On Foreign Aid and Military Spending

In half a dozen places on Facebook and other online places, my mantra to many Republicans recently has been – If you don’t want to subsidize the welfare state at home, why are you willing to subsidize it abroad?

Let’s even, for the purposes of this argument, put Iraq and Afghanistan aside. Most of the countries we support with troops and cash have rich entitlement programs.

Our policy with Japan for years has been, as Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute has put it, “We agree to defend them and they agree to let us.” They can spend more on their welfare programs precisely because we provide their defense.

In Korea, I believe we are there more to keep the South from going North now than the other way around. Neocons will say, “But what if the North gets nukes?” On a Facebook post today, a friend of a friend, Warren Redlich, said this, “If North Korea uses nukes, what exactly are the US troops going to do about it other than die?”

In short, it makes no sense to say, let’s not pay for education and health programs for citizens (let’s not even discuss immigrants), yet support foreign governments who support rich welfare states.

Direct foreign aid is not smart either. I have no problem sending charitable relief to Haiti to assist temporarily the victims of a natural disaster, but to pour billions of dollars into Haiti in transfer payments does nothing to actually help the poor grow wealthy. In order for a country to increase its wealth, it must create the conditions necessary for economic freedom.

I often wonder if some people are more friends of poverty than friends of the poor.

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