Saturday, December 04, 2004

Getting What We Pay For

In yesterday's post I noted the hypocrisy of Harvard Law School, which banned military recruiters while the university profits from DOD contracts.

In the same vein, I would now like to point out a series of three excellent articles on US foreign aid. But before I do that, I would like to repeat something Dr. Demarche pointed out in my comments once: The US government has no money. All the money it spends, all the money it gives in research grants, all the money it gives in foreign aid, belongs to the American people.

In the Daily Demarche's first article, the good doctor poses the question "Why do we give foreign aid?" The answer is a good one, and here is a taste:
When I was still in training for the Foreign Service a retired Ambassador gave my class the best advice I've received in this job. He said "always remember a country exists to serve it's own best interests." I know that sounds like it should be common sense, but sometimes you just have to stop and remind your self of that, even when it is your own country.

In the case of the US, I think you have to remind yourself especially because it's your own country.

Dr. Demarche's second post, First, Do No Harm, discusses foreign aid that works, and that doesn't work.

The final post in the series Good money after bad, brings the series to its conclusion and gives Dr. Demarche's answer as to what we should be doing with foreign aid.

The series and the comments made by readers are well worth the time.

One of his commenters, M. Simon, has posted an interesting article on his blog about Hernando De Soto's theory that lack of formal property rights is holding back the developing world. This ties in well with the good doctor's posts on foreign aid, and is a fascinating theory in itself.

My own comment on this topic is simple. The American people need to get what we pay for. Yes, there are times we should give aid just to help people with no expectation of getting anything back. These cases are mostly disaster relief. However, in the case of long-term foreign aid, when the US is helping another nation out, I think it's reasonable to get a return on what is essentially an investment.

I also think this is true in every area, not just foreign aid.

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