June 28, 2005

Economics > Imagine There's No Benefit Concert / It's Easy if You Try

With Live8 in the news, Colby Cosh points to the John Lennon Playboy interview and Lennon's thoughts on charity benefit concerts.

PLAYBOY: Just to finish your favorite subject, what about the suggestion that the four of you put aside your personal feelings and regroup to give a mammoth concert for charity, some sort of giant benefit?

LENNON: I don't want to have anything to do with benefits. I have been benefited to death.


LENNON: Because they're always rip-offs. I haven't performed for personal gain since 1966, when the Beatles last performed. Every concert since then, Yoko and I did for specific charities, except for a Toronto thing that was a rock-'n'-roll revival. Every one of them was a mess or a rip-off. So now we give money to who we want. You've heard of tithing?

PLAYBOY: That's when you give away a fixed percentage of your income.

LENNON: Right. I am just going to do it privately. I am not going to get locked into that business of saving the world on stage. The show is always a mess and the artist always comes off badly.

PLAYBOY: What about the Bangladesh concert, in which George and other people such as Dylan performed?

LENNON: Bangladesh was caca.

PLAYBOY: You mean because of all the questions that were raised about where the money went?

LENNON: Yeah, right. I can't even talk about it, because it's still a problem. You'll have to check with Mother [Yoko], because she knows the ins and outs of it, I don't. But it's all a rip-off. So forget about it. All of you who are reading this, don't bother sending me all that garbage about, "Just come and save the Indians, come and save the blacks, come and save the war veterans," Anybody I want to save will be helped through our tithing, which is ten percent of whatever we earn.

PLAYBOY: But that doesn't compare with what one promoter, Sid Bernstein, said you could raise by giving a world-wide televised concert -- playing separately, as individuals, or together, as the Beatles. He estimated you could raise over $200,000,000 in one day.

LENNON: That was a commercial for Sid Bernstein written with Jewish schmaltz and showbiz and tears, dropping on one knee. It was Al Jolson. OK. So I don't buy that. OK.

PLAYBOY: But the fact is, $200,000,000 to a poverty-stricken country in South America----

LENNON: Where do people get off saying the Beatles should give $200,000,000 to South America? You know, America has poured billions into places like that. It doesn't mean a damn thing. After they've eaten that meal, then what? It lasts for only a day. After the $200,000,000 is gone, then what?

Here's the clincher: Geldof wasn't asking for donations. He admits that food aid and even debt cancellation, while helpful, are of limited utility in the long run. Instead, he's asking us to start a converstation about how to stimulate long-term development in Sub-Saharan Africa. "This isnít Live Aid 2," the website reads, "LIVE 8 is about justice not charity."

And I had to love this:

12:33 - Todd Zwicki wants to know about the concept of "trade justice". Geldof: The EU is a protection racket that Al Capone would love. The trade cartels exist to protect domestic production ...

If first-world countries - the US included - dropped agricultural subsidies for their own farmers, third-world farmers would be able to compete in first-world markets thanks to their lower labor costs. If poor countries can't even make money with agriculture it's hard to imagine how they'll ever bootstrap themselves into prosperity.

Posted by lesjones

PajamaHadin linked with Live8 celebrity benefit against poverty in Africa


Excellent post

Posted by: countertop at June 28, 2005

Reason's hit and run linked last week to an interesting article about Geldolf and LiveAid's impact on Ethiopia.

I don't necessarily agree with the conclusion you might draw from it (that it would have been better to do nothing), but it's a problem worth acknowledging.

Posted by: Chris Wage at June 28, 2005

I agree. I care deeply about Africa. It is a pit of corruption and hopelessness and will be the next source of international terror, in my opinion. To fix it we need to change the fundamental ground rules, not just throw money at it to feel good.

Posted by: Dave Justus at June 29, 2005
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