OP-EDS

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January 23, 2006

The United States government should not give foreign aid

A week ago, Dr. Yaron Brook, current president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Dr. Dan Slater of the University’s political science department debated the proposition that America has no obligation to provide foreign aid. Brook controversially argued not simply that past foreign aid has filled the coffers of dictators and failed to reduce poverty in developing nations, but that such government-sponsored aid was inherently immoral and infringed upon Americans’ rights. Slater agreed that inefficiencies and abuses of government aid were commonplace, but defended such aid in terms of both the potential benefit to recipients and broader contributions to world socioeconomic stability.

The debate then digressed, discussion arose regarding everything from saving drowning children to American policies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Brook advocated Hiroshima-style destruction of America’s enemies while Slater accused Brook of condoning genocide, homicide, and perhaps suicide. (This actually happened.) Neither speaker seemed to win the debate.

Nevertheless, the case against foreign aid should have won the day. Indeed everyone seemed eager to agree that aid polices require drastic reform, having in the past supported tyrants, funded terrorists, and supplied rogue states with funds and arms used to kill Americans. If the question were whether foreign aid in its present manifestation should continue there would have been little dispute.

That such reform seems unlikely should have ended the debate from any practical standpoint in all but the rare instances of countries free from corruption and tyrannical regimes.

Yet even the theoretical practice of aiding nations not bent on destroying Americans was soundly challenged, for the true question then became how and why government aid is so superior to private aid as to warrant the forcible acquisition of funds from citizens by government directive.

However, it was readily granted by all that even in the most benevolent and ideal cases, such as recent Tsunami relief, private aid is far more efficient, not only in reaching those in need but also in avoiding waste associated with government bureaucracy and red tape.

In fact, given the associated waste and political dangers of massive public expenditures there is no reason why the resources marshaled by private organizations might not even exceed those of government programs.

The necessity for government aid thus revolved around specious claims regarding the difficulties associated with large scale, private charitable organizations working effectively.

Clearly the Red Cross and various other religious and charitable organizations collect enough donations to function at international levels, in spite of governments already drawing billions from citizens to support not only domestic welfare programs but fund international programs through the U.N., IMF or direct aid. Private charity could only increase if such programs were ended.

Finally, charity somehow seems less commensurate with the greater good when it is acquired involuntarily from citizens. I think the damage done by the general acceptance of policy which is anathema to the principles of freedom and liberty, fundamental to Western society, would truly be considerable.