Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Monday, December 27, 2004

Holy Monkey

Drudge has about fifty links up right now (this one, for example) about the earthquake and tsunamis that killed thousands and actually moved the island of Sumatra more than one hundred feet.

"'All the planet is vibrating' from the quake, said Enzo Boschi, the head of Italy's National Geophysics Institute. Speaking on SKY TG24 TV, Boschi said the quake even disturbed the Earth's rotation."

It seems to me that most conservatives hate the idea of foreign aid (although perhaps they make an exception for natural disasters such as this one), but I do not.

I am perfectly fine with using U.S. money for assistance projects in the Third World. The altruistic justification is simply that Americans have been blessed with tremendous wealth, and we have a moral duty to share that wealth. The obvious Conservative/Libertarian response is that a moral duty shouldn't translate into compulsion through forced taxation, because then there is nothing "moral" about it. If I donate to charity simply because government puts a gun to my head, my actions have nothing of charity about them. So why, then, do I support using federal funds for foreign aid?

The main difference is practical effectiveness. It seems to me that AIDS programs in Africa, for example, simply cannot run effectively (or at all) by relying exclusively on voluntary donations. The situation is different with welfare-type programs, because studies show that the lower the income tax, the greater the voluntary donations, in terms of both money and time.

And foreign aid necessarily contemplates relations between nations. The response to the recent earthquake will not be viewed in terms of individuals donating to individuals, but in terms of nations dealing with nations. Many actions must operate on this level, the conduct of a war being another example. When France sells arms to Saddam Hussein, it is not the collective will of every Frenchman that does it, but a fictional but recognized entity that we call government. And because government must have power to conduct its foreign affairs, I think that necessarily contemplates improving our esteem and our bargaining power through foreign aid.

My stance can be defended, I think, it terms of capitalistic self-interest. Our economy is a global economy. If formerly U.S. jobs are being sent to India, it is because that is where market efficiency lies. By helping the nation of India improve its education, health services, irrigation, power, and whatever else it is we donate for, we contribute to the stability of an important trading partner, which furthers the twin goals of market stability and the efficient allocation of capital.