Return on Foreign Aid

In our earliest days during the Revolutionary War we were the recepients of “foreign aid” from France and from the Netherlands.  France supplied us with troops, ships, improved gunpowder and money.  The Dutch granted us loans that we desperately needed at the time to fund the American Army under Washington.  Ben Franklin was primarily repsonsible for that one and he was certainly very influential in obtaining the resources we got from France.  There is no question that the aid provided greatly improved our chances for success with our revolution and the birth of our nation.   We did repay the Dutch loan and the French got out of the deal what they hoped for which was a Britain with its tail feathers clipped and weakened.  They had been enemies with the British for centuries off and on and were soon to embark again on an era of warfare and economic conflict beginning in the 1790’s and extending all the way to the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.   France and the Dutch had their own benefits from extending us their aid and loans.  It was sure nice of them but it wasn’t exactly charity they were granting.  As Talleyrand famously noted during this era–ations don’t have friends but only interests.   After that the US never really received anything that could fairly be described as foreign aid.  The world and our role in it got more complicated and we were left to develop on our own.  We were used as surrogates by the French in their ongoing struggles with Britain.  It was cheaper and less confrontational to aid us than take on the British directly as they had during the French and Indian Wars from 1755 to 1763.

For the last century and especially since the close of the Second World War the US has had a regular budget item for foreign aid.  Over the last 60 years that number has added up to billions upon billions of dollars.  Every year there is a call for an increase in the foreign aid budget to help out the allegedly poor nations and regions around the world.   Is this aid still necessary and does it benefit the US to spend our resources in this manner?   We have spend a whole lot of money over the years supplying people with fish rather than teaching them how to fish and then letting them become masters of their own fate.  

In Asia I see no need for aid.  Those countries all appear to be doing quite well.  China, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Japan n Viet Nam all seem to be propering.  The others are either dominated by corrupt governments or so totally inefficient that it is only throwing good money after bad to extend any aid there.  Indeed aid there is probably counter productive and would only sustain the corrupt or brutal regimes such as Myanmar.   All the smart pundits keep telling us how Asia and the Pacific Rim is the future of the world. 

In Latin America we face some very different choices but there is no place that really deserves our aid.  Some of the nations there are doing well enough without anything from us such as Brazil and Chile.   They both are prospering at the moment and appear set to do so for the foreseeable future.  In other areas we face outright hostility and even aggression.  Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, and Bolivia are hostile to our interests and certainly shouldn’t be on our Christmas list.  Mexico and Argentina have abundant natural resources and the ability to deal with their own issues and provide for their people if they will adopt free market systems and rid themselves of their corrupt officialdom.  That is not our problem.  We can’t solve it for them.  Unless and until they clean their own house and reform that governing system and eliminate the gross corruption and atmosphere of corruption they are not deserving of any aid.  Indeed aid that we now give is mostly wasted or used for illegitimate purposes. 

Africa is very blessed with tremedous resources.  You only have to look to the oil production and the other mineral deposits located there.  They also have great swaths of land that are wonderful agricultural breadbaskets.  The northern reaches of Africa are under the control of Muslims and that entire region should be off limits to foreign aid.  Do we want to give aid to Quadayfay?  We give billions to Eygpt and I don’t know what we get for it.  We sure don’t have peace in the Middle East.  They can’t even control the Palestinians in Gaza or elsewhere.  It is more like paying tribute or ransom than foreign aid.  It is demeaning that we make these payments to those who do not wish us well.  Those are only a couple of examples.  Why send money to Sudan or Somalia?  Their food shortages are a result of their own doing; their own conflicts and allowing themselves to be ruled over by either warlords or terrorists or both.  Until they establish stable governments, the money there is pointless.  Nigeria is very rich in resources but you are surely aware of the level of corruption in the nation.  They have the resources and the ability to take care of their own people very well.  They don’t need us.  Zimbabwe is a hopeless case at the moment and any momey forwarded there is simple thrown down a black hole to obilivion.

We should start being much more selective with our foreign aid.  It should go to those that are cleaning up their government, not allowing corruption and drug cartels to be shadow governments and only to people who demonstrate a willingness to demand honest government. 

The smell of the new mown grass this time of year always brings back memories of those early football workouts and the work and sweat during two a day practices.


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Filed under Economics, Foreign Affairs, history, Politics

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