Friday 31 January 2014

Foreign Aid and Traditional Conservatism

Foreign Aid and Traditional Conservatism

Nearly all first world countries give out foreign aid and it is very rare to hear that aid should be cut or discontinued, it is much more common to hear that it isn't enough. That our Governments are cheap or immoral for not giving more, even when that aid seems like it is being wasted or it comes from money the Government has had to borrow. There are legitimate reasons for providing foreign aid and there are legitimate reasons for not providing foreign aid.

The first point that must be made is that most foreign aid comes from taxation and that means that money is taken from the citizens of a first world country and given to another country. It is not strictly speaking the Governments money to spend as it likes, it is the tax payers money. Now the tax payer may approve or disapprove of how the money is spent. My point is that the tax payer is often forgotten in the discussion of these issues and they should not be because they are ultimately responsible for where the money came from.

There are three legitimate reasons for providing foreign aid:

1) A disaster that destroys a peoples ability to provide for themselves, such as the 2004 Tsunami.

2) The aid is in the direct interests of the donor country, such as Australia providing aid to the Solomon Islands after it became a failed state enabling it to rebuild.


3) The aid is for the defence of a friendly country, such as Australia providing patrol boats to Pacific nations so they can look after their own security.

The aim of all foreign aid should be to help the donor nation to achieve it's foreign policy aims and for the receiver nation to become self sufficient and not become addicted to aid.

Sadly the pitfalls of foreign aid are many:

Many aid programs start small and get bigger, they start off with small and often local aims but then grow into huge ever expanding beasts. Often the success or failure of a program isn't as important as the fact that it is expanding.

Many programs seemed aimed at providing aid that destroys society, one example I often hear about is aid given to make women economically independent. Meaning that the men in these communities are not needed and cannot compete because they do not receive any similar aid. It is not aid that helps the entire community or even particular families but only women. Will these women marry men poorer than themselves, the one who that the aid is leaving behind?

Another aid problem is when aid destroys the local economy, providing free food for example directly attacks local farmers. Who then become dependent upon foreign food themselves.

We should not seek to do what the locals can do even if we can do it better. It is better that they do it imperfectly than that we do it perfectly as to do so makes them dependent upon us. That dependence should not ever be the design of foreign aid and often it seems that it is. Foreign aid must be of benefit to both countries. It must also be accountable, it is the seeming waste of money that makes people so angry about foreign aid. People need to see some concrete benefit to our aid. But the best foreign aid we can provide is in governance, making the institutions of the country stronger and those who work for the Government more professional. It is in the building of these institutions that national wealth is built, not because Governments create wealth, they do not, but because they protect the civil organisations that do create wealth. It is the creation of wealth that will end the need for foreign aid.

Upon Hope Blog - A Traditional Conservative Future
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