A Foreign-Aid Controversy . . . Reminiscent of Atlas Shrugged
October 11, 2007
Irvine, CA--What does Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged have to do with a current debate over U.S. foreign aid? More than you might think.
The New York Times reports about the latest dispute over how U.S. foreign aid should be spent. One faction claims that, because the rising cost of food reduces how much can be bought, the government should reserve some money in a "safe box" designated to feed people facing chronic hunger--while others insist that U.S. aid money remain liquid enough to enable us to respond quickly to food emergencies.
But there's one crucial question that no one is asking: While there's much debate over the means of providing aid and while some critics fault our government's aid agency for inefficiencies--no one challenges the basic goal of doling out billions in foreign aid. The notion that Americans have a moral duty to sacrifice their hard-earned wealth to fund such a global welfare schemes is taken as self-evident.
But according to Elan Journo, resident fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, "Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged levels a fundamental challenge to that widely accepted moral premise."
"The startling view dramatized in her book is that welfare schemes such as foreign aid are profoundly unjust--and that we have no duty to sacrifice our wealth to feed and clothe the poor, regardless of whether they live across the globe or across the street. On the contrary, on Rand's view as projected in her novel and nonfiction works, those who earn their prosperity by production and trade have an absolute moral right to every penny of their income. Her revolutionary conception of morality holds that self-sacrifice is a vice and that pursuing one's rational self-interest is a virtue.
"As for the 'have-nots' in Africa and across the world, their plight is a result of not having freedom and individualism; they are miserably poor because of their bloody tribalism and superstition--ideas that kept the Western world dirt poor for centuries. If Westerners were truly interested in helping them, they would teach them to embrace reason, individualism and capitalism--precisely the values responsible for the West's prosperity, but which are today being eroded through endless altruist policies.
"It is high time Americans learned to question not merely the means, but the very goal of foreign aid--and understand the truly destructive nature of the altruist morality that justifies it."
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