Sunday, January 2, 2011

the problem with the starfish story

There's a story I loved when I was a liberal: The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley. In the most mawkish versions, a storm leaves uncountable starfish washed up on a beach. An adult sees a child throwing starfish back into the sea and suggests it doesn't make a difference. The child, still throwing starfish back, says, "It makes a difference to this one, and this one, and..."

The story's problem: If the starfish are poor people, the storm is capitalism. We have the wealth to end world poverty, but that wealth is controlled by those who are content to save a few stars if it gets them some good publicity.

Yes, it's important to throw stars. But if you truly care about starfish, end the storm.