When They're Down, Keep 'em Down

Here's a Limits to Growth in international development policy.

Condition: level of economic prosperity in a rural region.

Growing Action: international development programs (UN, religious groups, USAID, etc) As more development programs come in, the level of economic prosperity of the region begins to improve.

Slowing Action: repressive actions on the part of the economic elite against the cooperatives that the rural people have formed.

Limiting Condition: The economic and political elite of a country (this was certainly true for Guatemala) actually depend upon the people in rural areas staying "underdeveloped". These rural people provide a cheap labor force to the city businesses, the plantations, and the city elite as housemaids, cooks, etc. The LAST thing the political elite want is for the rural villages to become prosperous and stop providing a cheap labor force. In Guatemala, the Army eventually went out into the villages with lists of all the heads of cooperatives and killed them for being "communists".

This is all very well documented in Cultural Survival and other areas.

How to get around the "limiting condition"? We need international pressure to be brought to bear on the national elite along with some assistance in making the activities of this elite more productive so that they can compete in national and international markets without the repressive policies against ethnic groups within their borders.

Many thanks to Kathleen Truman, Environmental Studies Program, University of Nevada Las Vegas, for submitting this example.

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Copyright © 2004 Gene Bellinger