Sunday, September 13, 2009
Borlaug may have saved a billion lives, yet he’s barely known. The lives he saved were poor people, and he saved them with science. Doesn’t fit the narrative.
Borlaug is one of two native Iowans to have had a transforming effect on poor people throughout the world. The other is Herbert Hoover, who literally invented massive international food aid. Every NGO and government program to rush food aid to starving people around the world is the direct descendant of Hoover's project during World War I, which established the precedent that the relief of starvation transcends great power politics and even war.
That story does not fit the narrative either.
Borlaug's success is especially noteworthy at a time when so many want to deny what we can accomplish with science and innovation. Instead, they want to legislate mankind back to the Stone Age. Obama and Co's plans are actually regressive at their core.
ps. Borlaug disliked government bureaucrats -- he said they only got in the way.
As I had heard a lot of jokes about Iowa from my years of listening to the Prairie Home Companion, I thought I would dig up an Iowa joke from its archives. Unfortunately, the PHC web design was very user-unfriendly, which some Iowans might claim is the default M.O. for web designers from Minnesota. I had to go to another website to easily find Iowa Jokes. Here is one that is related to the Borlaug posting.
A man is driving down a country road in Iowa, when he spots a farmer standing in the middle of a huge field. He pulls the car over and notices that the farmer is just standing there, doing nothing, looking at nothing.
The man gets out of the car, walks all the way out to the farmer and asks him, Excuse me, mister, but what are you doing?”
The farmer replies, “I’m trying to win a Nobel Prize.”
“How?” asks the man, puzzled.
“Well, I heard they give the Nobel Prize to people who are out standing in their field.”
I have recently been reading Collier’s and Horowitz’s Destructive Generation, which focuses on a lot of lefties who tried to “do good,” but who in most cases ended up making things worse. The case of Fay Stender is particularly tragic: an attorney who dedicated her life to prisoners’ rights, and ended up a suicide after being paralyzed and in pain from being shot for her efforts.
Borlaug did good while pursuing what he liked to do. Doing good was not his intent; following a research interest was. Perhaps that should be a lesson for many of us. Doing good by doing well. Improvement in Borlaug's case came from the fruits of scientific research, not from bureaucratic fiat.
As a native Iowan and graduate of both Iowa State (Engineering) and Iowa (Law), I'm not sure I can forgive Borlaug's traitorous decision to go to the University of Minnesota.
Another native Iowan who should be noted for his impact on the world through the market of science and technology is Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the integrated circuit and co-founder of Intel.