Like others, I found the comments on my post "Is This A Scam?" of great interest and help. Accordingly I have now replied, asking my correspondent to tell me which of my profound works he has found the most fascinating, and for the address of the library at his university. We shall see. Of course, if he is one of the readers of this blog my strategy is in pieces.
The comments also raise the question of whether Philosophy has anything to contribute to development in Africa. I agree we need to tread with caution. Somewhere in Friedman or Hayek is the story of the British Council funding the brightest young minds in the newly independent African republics to come to England in the 1960s, to learn from our political and intellectual traditions. Unfortunately this was a time when Locke and Mill had been put aside in favour of Marx and Lenin, and so the African students returned having learnt of the bankruptcy of the western liberal tradition, and with an opportunity that their teachers never had to put their ideas into practice.
Still, just because there are bad ways of doing good things, it doesn't mean we shouldn't try harder. As it happens I have been in discussions with a legal academic from Namibia about the possibility of conducting a short summer school on liberal political philosophy there this time next year. The discussions are at an early stage, and it may well not happen, but the idea, as I understand it, is an interesting one. In providing higher education in a developing country, one first thinks of engineers and medicine, and then comes law and business. The humanities are considered a luxury for the prosperous future. However learning law and business is largely a matter of learning how to pursue self-interest with ruthless efficiency. Without the scaffolding of norms and values to keep individual interest under proper restraint, it is not surprising that often the distinction between legitimate business and corruption disappears.
Of course, a summer school on contemporary political philosophy is hardly going to bring an end to corruption. But it is an interesting experiment, and if the pilot goes ahead and has some success, it could be expanded, and perhaps eventually incorporated into the standard university curriculum. Funding is not so easy: it isn't research, and it isn't aid or development in any traditional sense, but we have scraped around and I think we have funds for the first year, which would be sufficient to test the idea.
I'm curious to know what people think of this project. Misconceived? The best thing since debt relief? Naive? Bound to fail? I'd also be interested to hear if anyone knows of similar projects, anywhere else in the world but especially in Africa. There is, by the way, a very well-established Anglo-Chinese summer school, which has been running for more than a decade (I have taught on it twice). And just look how well the Chinese economy is doing as a result.