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March 13, 2006



There's a lot of sense to this point of view, but I do think people make a mistake in seeing the loan writeoffs as something outside the system of corruption. It's one of the things that we do know from corporate finance that it's a good idea to write down unserviceable debts because of the perverse incentives they create. In particular, the management of a highly indebted company are not going to put in the effort and may take value-destroying steps because they may take the view that anything they do to improve the prospects of the company will just be putting money into the bankers' pockets. It's because of this that the best bankruptcy codes (like Chapter 11) don't really maintain the strict hierarchy of claims and usually give the equity-holders something they don't really deserve in order to keep their interest in the game.

I think the extension to the sovereign lending case is pretty straightforward. If you're the government of Cameroon, you can either invest in the infrastructure of the country and watch the money flow straight back out to your creditors, or put the money in your own pocket and ask for some more. Or to put it another way, unless you strike oil or diamonds, economic collapse and a current account crisis every ten or so years is more or less written into the national balance sheet, so why bother? (I find myself bringing up the example of Museveni, who appears to me to have followed exactly this sort of trajectory from idealism to hopelessness to corruption)

This is the big argument for debt write-off that Sachs et al never make because it's insufficiently appealing to the warm and fluffy crowd; that if we wrote off the debt (which my businessman's heart tells me we should do anyway for simple reasons of honest book-keeping), then all future problems of African states would be definitively and obviously their own fault, and this clarification of responsibility would itself most likely have a salutory effect.

I also think you're a bit pessimistic about multi-ethnic states; Germany and Italy are both made up of a variety of peoples who happen to share a common border and they have done all right. I'd maintain that the problems of African states like Cameroon have a lot more to do with the specific way in which they were put together than the fact they were put together at all.


Well, the territories encompassing Germany and Italy were unified by common languages(actually common families of dialects) long before they were unified politically. Everyone in in what was to become Deutschland spoke dialects of Deutsche. Everyone in what was to become Italia spoke some descendent of Latin. The linguistic commonality isn't sufficient in and of itself, but it is an indication of economic and cultural ties that make nation building possible.

Still, sharing a common language and peoplehood hasn't helped the Somalis much. And the kind of unification that worked, historically, in Germany and Italy, hasn't worked in contemporary Yugoslavia.

Is it possible to create a nation, to create a common peoplehood? If so, how? What implications does this have for immigration policy?

João da Costa


"What implications does this have for immigration policy?"

That's exactly what Abiola remarks made me think.
After all, if you look at places like VDARE et al, you will see that some "White Nationalists" complain exactly that too many Third World immigrants to the fiesta will end bringing chaos there because, then no White Majority will exist anymore to maintain the integrity of those states!
That said, I should acknowledge that the multi-ethnic character of almost all African states has something to do with the current stand of Africa's development troubles and its immediate future prospects.


Certainly, widespread, unassimilative immigration to the West will have dire consequences for Western societies - fragmentation will be the result. However, the empirics of the matter show us that volitional migrants tend far more to identify with their hosts and *do* assimilate, contrary to what paranoid racial conspirators would have you believe. And the extent to which volitional migrants *do not* assimilate is a direct result of host-ility: again - which many migrants: Irish, Italian, Arab and even Hispanics and many African immigrants manage to overcome - at least, with respect to the United States.

The reality of the matter, like I pointed out in a comment some time in the past, is that the West has clearly defined cultural patrimonies to which people subscribe. Say what you like; America *is* a \"white\" country (an aspect in which I think Huntington got it right), and many migrants, as the generations go by, have no problems tokenizing their identities, and allowing standards of public protocol forged in \"whiteness\" to prevail.

The failure in Africa stems from the fact that there are no standards. There is no unifier. None whatsoever. Lets put it this way: Cameroon is a still born bastard: Not quite French, Not quite German, Not quite a Nation, Not quite Anarchy, Not quite African, Not quite anything: This indeterminacy of identity (which many Africans rather prefer to glibly pass over in favor of ridiculous notions like pan Africanism) is the cause of the problem. Africans like to \"pretend\" that they are \"Nigerians\" and \"Cameroonians\" and \"Ghanaians\" and beat their chests about it: But careful interrogation reveals the exact opposite: They are in fact, \"Yoruba\" and \"Hausa\" and \"Asante\" and \"Fante\" - and this misery is misery precisely because the Europeans never quite congealed these Nationalities, the process of congealement being aborted halfway - but also; happened to do enough to unleash the invocation of these national identities as political platforms.
Thus, while the British never quite succeeded in converting the \"Yoruba\" to Nigerians, it did enough to erase whatever animosity might have existed between the Ekitis and the Ibadans - enough to unify them as Yorubas *against* other groups that had undergone similar processes of gestation.

Yet: Is it not amazing, that as clear as the facts are; folks are still running around blindly, oblivious to reality; chanting various economic mantras that *will* fail - mark my words - questing for illusory political solutions, claiming that the problem is unemployment, corruption, predatory imperialists, sabotage, bad leadership and what not. Careful interrogation reveals that this in fact, is not the case. Cameroon has mostly been damaged by Cameroonians, precisely because Cameroonians do not exist. Reminds you of that old fable about Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

The creation of a Nation requires two primary ingredients.

1. Force
2. Culture

Depending on how you mix them and in what ratios; you get a time dependent emergence curve.

With regards to West African States (with which I am more familiar), I suspect that over the long run, the diffusion of western cultural norms, prompted primarily by an Americanization of global spaces will \"nationalize\" these countries. I think, that the younger generation of these countries will come to use American forms as proxies in their identities and this will gradually erode away the oppositional identities that plague a lot of these States. Such that being \"Nigerian\" will come to mean being a certain kind of American (though no one will be the wiser for it). This is another thing that antiglobalists do not realize: That on the cultural front, globalization is actually helping to stabilize a lot of warwrecked and strife torn regions. It is either this or:

a.) Penury in perpetuity with more African migrants coming to the West.
b.) Low scale/localized conflict in perpetuity
c.) A disintegration of these States and reformation along National lines.

The options are not mutually exclusive. African migrants supporting ethnic battles at home is a very probably scenario.


"some "White Nationalists" complain exactly that too many Third World immigrants to the fiesta will end bringing chaos there because, then no White Majority will exist anymore to maintain the integrity of those states!"

I didn't know "white" was an ethnicity - I guess someone should have told all those Europeans who spent the last 100 years slaughtering each other over ethnic differences that skin color is such a great unifier ...

Race has absolutely *no* bearing on what I'm talking about, and to the extent that it has any implications for immigration at all, the dangers posed by sectarianism are just as problematic even when all groups are of the same "race": just look at Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia, Sudan and the Congo.


The WN's never have an answer for the Serb - Croat conflict and the mind boggling atrocities committed by both sides, in what was supposedly an advanced industrial country.

Did the militia men, as they marched into a village, burning the houses, slaughtering the men and boys, assaulting the women, burying them all in ditches, think "these people look just like the people in my family. They speak the same language. Maybe I shouldnt do this?" Somehow, I don't think it ever crossed their minds.


Cameroons problem is that no one thinks they have a stake in the country, and family and tribal ties take precendence over loyalty to the state.

What Cameroon needs is some sort of assimilationist or intergrationist policy, backed by a program of propaganda that will last for decades, to convince Cameroonians that they are infact one people (and always were).

Blanche Bilong

I think you don't seperate the old and new generations of Cameroonians. Regarding the story of diamonds in Cameroon, here's what the new generation has to say about it:

That's the NEW CAMEROON!!!!

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