Highlights

 
Quotable
It's not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true.
Henry Kissinger
Original Letters Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
May 2, 2006

True Foreign Aid


by Rep. Ron Paul

A recent Hudson Institute study [.pdf] found that, last year, American citizens voluntarily contributed three times more to help people overseas than did the United States government. This should not surprise us at all, as Americans are generous to those in need, whether here or abroad. There are so many moral, religious, and human reasons to help our fellow men and women in need. It is only when government gets in the way and tries to crowd out private charity that problems arise.

There are good reasons why the U.S. Constitution does not allow our government to send taxpayer money overseas as foreign aid. One of the best is that coerced "charity" is not charity at all, but theft. If someone picks your pocket and donates the money to a good cause, it does not negate the original act of theft.

There are also practical reasons to oppose governmental foreign aid. Though it may be given with the best intentions, government agencies simply cannot do the kind of job that private charities do in actually helping people in need. Government-to-government assistance seldom helps those really in need. First, because it comes from governments, it usually has political strings attached to it, and as such is really a cover for political interventionism. Take our own National Endowment for Democracy, for example. The "aid" money it spends is usually spent trying to manipulate elections overseas so that a favored foreign political party wins "democratic" elections. This does no favor to citizens of foreign countries, who vote in the hope that they may choose their own leaders without outside interference.

Likewise with the so-called Millennium Challenge Account, which sends U.S. aid to countries that meet U.S.-determined economic reform criteria. The fact is, countries that enact solid economic policies will attract many times the amount of private foreign investment on international capital markets than they receive through the Millennium Challenge program.

Another problem is that when a government gives aid to another government, there are so many layers of middlemen involved that by the time the actual aid trickles down to those in need it is a small fraction of the original amount given. Not to mention that much of this aid finds its way into the pockets of corrupt foreign leaders.

Private assistance organizations, on the other hand, are more subject to market forces and thus much more effective. When Americans feel motivated to part with their hard-earned money to help someone overseas, they want to make sure it goes only to the most effective charities. Bad news travels fast, and private charities are unlikely to send their resources where they are likely to be wasted, because their contributions would soon dry up. We all recall what happened several years ago when it was revealed that the top management of a major charity organization was paid extremely high salaries: people stopped sending money. The problem corrected itself.

Sadly, this does not happen when government aid is mismanaged. More often than not, the very government agencies that mismanaged the assistance in the first place come back to Congress for a budget increase to solve the problem they created.

So we should be happy to hear that Americans are willing to give so much to help those less fortunate in foreign lands. And we should think hard about all the good we could do both at home and abroad if our government did not take so much from us for its ineffective and wasteful foreign aid priorities. True charity is never coerced.


comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • Imagine an Occupied America
    3/10/2009

  • The Draft: Just Say No
    2/17/2009

  • Gaza Resolution One-Sided and Unwise
    1/10/2009

  • Obama's Opportunity
    1/6/2009

  • Whose Iraq Predictions Have Come True?
    9/23/2008

  • How Foreign Policy Affects Gas Prices
    8/23/2008

  • Getting Out of Iraq
    7/17/2008

  • Using One Tragedy to
    Create Another
    7/16/2008

  • Congress's 'Virtual Iran War Resolution'
    7/3/2008

  • War, Economy Can't Be Decoupled
    6/19/2008

  • March to War in Lebanon?
    5/22/2008

  • The Economy: Another Casualty of War
    5/20/2008

  • The Emerging Surveillance State
    4/8/2008

  • The Iraq War Ledger
    3/25/2008

  • Living by the Sword
    3/15/2008

  • Intervening Our Way to Economic Ruin
    3/14/2008

  • No to Torture, Yes to the Constitution
    3/13/2008

  • Stop Choosing Sides
    3/7/2008

  • War at Any Cost?
    3/1/2008

  • Protect America from the Protect America Act
    2/1/2008

  • The Ties That Strangle
    1/10/2008

  • Bombed If You Do, Bombed If You Don't
    12/11/2007

  • 'Homegrown Terror' Act an Attack on Internet Freedom?
    12/7/2007

  • Entangling Alliances
    11/15/2007

  • Struggling for Relevance in Cuba: Still No Cigars
    10/30/2007

  • Interventionism? Isolationism? Actually, Both
    10/25/2007

  • Support the American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007
    10/21/2007

  • The Fear Factor
    7/31/2007

  • Don't Delay: US Out of Iraq Now
    7/14/2007

  • Signing Statements Erode Constitutional Balance
    7/12/2007

  • Recapturing the Spirit of Independence
    7/3/2007

  • Have We Forgotten 2003 Already?
    6/21/2007

  • Nonintervention: The Original Foreign Policy
    6/19/2007

  • The Price of Delaying the Inevitable
    6/5/2007

  • On Patriotism
    5/24/2007

  • Congress Must Do Its Duty
    5/22/2007

  • More Bureaucracy,
    Less Security
    5/15/2007

  • We Just Marched In (So We Can Just March Out)
    4/24/2007

  • More Pork for More War
    3/27/2007

  • Defund the War
    3/22/2007

  • The Original American Foreign Policy
    3/16/2007

  • The Scandal at Walter Reed
    3/9/2007

  • With Friends Like These…
    2/27/2007

  • In Congress, Opposing the War but Doing Nothing to Stop It
    2/15/2007

  • Congress Racing to Spend
    $1 Trillion on Iraq
    2/13/2007

  • Support the Troops by Ending the War
    2/1/2007

  • Inflation: The Hidden
    Cost of War
    1/30/2007

  • The Fatal Conceit
    in the Middle East
    1/23/2007

  • The Irrelevance of
    Military Victory
    1/16/2007

  • On the Mideast Escalator
    1/15/2007

  • Saddam Is Dead - So Are 3,000 Americans
    1/6/2007

  • 2007 Promises More of the Same
    12/26/2006

  • America's Original
    Foreign Policy
    12/19/2006

  • Who Makes Foreign Policy?
    12/12/2006

  • Congress to Ponder Conscription?
    11/28/2006

  • The Law of Opposites
    9/9/2006

  • This Will Come Back
    to Haunt Us
    7/21/2006

  • Avoiding War With Iran
    5/23/2006

  • Foreign Policy, Monetary Policy, and Gas Prices
    5/9/2006

  • True Foreign Aid
    5/2/2006

  • Policy Is More Important
    Than Personnel
    4/25/2006

  • An Embargo Is Not a Peaceful Alternative
    4/18/2006

  • Iran: The Next Neocon Target
    4/7/2006

  • Making the World Safe for Christianity
    3/30/2006

  • A Sense of Déjà Vu
    2/20/2006
  • More Archives


    Ron Paul is a Republican Congressman from Texas. He was the 1988 Libertarian Party candidate for President.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2014 Antiwar.com