L. Neil Smith's
Number 304, January 30, 2005

"How free are you...."

No Foreign Welfare for the Tsunami Survivors
by Todd Andrew Barnett

Special to TLE

The recent catastrophic earthquake-induced tidal waves in Asia certainly serve to remind us that Mother Nature can be far more fatal—and far more destructive—than any other cataclysmic event in the history of our planet. It is a mere fact that it is far more destructive than, say, a tornado or a hurricane. It is also far worse and far chaotic than man-made disasters, such as bombings, war, or even gang-related shootings in inner cities. This is because nature can be our ally in one minute and then our enemy in another, whether or not we are cognizant of this simple truth. It ought to be stated that the places where humans intervene with nature the most—that is, productive industrial societies laden with wealthy, flourishing markets—are the least prone to her wrath. Of course, the loopy radical leftist environments would, in a blazing instant, would love to convince us otherwise; however, there you see it. You can find it yourself. It's there for you to peruse and observe.

I realize that, to many people, this is a sensitive point to bring up, and it may not be helpful in the short-term, but it is an obvious notion that will stick in the back of our minds for years to come. President Bush, in case you haven't noticed, initially called for the U.S. to give $15 million in subsidies to the Asian tsunami victims. We should be very skeptical of any politician who promises to "help" any group of people—particularly when they are victims of a horrific natural disaster—with our tax dollars. Individuals might have called his move—as political as it was—an "act of benevolence," but it was truly not (and still isn't). The left as well as the right might brand this maneuver "generous," or append any other adjective in order to glorify it as a gesture of kindness on this administration's part, but it isn't. It's anything but those things. They have already transformed this entire affair to be what they want it to be—namely, one that is based on "kindness," "compassion," "generosity," and "sympathy" (and this will continue to go on in the long term). It's rather unfortunate that our nation, which remains subjected to the corruptive influence and control of the welfare state, hasn't drawn any lessons from the failures of government-provided foreign welfare to nations, particularly when that "aid" is supposed to be doled out to the victims of natural disasters and not stuffed into the pockets of their corrupt and tyrannical leaders in their governments.

This is the part where it becomes very tricky. When Bush announced that he was giving this money to the survivors of that tragedy, United Nation Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland fired shots of criticisms at our government, branding the act "stingy." As a result, Bush, incensed with the bureaucrat's remark, decided to put out the flames, upping the ante by $20 million to $35 million. Well, isn't that "nice" of him?

Recall what transpired after that incident. Bush then decided to hike that amount from $35 million to $350 million after caving into pressure from his critics—ranging from public officials to special interest groups—who blasted the initial efforts for being "slow and miserly" and for paling in comparison to the amounts of aid issued by his predecessors in the past. What was the excuse that Bush gave? In a statement issued by the White House to the press, Bush, who was vacationing at his family ranch in Texas at the time, said, "The disaster around the Indian Ocean continues to grow." Then he said, "Our contributions will continue to be revised as the full effects of this terrible tragedy become clearer." In other words, expect more increases in federal "government" aid once the outcome of the tragedy is completely realized. That is even separate from Saudi Arabia's originally-pledged $10 billion in "disaster relief" which was hiked to $30 billion.

And, in spite of the use of public funds (a.k.a. "government-provided welfare") for this tragic event, private aid to the disaster victims, which initially reached more than $337 million by January 8, topped more than $360 million approximately five days later. According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, donations are expected to exceed $700 million as soon as all fundraising wraps up.

Cash isn't the only commodity being contributed to the cause. According to the U.S. Department of State's International Information Programs, services and supplies are being furnished in order to "assist in immediate relief efforts as well as in long-term recovery and rehabilitation projects." What does this all mean? It means that private individuals, companies, and charities are providing a true act of benevolence via voting with their dollars, which expresses their true generosity, kindness, and compassion to those suffering from and shaken by the tragedy.

The simple truth is this: the president and his congressional stalwarts have no constitutional authority to "provide assistance" to natural disaster victims, whether domestic or across the globe. In fact, where does it say in the Constitution that the president or the Congress has the power and the authority to remit taxpayers' money to any group of victims inundated with agony, despair, and suffering? According to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, the first clause states that the Congress's power to lay taxes is only restricted to the following: "to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States." If one takes issue with this, one can look up the document anytime one wishes. One can also look up the preamble, which spells out its the purpose: "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

The U.S. federal government has no business of any kind to subsidize the relief efforts for the survivors in Asia or any group of survivors of natural disasters in any way. I freely address this issue because many people, including our officials in power, have wrongly assumed that it is "in the interests" and the "duty" of the United States government to give money to those groups in trouble. Free individuals are, according to the Declaration of Independence, born "with certain unalienable rights"—rights being "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"—and government is created to "secure these rights," delegated with these powers from the "consent of the governed." It also states that if the government abuses its constitutional role of protecting the rights of the individual, then the people have a moral and rightful duty to either change the government or replace it with a new one. It does not state that the government can use these powers anytime it wishes (i.e. funneling aid to domestic and foreign victims of natural disasters) at the expense of the people, whether they like it or not.

Many of Bush's predecessors once understood this. James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Grover Cleveland, among many others, had vetoed bills that would have authorized the appropriation of money to disaster victims on the grounds that such deeds violated the spirit of the rule of law. Too many Americans simply either don't understand or know that this country has strayed so far away from the founding philosophy—a philosophy based upon the principles of limited government, individual liberty, free markets, private charity, federalism, and private property. What they fail to understand is that the president, the Congress, or even all 50 state legislatures don't abide by those principles, even though they pay lip service to them by quoting Jefferson, Madison, or even Cleveland. (After all, in the four years of the president's relentless profligacy, there's not one bill that he found worthy of vetoing with his pen.)

Americans—and this goes for President Bush and his collectivistic Republican stalwarts as well as the socialistic liberal Democrats—must realize that constitutional, moral, and economic principles are fundamentally immutable. (In other words, they are greatly unchanging.) This even applies to the intended recipients of those subsidies, no matter how much suffering and pain they are experiencing. Americans have long known deep down inside that generosity in the face of monstrous adversity is an innate virtue. Benevolence is a product of nature fueled by rational self-interest. This does not apply to government, because it has no justifiable and proper role in this regard. To coerce generosity and benevolence by the use of the federal gun is not only a contradiction; it is also, to paraphrase Jefferson, "sinful and tyrannical."

Whatever happens, Americans should reject the welfare state mindset that has undergirded our society since the early 20th century—as well as the political agendas and motives of President Bush, his collectivistic stalwarts on both the left and the right, and the bureaucrats at the U.N.—and embrace the libertarian tenets that our ancestors once established for our nation. That means that there should be no foreign welfare for the tsunami survivors. The sooner our country returns to its forgotten roots, the better off we will all be in the long run.

© 2005 by Todd Andrew Barnett. All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint any portion of or the entire article is hereby granted, provided that the author's name and credentials are included.


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