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IMF Protesters Defeat Their Own Cause by Armstrong Williams

Last week roving cells of IMF protesters sought to spread disease throughout the nation's capitol in an attempt to shut DC down. By employing several small units - as opposed one large demonstration - the protesters hoped to congest main roads and mass transit centers, effectively freezing the city in gridlock. Some protest organizers encouraged participants to hurl rocks at window fronts and engage in other violent activities designed to breach the peace and shut down the city.

In short, the activists planned to occupy, by force, our nation's capitol.

Can you imagine what the response would be if a series of terrorist cells descended upon Washington, DC with the professed intent of shutting down the nation's capitol? They would be handcuffed and pummeled with police batons. And rightly so.

But when a group of spoiled college kids plan to protest in a manner that is both overtly violent and inherently inflammatory, they are given a free pass. In April 2000, thousands of anti-IMFers descended on the capitol. 1,200 of them were subsequently arrested for disorderly conduct. But not one was actually convicted. If we refuse to hold them accountable for breaching the peace, they will continue to escalate their violent behavior. You know, like a four year old.

Of course that sublime document - the Constitution - guarantees their right to assembly. But that right is not absolute. The moment the protesters start hurling rocks, they are acting as domestic terrorists. The police ought to treat them accordingly.

Of course the real shame is that radical tactics employed by anti-world bank protesters overshadow the very serious concerns that exist about the World Bank's lending policies. For example, why does the World Bank continue to funnel billions of dollars in loans to Asia and Russia, when no one can find any evidence that the program has produced any discernible improvement? Why continue a costly practice that simply is not working?

A policy of blind bailouts creates little incentive for debtor countries to make those difficult-read this as responsible--economic decisions that actually confront the problems that undergrid poverty. Why should debtor countries even bother when the World Bank is all too willing to reward them for failure? Plainly, The World Bank needs to institute a system of accountability that instills debtor countries with a certain sense of urgency and zeal for instating serious economic reform.

Similarly, simply forgiving the world's debt-the policy favored by World Bank critics-would be tantamount to rewarding countries for irresponsible economics. Get it? Forgiving the debt will do nothing to address the economic policies that undergrid poverty in debtor nations. Nor, for that matter, with it correct infertile land or civil war. Simply forgiving the debt is as much a short cut to thinking as the protesters plans to bombard store windows and engineer gridlock for a day.

There are serious concerns about the World Bank's lending policies. Sadly, the critics of the World Bank consistently engage in protests so radical that they succeed only in polarizing both sides. Thusly have they created a climate that encourages rhetoric, making it easy for reasonable people everywhere to discard them as radicals and marginalize the voice of reform altogether.

Armstrong Williams can be contacted via e-mail at:

Armstrong Williams

Tuesday, October 1, 2002

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