I recall sitting across the dinner table from the Indian economist Vandana Shiva as she described how the annual $50 billion in aid given to the poor nations by the West is more than offset by the $500 billion in annual interest payments flowing from the developing countries back into the developed world to pay for dams and hydroelectric megaprojects pf dubious value (which actually reminds me of mark's story about the western dvd cartoon instead of the much more needed food in the refugee camps in Africa). I hardly touched my food as she explained that subsistence farmers in India weren't poor, they simply didn't produce any goods beyond what they consumed - that is, the limits of human consumption were determined by what nature provided. Rather than trying to change the flow of a river to make land in an arid climate produce a bumper crop of the most profitable product, farmers planted what naturally grew well and did not overfarm the land.
Then Western economics introduced the belief that these farmers had to produce more than they consumed in order to create wealth so that they could attain "quality of life". Consequently Indians left their family land to live in squalor in cities such as New Dehli, and subsistence farming gave way to huge farms and agribusinesses. Today between Protected content 300 million Indians who once farmed on family plots survive on less than one dollar a day. And they don't have clean drinking water, health care, education, or the prospect of a future for their children. Yet we cling to the old dream that if they could just create more wealth or join the march of progress their problems would magically disappear.