above demonstrates, this isn’t the first time Dr. Watson has said controversial things. As New Scientist points out, he’s Master of the Scientific Gaffe.

All of which brings up some questions:

  • Should we expect experts in one narrow field to be competent outside the field?
  • Should we expect people with a history of stupid, insensitive comments to stop making them?
  • Why does Eugenics have such a hold on so many eminent biologists? Is this a case of Maslow’s Principle?
  • Is Dr. Watson really a genius, or “just” an effective and dedicated scientist who made a huge contribution through hard work?
  • Could poverty and social chaos be as much to blame for Africa’s woes as bad genes?
  • Could all of this have been avoided if Dr. Watson had been forced to watch “Trading Places” on an annual basis?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

What is it about the left-wing tyrant that’s so attractive to Leftists the world over? Sure, the Right supports its share of bastards, and is often willing to look the other way if the thug in question is upholding national interests, defending corporate property, or battling communists. But let that murderous jerk step out of line or screw up, and the Right abandons him in a heartbeat. Not so the Left. Once they give their heart to a tyrant, it matters not at all what he does, or how he does it. Whether he kills a dozen or a million, as long as he loudly proclaims his leftist credentials from time to time he’s golden.

Consider, for example, the strange love affair that Leftists have for Fidel Castro and his latest protégé, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Or the odd pass that brutal thug Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus gets. And, oh, the love fest when they get together. It’s as if the Left courageously forces itself to believe that these are great-hearted champions of the people, willfully denying the reality that the only love these scum have is for their own power and fame.

You can almost understand it with Castro, who, after all, did overthrow a vicious dictator (who had the bad habit of being the wrong sort of dictator from a Leftist perspective). Of course his next step was to liquidate his former allies and turn his island nation into a prison and himself into a Stalinist Giant Poster. But, hell, his heart was in the right place.

But Chavez? This isn’t a guy who liberated his country from violent oppression. This is a guy who’s following the Mein Kampf playbook step for step: failed coup, appeal to the masses, orchestrate chaos, gain power through elections, start rewriting the constitution to consolidate power, move against the free press, rig the economy to benefit your cronies and distribute goodies to the poor, drum up fear against external enemies and use that to gain emergency powers, and, then, ensure you can remain leader for life. The only steps left are to actually remove the vestiges of democracy and start invading the neighbors.

Fortunately, Chavez is just a tinpot idiot ruling over a mercifully small (though oil-rich) country. So his chances for real world domination are slim and none. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t throw his country into misery. Just consider another darling of the Left, Robert Mugabe, and what he’s done to poor, starving Zimbabwe. Long hailed as a visionary leader by Lefties, Mugabe’s luster has faded as his madness finally rises above even their ability to overlook. Consider the tone of the left-leaning daily The Guardian. Sadly gone are the days when Mugabe was hailed for outsmarting the nasty imperialist west, or when his dictatorial status was questioned . Now it’s all whining about how he’s gone too far, etc., etc.

Well bad news for everyone: Mugabe was never a fine upstanding human being. He personally oversaw a group responsible for 20,000 deaths during the five year civil war that consolidated his ZANU party’s hold over Zimbabwe. From 1980, when the ZANU won elections in the midst of violence, through 1987, when Mugabe became President-for-life, into the 1990s, there was never a period of peace and prosperity in Zimbabwe. There were, of course, better and worse times, but Mugabe was never a blessing from heaven. While he hasn’t always been the absolute psychopath he’s become, he was never an enlightened ruler of sweetness and light.

What Mugabe did have, and what he shares with both Castro and Chavez, was a nicely packaged dedication to leftist ideals and a willingness to express those ideals in his society—no matter the cost. In other words, he has conviction in spades, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his people on the altar of leftist ideology. Even his blatant transfer of land to his cronies was wrapped up in the rhetoric of kicking out white oppressors and empowering black farmers (never mind that those “farmers” were his lackies).

In the past, perhaps, you could point to some of the extreme anti-Communism on the right as a sort of mirror image. Some of those old anti-Communists got almost dewy-eyed over such bastards as Batista, Pinochet, Savimbi, and that whole Argentinian gang—though much of even this was “enemy of my enemy” sort of stuff. But those days are long gone, killed by senseless brutality and the collapse of Communism. These days the Right sees accommodation with right-wing dictators to be a necessary evil: either a pragmatic concession to fight some other, greater threat or the best of bad options. The Left, however, is unwilling to sully itself with anything so impure as alliances of convenience. Only the ideologically pure and clearly dedicated merit its allegiance. Sadly, compassion and respect for human rights need be no part of that dedication.

