In an article entitled, “Undo the Heavy Burdens,” Charles Ahlgren, Stephen Edward Scarff Memorial Visiting Professor, argues that the U.S. should increase its foreign aid by as much as three times the current amount. This proposal is simply un-American and relies on patently false beliefs regarding social sciences.An increase in foreign aid, claims Ahlgren, would be cheaper than dealing with the terrorism that would occur otherwise. After all, “Doesn’t it makes [sic] sense to spend a fraction of our homeland defense budget to prevent more failed states that harbor terrorists?” Indeed, it would; that is, if poverty led to terrorism. But studies show that the members of terrorist organizations are from middle- and upper-class backgrounds. Furthermore, Middle East countries with declining national income have not experienced any significant increases in terrorist activities.
Ahlgren goes on to say that many countries “are just too poor to achieve sustained economic growth by themselves.” This statement is false because the living standard of any society is inversely correlated to its value to labor intensive industries. In other words, firms whose products require manual labor seek out low-income countries for their production facilities. These firms are willing and able to offer favorable wages that increase the standard of living for the natives of impoverished countries. The only country that could possibly be “too poor” is one without inhabitants.
To recommend an increase in foreign aid as a way to ease world poverty is to ignore the facts of history. Wealth flows from profits, and profits flow from capitalism. How else do you explain the fact that the U.S. came to be the superpower it is? The Soviet Union, established on a landmass of comparable natural resources, crumbled under communism. Mao Tse Tung was directly responsible for the starvation of 30 million (that’s 30,000,000) of his citizens because of his socialist premises. Yet Ahlgren wants us to believe that we would all be best off if we were to embrace the ideal, “From each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her need.”
The proper course of action is to cease all foreign aid, every dollar of it. Cut personal income taxes by some amount equal to the current level of foreign aid and allow any foreign assistance to be handled by efficient, private charities, so that each U.S. citizen can make the decision to donate or not to donate. The role of our government is to protect our interests, and foreign aid has proven to undermine that role.
—Dominique Yarnell ‘01