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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8113/the-united-states-government-should-not-aid-myanmar/

The United States Government Should Not Aid Myanmar

May 16, 2008 by

Though any American is certainly welcome to contribute to the relief effort in Myanmar, no one should be forced to do so via his taxes or otherwise. It is a myth that there would not be sufficient aid to Myanmar without the government being involved in some way. Although I don’t often agree with President Bush, he was certainly correct when he recently remarked that “the American people are generous people and they’re a compassionate people.” FULL ARTICLE

{ 26 comments }

Owen May 16, 2008 at 8:05 am

There are however some instances where strategic government Aid can produce results that benefit all American people. Such instances include when the Aid can bring about a safer world community and reduce terrorism threats to the American People and it’s allies.

But I agree than humanitarian Aid should all be private.

Not another Bush! May 16, 2008 at 8:35 am

Ask McClintobama if he is allowed to steal money from citizens not even born yet and give it to a ruthless dictatorship stopping relief workers from doing their jobs. Don’t bother I know the answer.

Owen May 16, 2008 at 8:45 am

You have too much emotion. If it serves American interests in terms of security and prosperity then there might be a case for ‘stealing’ AMericans money for their own good (i.e. protecting them).

Frenzied emotions do not figure in internationl relations and diplomacy.

fundamentalist May 16, 2008 at 9:13 am

Owen: “If it serves American interests in terms of security and prosperity then there might be a case for ‘stealing’ AMericans money for their own good (i.e. protecting them).”

You sound like a pragmatist, which is a euphamism for unprincipled, short term thinking. Politicians have never done anything in the history of the US without declaring it to be in the public interest. What dispassionate people have to do is determine if the proposed action really is in the US interest. Giving money to people so that they won’t kill us is not in our long term interest. Remember Rome tried that with the German tribes who threatened the city in the 3rd century. It worked for a while, but was not a long term solution.

fundamentalist May 16, 2008 at 9:14 am

Excellent article! Davy Crockett (hero of the Alamo) tells a similar story in “Not Yours to Give”, available at http://www.fee.org/library/books/notyours.asp.

I have a different opinion on giving to poor people who suffer because of the high price of food. Since the rise in food prices is primarily the fault of the US Fed, I think the US government has an obligation to help those it has hurt. In a world with perfect justice, poor people would be able to sue the US for damages caused by its inflationary policies. But that ain’t going to happen. So the next best thing is for the US to admit its criminal behavior and provide some relief to the damaged parties. That ain’t going to happen either. So we have to settle for the US declaring its innocence or any wrongdoing and moral superiority in trying to help the poor.

Owen May 16, 2008 at 9:23 am

In the world outside your borders it is what you do what counts. Therefore pragmatism is not a bad way to go.

Actually, if I had the option of giving someone money or being killed by him (assuming those were my only two options) I would choose to give him the money. Then I would call the police.

Of aid produced gains that could not be achieved with the Gun, or the cold shoulder then it would only be your stubborn principles that are standing in the way of you and a safer more prosperous country.

And yes, before you ask, Rome in the 3rd century is a fantastic comparison. he he

Owen May 16, 2008 at 9:34 am

Fundamentalist:

You probably didn’t even realise you said this but you advocated an international justice system what would enable overseas people to sue the USA.

Well, guess what? You just advocated World Government!!

Considering that world government is the only way the USA could ever be ‘disciplined’ as you put it.

Matt May 16, 2008 at 9:51 am

It must be remembered that aid given by the US ‘Government’ was stolen first from its citizens.
(remember taxes are taken at the point of a gun)
Also most of those funds used for aid are used-up in administrative fees so very little goes to the recipients.
However had the loot been left in the hands of those that produced the goods and then voluntarily given as aid, the aid would have been more than that ‘given’
by the looters in the first place.
Theft is NEVER a good principle to operate upon, it always leads to more theft.

IMHO May 16, 2008 at 9:58 am

Fundamentalist,

“Since the rise in food prices is primarily the fault of the US Fed, I think the US government has an obligation to help those it has hurt. In a world with perfect justice, poor people would be able to sue the US for damages caused by its inflationary policies.”

In the end, however, the only people who would feel the pinch from such a suit would be the U.S. taxpayers, not the government.