Oh, the Left will pay lip service to those ideals, and demand the most refined, unattainable form of them for the West. But impose these Western standards on leftist dictators? If only you knew the terrible conditions under which the regime must operate. If only you understood how much is at stake, and how much more important those stakes are than the lives of a few thousand third-world peasants. After all, when you’re building Utopia, what are a few thousand lives, more or less? When Utopia’s on the line, conviction must always trump compassion, and tyranny is just another way of saying how dedicated you are to building Heaven on Earth.

And that makes all the difference. It’s hard to get all teary-eyed about a pragmatic compromise or making peace with a bad deal because all the other deals are worse. But supporting a visionary leading the world into a glorious New Dawn? That’s something you can really get your heart behind. It’s just too bad you have to leave both your mind and your soul behind to do it.

In the midst of the protests and promises surrounding the G8 last week, one plea went almost unnoticed. An African economist continued his campaign to plead with the West for a serious change to financial and food aid to Africa. Specifically, for it to be totally discontinued. In an interview with Der Spiegel, in which it was clear that the interviewer could sometimes not believe his ears, Kenyan economist James Shikwati argued passionately for an immediate stop to nearly all economic—and even nearly all humanitarian—aid to Africa.

Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems.

This message is nothing new for Mr. Shikwati, who has been making this seem argument for many years. And he’s not alone. Even Der Spiegel itself, hardly a reactionary bastion of globalism, has written about the terrible paradox: too much aid creates more need.

And anyone at all familiar with basic economics, or even basic history, should know that this is true. The great economic powerhouses of the West did not arise as a result of altruistic development assistance. The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and the rest do not owe their prosperity to well-intentioned aid packages. Of course, some wits will point to the Marshall Plan and the Korean War era assistance to Japan. But as Mr. Shikwaki points out correctly:

In Germany’s case, only the destroyed infrastructure had to be repaired. Despite the economic crisis of the Weimar Republic, Germany was a highly- industrialized country before the war. The damages created by the tsunami in Thailand can also be fixed with a little money and some reconstruction aid. Africa, however, must take the first steps into modernity on its own.

Shikwati’s claim isn’t that aid can’t be helpful, let alone that it’s always harmful. His claim is that aid cannot assist in development. It can, and does, help in recovery, but that’s a very different circumstance. If a community, or a nation, already has a functioning economy and citizens capable and willing to rebuild, humanitarian and financial aid can be a great boon. But the aid can’t create that economy or those citizens. For all their faults, Germany and Japan were industrial powers before World War II. The aid helped rebuild ruined economies, not create new ones.

In fact, aid too early in the development process can retard or destroy development. In the case of Africa, massive food aid has destroyed numerous local agricultural economies. And well-intentioned clothing aid has clad numerous Africans in cast-off T-shirts instead of locally produced clothing. Whatever the benefits for the hungry or the naked, these things are death to local farmers and tailors. Send money to buy food or clothes from African sources would be better, but even that can create terrible dependencies—as recipients begin to plan their lives around recurring aid.

So does this mean that the altruistic Westerner can do nothing but stand by and watch poor Africa wallow in misery? No, though it does mean that that would be better, though harder, than sending billions in aid money which only destroys African economies and props up butchers and criminals. Without such aid, nature would take its course and there’d be at least some consequence to tyranny and brutal stupidity.

Fortunately, however, you don’t have to just stand by. You can help, though you have to think just a little outside the box. Instead of aid, why not support African industry and economic growth directly through microinvestment. Through various services, you can invest in a variety of organizations that issue microloans to African entrepreneurs and small businessmen. These work just like standard loans here, but they’re for what would be trivial amounts in the West—but can be the difference between a dying and thriving business in the Third World.

You can find more information about this growing area at the web site of Nobel Peace Prize winner Grameen Bank. And here’s a list of microloan provider sites, through which you can invest if you choose. Kiva.org is a new site, one that allows you to examine and choose to fund individual business plans.

And check out a relatively new twist on this, microequity: effectively venture capital for the Third World—buying equity in entrepreneurial ventures. One fund you can check out in this new area is the Village Enterprise Fund.

Will this all work? It’s not clear. But one could note that this is much closer to the pattern by which the West actually rose (though in that case the investment came from within—for the most part). While microinvestment may not be a panacea, at least its track record isn’t the unmitigated disaster of traditional “development aid.” And at least the funds it provides aren’t sent directly to the bank accounts of Africa’s despots and their corrupt flunkies.