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Giving till it hurts

Face-Off: Will Ottawa's aid for tsunami victims do anyone any good?

Michael Coren and Karen Selick - January 31, 2005

From: Michael Coren mcoren@westernstandard.ca
To: Karen Selick kselick@westernstandard.ca
Subject: How to help tsunami victims
Date: January 17, 2004 9:08 AM

I would hope that there is no argument over whether we should be helping the victims of the massive earthquake and its consequences in southern Asia. Their needs are, and will continue to be, intense and immense. It's vital for our own sense of humanity and for their survival that we give as individuals to the people of the region, but government also has a vital role to play. Whether we like it or not, we live in a tax-based society with a commitment to relative redistribution of income, meaning that government alone is able to send, quickly and efficiently, tens of millions of dollars and tons of supplies to the most needy areas. It's pertinent that states increasingly use NGOs to distribute and supervise aid on the ground, but we mustn't embrace an illusion--private donations have never been able to equal the generosity of government munificence. Sometimes selfishness has to be modified, even by Ottawa.

From: Karen Selick kselick@westernstandard.ca
To: Michael Coren mcoren@westernstandard.ca
Subject: re: How to help tsunami victims
Date: January 17, 2004 10:49 AM

Yes, this is a tax-based redistributive society, but that doesn't mean we simply accept the status quo as morally correct and go from there. In fact, that's the very crux of today's debate: should taxes be used for foreign aid in general or for tsunami victims in particular? I say no. "Government munificence" is an oxymoron. The government has no money of its own to be generous with, only money that it took from citizens upon threat of violence. If a thief sends my wallet to Indonesia, that's not charity and neither of us is virtuous. Individual Canadians have demonstrated extraordinary generosity in this crisis, quickly donating multiple millions to private aid agencies already operating capably in the area. Government aid efficient? Surely you jest. These are the people who pay 15 per cent commissions to ad agencies for forwarding cheques. Government aid frequently ends up in the hands of foreign tyrants, making life much worse for the hapless intended recipients.


From: Michael Coren mcoren@westernstandard.ca
To: Karen Selick kselick@westernstandard.ca
Subject: re: How to help tsunami victims
Date: January 17, 2004 1:11 PM

Have you actually been to these countries? This tired, suburban and, I'm sorry, often-racist notion that all Third World nations are ruled by corrupt tyrants who steal foreign aid is simply fatuous. In fact, the governments of India and Sri Lanka, for example, are in many ways more ethical and efficient than our own. No, the money generally gets to those who need it and aid workers on the ground know their stuff. Most government aid is given directly to NGO staff. I find that the "corrupt foreigner" line is usually mouthed by people who don't care in the first place. Yes, yes, the state is organized burglary and taxation is a crime. The same stale mantra. But let's be serious about a serious issue. Personal charity has never worked without some form of limited government help, and we're better off learning from President Bush's compassionate conservatism approach than painting ourselves as libertarian caricatures.

From: Karen Selick kselick@westernstandard.ca
To: Michael Coren mcoren@westernstandard.ca
Subject: re: How to help tsunami victims
Date: January 17, 2004 3:51 PM

Transparency International, the world's leading NGO devoted to combating corruption, published Corruption in South Asia in December 2002 (available at www.transparency.org). Dr. Gopakumar Krishnan Thampi (non-racist enough for you?) writes: "The observation that corruption is endemic and rampant in South Asian countries is by now a well-documented and loudly articulated concern." India and Sri Lanka ranked 2.7 and 3.7 respectively on a scale where zero represents complete corruption and 10 represents complete integrity. As for private charity, it was severely impaired by the advent of welfare statism, because statists like you started campaigning, "Let the government do it." For centuries before, private charity was ample and effective, given the limited wealth of those times. Not only did it reduce hardship, it also instilled morality, something your beloved welfare state undermines. Anyone who wants to learn the unfortunate history of private charity should consult Marvin Olasky's book, The Tragedy of American Compassion, or David Beito's From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State. Sometimes, Michael, we have to stop and use our heads in order to bring about our hearts' desires.

More articles by Michael Coren and Karen Selick