20 April, 2005

Inductum Administratione: de Aggerando Auxilii Barbaribus

Here I make a very quick analysis of some points made by our current federal administration (that of George Walker Bush). All quotes and numbers come from http://cfrterrorism.org/policy/foreignaid.html

First, I combine two statements

"Do Americans understand how much of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid?"

"No. A 2001 poll sponsored by the University of Maryland showed that most Americans think the United States spends about 24 percent of its annual budget on foreign aid—more than 24 times the actual figure."

"Do Americans support increasing foreign aid?"

"Yes. A University of Maryland poll, which was conducted in July 2002, indicated that 81 percent of Americans support increasing foreign-aid spending to fight terrorism. According to the poll’s findings, the typical American would like to spend $1 on foreign aid for every $3 spent on defense; the real ratio in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2003 is $1 on aid for every $19 spent on defense."

If Americans think we’re spending 24% and even that isn’t enough, certainly 1% can’t be anywhere near enough, right? I understand that the US is a republic, not a democracy. With that understanding comes an understanding that most Americans do not have an appreciation for the nuances of foreign politics, including foreign aid. Though leaders shouldn’t bow to every whim of the public (if they did, they wouldn’t be leaders, would they? See also Alexandre Ledru-Rollin: "There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them."), they should certainly listen to their constitutents (or else they can't be representative).

Then, a comparison to other nations

"How do U.S. aid levels compare with those of other contries?"

"The U.S. foreign-aid budget as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) ranks last among the world’s wealthiest countries (at about 0.1 percent). In raw dollars, however, the United States is now the world’s top donor of economic aid, although for more than a decade it was second to Japan, which is far smaller and has been beset by economic woes. In 2001, the United States gave $10.9 billion, Japan $9.7 billion, Germany $4.9 billion, the United Kingdom $4.7 billion, and France $4.3 billion. As a percentage of GNP, however, the top donors were Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Sweden. The tiny Netherlands (pop. 16.3 million) gave $3.2 billion in 2001—almost a third of what America contributed."

I don’t want Japan or Denmark to drive our foreign (or domestic) policy, but it’s always a good idea to see what your friends are doing.

Neither statement is conclusive, but they both suggest that the US should increase its current foreign aid spend.

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