James Surowiecki in The New Yorker:

BobIn 1985, when Bob Geldof organized the rock spectacular Live Aid to fight poverty in Africa, he kept things simple. “Give us your fucking money” was his famous (if apocryphal) command to an affluent Western audience—words that embodied Geldof’s conviction that charity alone could save Africa. He had no patience for complexity: we were rich, they were poor, let’s fix it. As he once said to a luckless official in the Sudan, after seeing a starving person, “I’m not interested in the bloody system! Why has he no food?”

Whatever Live Aid accomplished, it did not save Africa. Twenty years later, most of the continent is still mired in poverty. So when, earlier this month, Geldof put together Live 8, another rock spectacular, the utopian rhetoric was ditched. In its place was talk about the sort of stuff that Geldof once despised—debt-cancellation schemes and the need for “accountability and transparency” on the part of African governments—and, instead of fund-raising, a call for the leaders of the G-8 economies to step up their commitment to Africa.

More here.