June 14, 2005

Bob Geldof, Live8 and eBay

It appears that winners of the Live 8 ticket raffle are choosing to place their goods on eBay. BBC News says the following

Bob Geldof has branded the sale of Live 8 tickets on the internet auction site eBay "sick profiteering".

The Live 8 organiser called on the site to ban tickets for next month's London show, featuring Coldplay and U2, which were won through a text competition.
He said: "I am sick with this. It is a disgrace. It is completely against the interests of the poor."

"The people who are selling these tickets on websites are miserable wretches who are capitalising on people's misery. I am appealing to their sense of decency to stop this disgusting greed."

Sadly, the mechanism by which bidding on eBay perpetuates poverty wasn’t explained fully by Geldof. His comments imply the tickets have some inherent value which is being diverted away from the poor to the merely greedy. He’s right that they have high value, as evidenced by the high prices they’ll command on resale. Still, if it was paramount that this monetary value was captured by the organisers, why offer them for a paltry £1.50 text message in the first place?

Truth is, they could have offered the tickets for £10 each and would have sold out in minutes. They could have offered them for £40, £60, or even more, without having to worry about lack of demand. For someone who cares so dearly about the plight of others, his endorsement of the decision to offer tickets so cheaply is strange, and his accusations against the secondary auctioneers are thus irrational.

Bob Geldof would claim that morals dictate all revenue should go to charity, yet there exists no code of morals set in stone. My claim that it is moral for him to plough the majority of his multimillion pound fortune into investment into Sudan or Uganda is no more or less valid.

- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Ironically, it is just this kind of small-scale capitalism that Africa needs to get back on its feet.

    14 Jun 2005, 18:11

  2. Peter Thomas

    It is so easy to throw in terms like 'morals', 'poverty' and 'human rights' without giving real substance to the meaning of the terms. Geldof still lives in the last century – the century of the metanarrative where world sytems such as communism were favored as a kind of global solution. It's fair to say now that changes are physically only effectively made on a smale scale local level. Instead of 'make poverty history' which is nothing short of liberal utopian idealism lets attempt to really make a difference by ridding of dictator A in country B or by installing water pump A in town B. It's not rocket science to recognise that the things that were done in the eighties to 'end poverty' (although good in intention) did nothing to solve a continual problem. If Geldof rants on about the same unworkable solutions then he represents the opposite of a progressive approach to Africa's problems. It is one thing to raise money but it is another to guarentee a result – when one deals with governments such as Mugabe's of course you can rely on them to help the people.
    My final point is that Geldof's condescending liberal do-goody moral high ground approach creates a them and us hierachy. Geldof has sympathy for the 'poor' africans and sees the west and ungenerous and oblivious. If you are going to solve the problem you need to deal with each other on an equal plateau – that means two way conversation. What do they need and what can we give them. Its the same patronising, condescending bullshit fed to brainwash Guardian readers. The answer does not lie in sympathy but in empathy, not with a metanarrative of 'poor' africans but with treating each individually unique case piecemeal instead of lumping people together.

    14 Jun 2005, 19:54

  3. Good points. You've got to wonder how many concerts like this will be run before people like Geldof realise that
    a) Money generally doesn't get to those who need it.
    b) Even if money can be channeled to those who need it, ineffective national governments must change if any increase in living standards is to come from endogenous factors.
    c) Money and debt relief must be considered as part of a structured plan for individual countries, given that each country faces different constraints. Just as policy ‘blueprints’ attached to loans didn’t work for organizations such as the IMF and World Bank, they’re unlikely to yield benefits here.

    15 Jun 2005, 09:58

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