Aid to the USA

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A recent email from David O’Conner of Aid to Artisans reflects some important challenges for world craft. He celebrates the distance learning program that has been established in the US Embassy in Baghdad for the purpose of training 100 artisans in the free market economy.

Most interesting was his response to the concerns that some have that local problems now outweigh humanitarian causes. His response is:

Some may question why we should support people in other countries when our own friends and neighbors are struggling in these economic times. We say to them that the products artisans make end up in your local gift shops, local museums, and retail stores. Without the support of these artisans, retailers in the U.S. will suffer even more. Assistance to the artisans ATA works with is assistance to everyone in the interconnected commerce chain.Some may question why we should support people in other countries when our own friends and neighbors are struggling in these economic times. We say to them that the products artisans make end up in your local gift shops, local museums, and retail stores. Without the support of these artisans, retailers in the U.S. will suffer even more. Assistance to the artisans ATA works with is assistance to everyone in the interconnected commerce chain.

O’Conner seems to assume that the work of Aid to Artisans is best justified now purely in its benefits to the American economy. This may well be the best strategy now, but we can still hope that the humanist values that previously underpinned world craft do survive this economic crisis.

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