What I’m about to say is not an endorsement of entitlement programs here; but if the government is going to insist on giving away our tax dollars, then let them be used here at home. To use taxpayer money to rebuild countries when our own infrastructure is falling apart is ridiculous.

I read “Not Yours to Give” a long time ago, and I agree with it.

If we were to reduce the tax burden being placed upon Americans, it would free up their wallets to make charitable donations to organizations that know how to run charities with minimal overhead.

Sergio May 16, 2008 at 10:06 am
fundamentalist May 16, 2008 at 10:47 am

IMHO, You’re right on every point. The existing regime is a cruel shell game. The taxpayers always get hurt, not the government. But with our current system of progressive taxation, the taxpayers who get hurt the most are the wealthy. A lot of that wealth was earned honestly, but a lot of it came from gaming the inflationist system. So the system works like this: inflation punishes the poor and distributes wealth from the poor to the wealthy who can game the system. In turn, the state redistributes some of that wealth back to the poor by taxing the wealthy more heavily. It’s a stupid, dishonest, cruel system. Clearly, the honest thing to do would be to stop the inflation and implement a flat tax. But that ain’t gonna happen.

As for helping the poor outside the US, we should admit that our inflationist policies do a lot of damage in the rest of the world as a result of our size and the role the US $ plays as a reserve currency. We owe those poor people something, at least a few crumbs.

Owen: “Well, guess what? You just advocated World Government!!”

No I didn’t. A world government would produce greater injustices, not perfect justice. A world of perfect justice is impossible, at least until the millenium when Christ rules the earth.

greg May 16, 2008 at 12:21 pm

“As for helping the poor outside the US, we should admit that our inflationist policies do a lot of damage in the rest of the world as a result of our size and the role the US $ plays as a reserve currency.”

If we can’t export our inflated dollars to poor third world peasants, then what the hell kind of country is this anymore?

I mean, think of inflated dollars as a way to tax people outside the country. People who don’t pay taxes are unpatriotic, and that must include the poor people who don’t live here. Please don’t embolden the enemy by suggesting the abolishment of Benny Bernanke.

Oil Shock May 16, 2008 at 12:39 pm

The Clown is back. LOL.

ToeKnee May 16, 2008 at 2:01 pm

This is a fantastic article, unlike the one against the FairTax. It is immoral to steal money, and taxes are theft. However they choose to spend or, more accurately waste, our tax dollars doesn’t change the fact that they were acquired against our will. Completely ridiculous.

I can’t believe we ever allowed it to come to this point in the first place. It’s also interesting to note that individuals already give much more in private charity than governments give in foreign aid.

IT IS THEFT, IT IS THEFT, IT IS THEFT. Please recognize taxation for what it is. You don’t have a right to take my property, you don’t have a right to “protect me from myself”. I hate people who say stuff like that in the first place. Butt out.

Jeffrey Villaveces May 16, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Dear Mr. Vance,

I understand your sentiments of freedom when writing the article, and the importance of private giving as opposed to government giving. Despite these sentiments, the article is generally devoid of any strong and well articulated arguments.

First off, in terms of the question of ‘how much’ aid is given, of the $20 billion cited, a very limited amount is humanitarian aid of any stripe. The three largest recipients of US foreign aid are Israel, Egypt and Colombia, and all of these are targets of the realpolitik that are mentioned. Let’s note that Iraq is not even mentioned on my list, but Reason has calculated the cost of that war through emergency appropriations is at $1 trillion thus far, surpassing Vietnam or Korea. Much of this is ‘country building’ money supposedly.

Humanitarian aid, be it the miniscule $3 million offered to Mynamar, or somewhat larger sums for Indonesia, is usually offered by governments with less than noble motives.

The offer by Bush, aside from being offensively small, was accompanied by an offer (threat?) of using the US Navy to provide aid to cyclone victims.

This was thereafter followed with a threat by Sarkozy to use force to deliver aid to victims.

The end result of this cacophany of ‘aiders’ has been to create a new and amorphous concept recently advocated by Mr. Robert D. Kaplan, that of an ‘humanitarian invasion’.

