On Rising Tides, and a Few Other Things

John F. Kennedy was defending a controversial government investment project in 1963 when he declared that a “rising tide lifts all boats”. Kennedy felt that the economic benefits of the expensive project – a new dam – would contribute not only to the economic development of the dam’s home state of Arkansas, but the entire nation as well. A growing economy – or, a rising tide – he argued, would help everyone.

The world’s economy has been enjoying exactly this type of rising tide for a while. It was just a few centuries ago that nearly everyone lived in poverty. Now, billions have been lifted out of it, thanks to a constantly rising tide fueled by innovation and entrepreneurship. That’s a lot of boats.

But at the same time, billions of others have been left behind. For decades now, we’ve been experiencing lopsided world growth where many countries are experiencing rapid development, but some of these poorest have lain economically stagnant.

So, it seems that this rising tide has lifted some boats, but not all. This blog got its name, however, because I believe Kennedy’s aphorism is still true.

The tide – the world economy – will continue to rise.  But today, unlike in the past, we have the technology, knowledge, and resources to make sure that everyone rises along with it. The aid profession is growing fast, becoming more efficient and effective with each day. The Internet has brought distant corners of the world together, allowing for a share of ideas and cultural interaction that would have been unimaginable even a few decades ago. We know more about AIDS, malaria, and the effects of governance than we ever have before. We have new technologies to get to clean water and novel ways to utilize agriculture resources.

However, if there is one development in how the developed world has approached the developing world that trumps all the others in importance, I would say it is this: the recognition that people in the world’s poorest countries do a pretty good job of fueling their own growth, as long as they get the chance to do so.

How to help them to have that chance is the focus of this blog. Efficient aid strategies, private sector led growth, international development investment, good governance, and human rights are all in play here.

Effective utilization of these themes across the globe is important. They will not only help the tide rise even faster, but they will ensure that, this time, everyone’s boat gets to rise along with it.

Categories: General