Laurence Vance at the Mises institute has an excellent post on the immorality of forced government-to-government foreign aid – with a focus on the tragedy in Myanmar.

Here’s an excerpt:

The US government has no business providing disaster relief to Myanmar, food relief to poor countries, or humanitarian aid of any kind. The purpose of government is supposed to be to protect the lives, liberties, and properties of the people who form it. The fact that all governments eventually deviate from their stated purpose is irrelevant. And besides, there is a calculation problem here. How much aid should the US government provide? What type of aid should be given? What strings, if any, should be attached to the aid supplied? How long should aid be maintained?

Even worse is the use of the military to provide foreign-aid services. The purpose of the military is to defend the country from attack or invasion, not to deliver food and spread good will and cheer. Yes, it would be better if the US military delivered bread and butter instead of bombs and bullets, but that is not the issue.

There was a time in this country when it was recognized to be improper for the federal government to provide humanitarian relief even within the United States. President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill in 1887 that would have provided seed for farmers in drought-stricken Texas. In his veto message, he wrote that aid from Washington only “encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character.” The Texas farmers ended up getting ten times as much in private assistance as they would have received from Uncle Sam.

Read more here

In principle, Vance is right on the mark. Constitutionally, of course, none of this spending is authorized. The US Constitution was written under what is referred to as “positive grant.” In short, what this means is that the federal government is authorized to engage in only those activities specifically authorized by the Constitution. Positive = authorized activities. Grant = specifically listed.

Just to make sure this principle was legally codified, the Tenth Amendment was included:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

There is no authorization to pay for relief in Myanmar. There is no authorization to prop up dictators in places like Pakistan with your money. There is no authorization to spend your money on “military assistance” for other countries. There is no authorization to funnel money through the CIA to support regime changes. The Constitution was written in plain English – there is nothing there which authorizes the federal government to take your money and give it to foreign governments. For any reason.

But don’t take my word for it. Try reading the Constitution to see if you can find authorization to engage in such activities for yourself.

The 10th Amendment

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”



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