So now instead of ascribing to the humanitarian principles, which were developed by the ICRC and date from the Crimean War to ameliorate the effects and conduct of wars between nations, we start wars to deliver aid. What a fantastic new justification for funding the Pentagon.

What are our goals here? And what are our methods? If there was a true concern for victims, I am sorry but it is fundamental that governments advocate for an openness to international aid.

Americans private giving cannot be rapidly sent into Myanmar without the careful and quiet diplomacy required of governments. This is ‘one government to another’. There is no foundation, however large and efficient, that will get aid into Myanmar past the brutal military junta that runs the country.

Where is your solidarity with your brother? Libertarianism is not a nationalist concept, the realpolitik sentiments expressed in this blog have no place in any libertarian philosophy. We must recognize each other’s humanity, and the brutality to which people are subjected by their governments. Herein lies the worthiness of libertarian arguments. Myanmar’s victims are the victims of their government, and the political opportunism of Bush and Sarkozy, who instead of using diplomacy to open the junta to a little aid (much more of which would have been private aid had it been able to arrive), these leaders have heightened paranoias and put at risk any rapid aid that might save lives immediately (how long could YOU go without water?)

So I believe the answer to your questions, Mr. Vance, is not that “perhaps” Americans should aid their fellow man, but definitely. And perhaps better still they should forget a moment that they have a nationality when they give the aid, and help their fellow human being because it’s the right thing to do. Tommorow YOU may be the person on the wrong side of a border when misfortune strikes.

Best regards,

Jeffrey Villaveces

oma5 May 16, 2008 at 3:25 pm

So when the government interferes who gets hurt?
- taxes hurt the people
- minimum wage hurts the people
- war hurts the people
- artificially low interest rates hurt the people
- the printing of fiat currency hurts the people
- the subsidizing of farmers hurts the people
- trade embargoes hurt the people
- tariffs hurt the people
- the harebrained ethanol scam hurts the people
- the proposed carbon tax will hurt the people
etc. etc. etc.
What’s the common denominator here? What do we need to eliminate if we don’t want to be hurt anymore?

jeff May 16, 2008 at 3:46 pm

Dear friends,

Truth does not make many friends! I only ask one thing… may I propose that we call that nation ‘Burma’?

Joseph Huang May 16, 2008 at 5:03 pm

slavery is needed to keep the slaves safe, because the masters made the world more dangerous.

i can steal from you for your own good, because i own you. i have more guns, and i am willing to use them.

EnEm May 16, 2008 at 5:16 pm

“President Bush, (he) was certainly correct when he recently remarked that “the American people are generous people and they’re a compassionate people.”

Let me continue that sentence……”and they are a foolish people, if they extend aid to beggars who wave their sores in our faces and refuse, yes refuse to accept it”.

And all the while they righteously expect us to coax and cajole them to accept our aid. By some absurd pyschological gymnastics they feel that their pain, fear and abject misery makes them somehow superior to a successful and healthy nation. They feel that their sores and suffering gives them that right.

So, No Aid.

Conversely, would they extend aid to America if a disaster were to strike? Was Burma standing by with a shipload of umbrellas made from bamboo and silk to be sent to the Katrina victims?

Francisco Torres May 16, 2008 at 6:19 pm

Owen,
If it serves American interests in terms of security and prosperity then there might be a case for ‘stealing’ Americans money for their own good (i.e. protecting them).

Owen, you make a few fallacious statements here. First, what are ‘American Interests’? That sounds like a collectivist concept, and contradictory to the principle of individual liberty. There is not an American Interest, there are only the interests of each individual. By the way, American Interests or National Interests are euphemisms for the interests of power-hungry politicians.

Second, you cannot harm someone (in the case of stealing from them) to do them a good, because that is also a contradiction. Cleverer politicians saw this a long time ago, for which they use euphemisms like “contribution”, or “paying your fair share”, so as not to call it for what it is: thievery.

So, you cannot argue using contradictory premises – either stealing is bad, or it is not, the intentions behind the thievery notwithstanding. If stealing is bad (because it causes harm), then you cannot justify it by stating it is for a person’s good, because only that person can know what is good for him or her, and not someone else (most politicians are so conceited as to think they know what is best for everybody else). You cannot know what is good for me as much as I can know what is good for you – I can make recommendations to you, but that is all. Imposing my preferences upon you is tantamount to violating your right to liberty.

Laura May 17, 2008 at 7:15 am

I find your article absolutely appalling. Not only is the American government killing civilians in war, you wish for them to kill civilians by not helping out with Foreign Aid? You live in one of the richest nations on earth yet you begrudge paying taxes in order to help people suffering through no fault of their own? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised…more money in the USA is spent (per year) on fast food than on a University education. Heaven forbid your personal Big Mac fund is spent on helping those less fortunate.

Deacon May 17, 2008 at 10:00 am

#######
#######

The day before 9/11, as if by purposeful design,
we learned that the Pentagon could not account
for a trillion-plus dollars; that is, it had
been lost by theft or mismanagement, or was
hanging out there in the dark ethers enveloping
the military industrial complex.

That story was dropped from news media’s
radar, as if someone had flipped a switch to
shut off investigation and debate, about a
sum of money that ought to drive insane
those taxpayers who’ve suffered loss of
property over, say, “cheating” the IRS of
a penny’s worth of tax.

Why? Who exercises such control over Western
media?

Israel has received a few trillion-dollars in foreign
aid, in cash and armaments, over the decades, to
explain, in part, why those Israelis were dancing
and high-fiving and laughing and taking pictures of
mass murder on that infamous day.

No explanation for it; that is, no explanation was
presented to U.S. citizens about why they were
celebrating, carrying hidden cash and box cutters,
and driving a van contaminated with explosive
residue.

Of course, like the disappearing trillion, those
DANCING ISRAELIS were held for a time in
the U.S., then shipped back to Israel–
disappearing from the public’s eye.

And so it goes, regarding foreign aid.

#######
#######

fundamentalist May 17, 2008 at 5:02 pm

Laura: “Not only is the American government killing civilians in war, you wish for them to kill civilians by not helping out with Foreign Aid? ”

You misunderstood the article. Mr. Vance doesn’t want the US government to provide the aid because that’s not its job. The job of providing charity to those in need belongs to the individual citizen, ngo’s an corporations, all of whom do a great job and will provide plenty of help to Burma.

afruff23 May 17, 2008 at 7:11 pm

What was the title of this article before it was changed?

N. Joseph Potts May 21, 2008 at 9:08 am

From Jeffrey Villaveces’s post:

“…the article is generally devoid of any strong and well articulated arguments.”

Followed by (inter alia):

“I am sorry but it is fundamental that governments advocate for an openness to international aid.”

“We must recognize each other’s humanity, and the brutality to which people are subjected by their governments.”

Admittedly, an article might afford more opportunity than a comment, but Villaveces’s LONG comment didn’t provide even a sample of what he said was lacking from Vance’s article.

Jeffrey Villaveces May 27, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Dear Mr. Potts,

I suppose what I was demonstrating in my LONG comment, as opposed to your sentence, was how NOT to advocate for an openness to international aid. The approach taken by the humanitarian invasion crowd is counter-productive, and cannot succeed. Vance I do not lump in with this crowd, but do put him into an apathetic middle group who argue that we should rather do nothing at all, and that somehow private giving can just arrive in Myanmar.

I assumed that some readers would understand the Humanitarian Principles (which I make specific mention of), which are essentially the bedrock for any humanitarian advocacy: 1. neutrality, 2. humanity and 3. impartiality. These principles are betrayed by any approach which antagonizes any government, such as that of Myanmar’s, which might easily construe an offer of the US Navy entering their country as being the beachfront for a later offensive. It wouldn’t be that great a jump to make for any country’s leaders to imagine, for that matter, given the rumors which are still flying regarding potential US invasions of other countries.

As far as the second quotation, I didn’t think I would need to put forward an argument in this regard in a libertarian forum.

Many of these same ideas would seem to be understood by David Gordon, author of “Inconvenient Facts of World War II” (which appared published today), where he notes repeatedly the repulsive posture of Churchill, among others, regarding the suffering of the victims of that war. The Humanitarian Principles are excellent guidelines both for providing assistance during wars, and for providing assistance to victims of natural disasters.

Saludos,

Jeffrey Villaveces

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