20 April, 2005

Inductum Administratione: de Causibus Auxilii Barbaribus

At some point, I should like to write an essay on why no action is truly altruistic (short version: you wouldn't do it if you didn't feel good about doing it - there's your reward), but today I am going to discuss a specific action that has even more self-interest at heart: foreign aid. In this essay, I show that self preservation is one of the foremost reasons for offering such aid. I shall loosely follow the scientific method, brainstorming some possible reasons, then evaluating the probability of each being the primary reason for offering foreign aid. (inline note 1: see excerpts from "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" regarding the scientific method, or better yet, read the book) (inline note 2: it is not my purpose to say that offering foreign aid out of a sense of self preservation is morally superior or inferior to offering it out of a sense of equality. Or pity, for that matter. My object here is to address the likelihood of each underlying cause, not the value of the underlying cause.) (inline note 3: I specifically address the case of the United States of America offering foreign aid.)


  1. state the requirements for a motive to be considered
  2. brainstorm a list of possible motives
  3. evaluate each possible motive
  4. order the possible motives in terms of likelihood of importance

Step 1: state the requirements for a motive to be considered.

The motive must have a reasonable possibility in resulting in causing the US to provide foreign aid. By "The US," I mean the federal government of the United States of America. My reasons are as follows:
  • Individual states are prohibited from forming treaties with foreign governments. See The United States Constitution (USCON) I.10. This doesn't prohibit them from offering foreign aid, but it makes the necessary negotiations more difficult.
  • Individual states have less money than the US as a whole, and can thus make less of an impact on a foreign nation.
  • Even more so for individual people or corporations
  • Whereas the federal foreign aid budget for 2004 was $11.4B plus $4.3B in peacekeeping operations to improve foreign armed forces (see here). The foreign aid budget of Missouri during the same period was, as far as I can tell, $0.

Step 2: brainstorm a list of possible motives.

  • Pity
  • Desire for economic equality
  • Self preservation
  • Image improvement
  • Promote trade for our goods
  • Adherence to Judaic value of helping another when you are in good fortune
  • Adherence to Christian value of sacrificing for the sake of others
  • Promote good karma

Step 3: evaluate each possible motive.

At this point, I got bored. Maybe someone else can contribute to this essay. Mostly I just wanted to brainstorm...

No comments: