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Friday, September 29, 2023


In current economic climate, government needs to eliminate the money pit

In the wake of our President’s pledge to give financial assistance to Greece last week, many Americans are beginning to wonder whether it’s a good idea to be giving billions of dollars away to other nations when we are currently borrowing over a trillion dollars a year to finance Congress’ mind-bending spending habits.

According to the Census Bureau, the national government gave “economic assistance” to countries all over the planet last year amounting to a grand total of 34 billion dollars.

My question is, despite what elitist, save-the-world-with-your-money folks think, should Congress and the President really be handing out cash to foreign nations?

In principle, the authority to do so was actually never granted to any branch of the federal government in the Constitution. In fact, when a bill arose in Congress in 1794 authorizing money to be spent on French refugees from Haiti, James Madison stood on the floor of the House of Representatives to declare that “he could not undertake to lay his finger on that article in the federal Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

Simply put, Mr. Madison believed that the United State Congress had neither the right, nor the power to give charity. This is not simply a mean-spirited ideological stand. A closer inspection reveals that Congressional charity is not charity at all. If I were to go out, withdraw money from my neighbor’s bank account against his will, and proceed to give it to an irresponsible, over-spending friend of mine, it would rightly be called theft. When the government does the same thing, it’s called “economic assistance.” Unfortunately, pleasant-sounding euphemisms cannot take an immoral act and make it noble.

Because this blatant fact is rather unpleasant for politicians to confront, most would rather avoid it altogether by attempting to play on your emotions. Once the issue of principle is set aside, the debate can be framed as being between the compassionate members of Congress that want to help others and those greedy individuals who want the world’s less fortunate to suffer in want.

For the sake of argument, let us set aside these issues of principle and assume that Congress does have authority to give taxpayer money to foreign nations, and that it isn’t immoral to steal from one individual to give to another. The question remains, is Congress actually helping poor individuals around the world by showering cash on foreign governments?

Judging by the view of history, the answer is clearly, no. Seldom, if ever, does foreign aid ever reach the impoverished masses, and when it does, it rarely provides lasting or material relief. Most often, the cash is given to despotic foreign governments where it usually lines the pockets of wealthy politicians and well-connected and theirentrenched interests. In the case of Greece, it’s simply subsidizing the empty promises of socialist Greek politicians, giving other countries incentive to take similar actions without fear of going bankrupt.

Most responses to the epic failure of foreign aid over the years, as with poverty-elimination programs in general, is that we just aren’t giving enough. A more rational view would be that throwing more cash at foreign nations will not solve their problems, it never has.

In fact, it’s making them worse. The only solution to global poverty is the only one that has ever succeeded: encouraging free citizens to improve their own lives and the lives of others through voluntary exchange and free enterprise.

Congress has given enough false charity as it is. It ought not carry out its repetitive streak of injustice by continuing to do something that was neither wise nor virtuous to begin with.

Steven Christopher is a first year graduate student in the C.T. Bauer College of Business and may be reached at [email protected].

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