Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More on those Stingy Americans

From the Australian:

The resentment that comes from needing the military and economic might of the US translated into the most absurd criticism. Jan Egeland, the former UN boss of humanitarian affairs, cavilled about the stinginess of certain Western nations. His eye was on the US. Former British minister Claire Short was equally miffed, describing the initiative by the US and other countries as "yet another attempt to undermine the UN", which was, according to her, the "only body that has the moral authority" to help.

I love moral authority as much as the next guy, but the UN's moral authority is a mighty hard sell given that the UN club includes the most odious regimes in the world, such as Burma. And notice how the UN's moral authority did not quickly translate into helicopters laden with food and water?

h/t Instapundit who notes: "It never does. More like briefcases full of untraceable cash, in the wrong hands." It does as well bear noting that the massive contributions by the US government through its military following the Tsunami doesn't get covered by these statistics. It is the US military that is consistently one of the world's first responders following natural disasters (I can only imagine the genteel debate if the US government pushed to include some of those numbers in official statistics). There's also some discussion on what some called the Economists' misleading graph that showed private contributions by Americans far outweighing any other country. Turns out that measured on a per capita basis or as a percentage of GDP or as a percentage of national income, Americans still contribute more - significantly more than elsewhere in the world. This is even ignoring remittances (which are expected to reach 100b in the next 5 years). Given what I've seen, I would also suspect that we'd find US aid to be far more effective as a result of how it's delivered.

That being said, I'm not clear why it's even necessary to go through this per capita or percentage of national income analysis. Countries who seek aid - seek relief, not moral indignation. To suggest that looking at actual private contribution numbers in aggregate are irrelevant because the US is a far wealthier country than most, is suggesting its massive wealth creation engine is the result of circumstance (or thievery, in the eyes of some - usually by those who thrive under the largesse of the public teet) rather than design.

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