Ilana Mercer, April 3, 2002

What an obscenity democracy is! The latest victory our democratic institutions can boast, the latest lien we’ve apparently authorized against our paychecks, is a commitment to more foreign aid.

American voters have allegedly delegated to the president and Congress the right to allow bureaucrats abroad to take a shot at their wallets. The democratic license extends to faceless administrators at the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank; you name it, they all can take a stab at your pay stub.

Since the beneficiaries of foreign aid reside in Washington, Geneva, Brussels, and assorted mansions dotting Third World landscapes, it takes a great deal of cash to maintain them in style. Which is why, worldwide, the UN is seeking approximately $166 billion annually in foreign aid.

It doesn’t take much skill to loot the voter. Cued by our democratically elected representatives, Bono, a chap who fronts a three-chord band of unimpressive droners, has now joined this mob in clamoring for your cash.

Like our elected representatives, U2’s Bono doesn’t care that forced transfer of money is always theft. To the wealthy Bono, the fact that more than half the American voters support the reigning thieves who orchestrate the theft is enough to render the robbery permissible.

My dear friend, economist Walter Block, offers a characteristically animated illustration of the democratic principle at work. Here it is, moderately adapted for my purposes:

“Suppose two hoodlums break into my apartment and are in the process of walking off with my television. When I object that they are stealing, they agree to hold a referendum on the issue.” Bono, the philosophical bandit, says, “How many object to taking Ilana’s television?” I raise my hand. Bono then asks, “How many favor this action?” Bono and his accomplice, World Bank President Jim Wolfenson, outvote me.

Bono, who is oblivious to the immorality of democratically approved distribution, thinks you won’t even feel the pinch. So what if the average American family now pays government more than it spends on housing, food, and medical care. So what if you work for government until roughly May 18 of every year. Big deal: What’s another hour or so of bondage?

If “for the children” used to be your cue to head for the hills, now, clutch that purse when politicians pronounce that a new spending scheme is part of a terrorism-fighting strategy. Having capitulated to the yammer about poverty being a cause of terrorism, President Bush is aiming to make foreign aid part of an official anti-terrorism strategy. This fatuity promises to end for good the debate on the corrupting effects of foreign welfare, because anything that ostensibly fights terrorism is sacrosanct.

Bush may imagine that with your kindness and your moolah he will call off the Islamist mullahs! Foreign aid, however, will occasion no such epiphany in murderous hearts because at the heart of Islamist terrorism is a violent and brutal belief system. What the president will achieve is to re-victimize the victims of Islamic aggression.

The ethical arguments against foreign aid notwithstanding, foreign aid, like any welfare entitlement, cripples the recipient by putting in place incentives that reinforce sloth and corruption. Third World nations are poor because they have failed to adopt the institutions of capitalism. Their governments are growing by the day, many industries remain nationalized, taxes are prohibitive, regulations are rampant, and price controls a cause of endemic shortages.

Private property rights, the cornerstone of prosperity and justice, are, at best, precarious in Third World countries. It took economist Henando de Soto and his team roughly 289 days, “as well as $1,231 in payment fees, to legally open a small garment shop in Peru, an objective that took a single morning in the U.S.” Similar conditions exist in other Third World countries into whose corrupt coffers Bono, Bush et al. will plow your funds.

Foreign aid infrastructure, moreover, is directly responsible for growing the political class in these countries at the expense of the productive private sector. As the size of government increases, the growth of real GDP decreases. Indeed, to the World Bank is owed the dubious distinction of propping up despotic governments and undermining free market reforms in the Third World.

Bush has gone from preaching “trade not aid,” and being charmingly unaware of celebrity, to instituting trade tariffs, and pledging to Bono a 50 percent increase in U.S. foreign aid over three years. This is the essence of democratically sanctioned theft. It is also why an unknown sage once said, “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”


April 3, 2002

CATEGORIES: Democracy, Foreign Aid, Property Rights

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