David Holcberg, of the Ayn Rand Institute, published U.S. Should Not Help Tsunami Victims [Our money is not the government's to give]. In response, James Taranto, of the Wall Street Journal‘s slandered the ARI. The Ayn Rand Institute’s Holcberg argued that:
Every cent the government spends comes from taxation. Every dollar the government hands out as foreign aid has to be extorted from an American taxpayer first. . . . The question no one asks about our politicians’ “generosity” towards the world’s needy is: By what right? By what right do they take our hard-earned money and give it away?
Holcberg is absolutely correct. It is very easy to be charitable with other people’s money, money that you haven’t earned. G.W. Bush hasn’t earned one dime of the money that the U.S. government is sending to the tsunami victims. They have no right to give away other people’s money, which they obtained via thievery and robbery. My only request would be that the Ayn Rand Institute apply that same correct argument to acts of U.S. imperialism. Instead of addressing the issue, the James Taranto made a tenuous and slanderous connection between the ARI and the Westboro Baptist Church, a church which is anti-homosexual. Aside from being slanderous, that particular link was ironic, given the Ayn Rand Institute’s criticism of the religious right:
The religious right’s efforts to enforce religion and destroy our rights is all around us: laws preventing abortion and assisted suicide, censorship, school prayer in public schools, laws against homosexuality [emphasis added], laws mandating the teaching of “creationism.”
After opening up with a brilliant and simple refutation of U.S. governmental aid, Holcberg goes on to note (approvingly) that there is significant private aid being sent to the victims of the tsunami:
As the death toll mounts in the areas hit by Sunday’s tsunami in southern Asia, private organizations and individuals are scrambling to send out money and goods to help the victims. Such help may be entirely proper, especially considering that most of those affected by this tragedy are suffering through no fault of their own.
Taranto asks “Which of the tsunami victims are at fault for their suffering?” (his only relevant comment). Firstly, we should note that Holcberg’s tone is sympathetic with the victims of the tsunami. He is not being callous, as Taranto implies by isolating that one word (most). However, Holcombe was probably simply trying to be completely correct. Individuals living in these areas know that tsunamis are a possibility. This does not mean that they deserved to be struck by this tragedy. It simply means that, while people cannot control natural disasters, some may be able to control where they choose to live (absent a State preventing them from moving, or extreme poverty).
Some may note that the States in these areas are very restrictive, with regards to emigration. For example, Thailand’s government is very restrictive. Sri Lanka’s been split by a long-standing civil war. It is true, that for many people in many of these countries, moving may have been very difficult or impossible. Many people may not be able to move because of extreme poverty, which is (of course) caused by various State-interventions. Or a combination of both. What does this mean? It means that ~120,000 dead from the tsunami can be laid at the altar of the State: 120,000 individuals (or a great many of them) effectively murdered by their States.
I’d make one criticism of Holcberg: he’s too generous in his assessment. He had an opportunity to criticize common use of the term “altruistic” with regards to the State. When the State redistributes wealth, it is not acting altruistically or in humanitarian fashion; it is acting in a calculating and self-serving fashion. There’s nothing “altruistic” about me stealing money from one person and giving it to another: what did I sacrifice? Nothing. There’s nothing virtuous about that. The State redistributes wealth to generate support from various groups of people, and set people against eachother. This is calculating and self-serving.
Unfortunately, the Ayn Rand Institute has backed down — probably due to hot-headed and irrational criticism like this — and has taken the article off of their website. I would, nevertheless, commend them for having the courage and conviction to put it up in the first place.