Ron Paul Votes "No" on Government Aid to Haiti

Kelse Moen
Jan 22, 2010 at 8:06 PM

Ron Paul was the only Congressman yesterday to vote against a resolution to authorize government reconstruction plans for Haiti. His explanation for his vote is here, in which he argues that a US reconstruction plan is just a gateway to establishing Haiti as a long term US protectorate. This concern has been echoed by the non-profit Doctors Without Borders

But even if we grant the US government the best of intentions, even if we dismiss these concerns as conspiracy, however dubious our reasons for doing so, we should still oppose US aid to Haiti. Extreme cases like this have a certain educational value, in that they separate the libertarian wheat from the chaff. They separate those whose libertarianism is rooted in a philosophical adherence to the non-aggression axiom and those whose libertarianism is only an emotional predisposition toward less government.

Libertarians and conservatives are right to argue that government welfare programs are immoral because they rob a certain subset of taxpayers for the benefit of a subset of tax consumers, and because the taxpayers never consented to the redistribution. Welfare programs are therefore legalized theft. No doubt many of the 411 congressmen to vote in favor of the Haiti resolution (I'm looking at you, Michelle Bachmann) have argued thusly. So how is the same extorted welfare for Haitians morally justifiable?

I do not think it is. It is the same old scenario, except now Americans will be forced to pay for Haitians, maybe in taxes, but more likely in increased debt and inflation. One group is being aggressed against for the sake of another. The only conceivable reason that so many people can oppose one form of welfare but support another form is that their love of liberty is simply emotion. It is easy to argue theoretically against welfare when its recipients are living in anonymous, boring poverty. But when they are on the front pages of newspapers in agonizing despair, it suddenly becomes easy to throw philosophical principle aside and vote in favor of expediency.

The problem is that theory and practice are not so easily delineated. Something cannot be theoretically immoral but justified on account of practical expediency. Such, I think, is the enduring message of Ludwig von Mises' "Tu ne cede malis..." ("Do not give in to evil [but proceed more boldly against it].") Unfortunately, there are few Ron Pauls around. Few people will live consistently by principle and can realize that philosophical speculation is not just a parlor game but a necessary component of a good and just life.

The people who side with Ron Paul on the Haitian question will probably be smeared as heartless and selfish. Not so. We value private charity, not coerced charity. (Coerced charity is actually a contradiction in terms, because the "charity" comes from doing as you are commanded, rather than from a moral disposition, as would be implied from the term charity.)

Thus, anyone who is financially able should contribute to Haitian earthquake victims. A good tool for finding the right charity is Charity Navigator. Don't let the state monopolize the charitable high ground. For the commandment to love your neighbor can only be fulfilled by non-aggressive means; otherwise we're only talking about which neighbor deserves the love.

I see your point. Basically you're telling us that Ron Paul voted "no" on government help for Haiti not because he is selfish and concieted, but understands we have not the monetary resources for this situation. Also, you are telling us government shouldn't make this decision for us beause it will raise taxes... again.

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Close, but not quite Lantz.

Think of it like this...

If private charity is better than government welfare for US citizens - which most libertarians/conservatives would agree...

Then why is it any different for Haitian Citizens.

NB: "better" here can mean both practically better - ie: the government isn't very competent and private charities will get better results, and morally better - ie: we shouldn't force people to be charitable.

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It's not easy to stare adversity in the face and stick to principles, but you're right. While I wouldn't say that those who favor government aid for Haiti are evil big government types, I will say they are definitely misled by the lies and "good intentions" of big government. 

Drew Smith's picture

Very interesting that he was the only one to vote no.

I have nothing much to add to this other than my support of his decision.  I wish that I could do something to help Haiti.

First, however, I'd like to finish my fight to restore America from the inside out.  Strengthen my country to the point where we CAN help others.  Then, I'll offer my help to the rest of the world.

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I'm of the opposite opinion, Nick--I don't think Americans should get a cent... yet.  Across the world, our dollars are still extremely effective; $16 may be barely enough for two to go out to dinner here, but it is the price of an entire cow or a monthly wage in another, poorer country.  Here are what I see the benefits of international charity are, as opposed to national charity:

1) International charity tends towards the worst-affected areas (Darfur, Somalia, Haiti, etc.), while national charity gets eaten up by the "overhead" of charitable organizations (i.e., the Katrina Red Cross debacle).

2) International charity sends U.S. dollars overseas, strengthening the dollar's bargaining position; restricting that trade means that the international dollar flow is restricted, which opens other currencies to trade without the dollar's buying power.  Technically, the dollar's buying power since it was taken off the gold standard was primarily due to its popularity as a stable currency in the world market, so this one is self-evident.

3) International charity improves the American image, which improves international relations; national charity (especially churches raising "charitable donations" for huge new church-McMansions) only feeds the popular image of Americans as self-serving fatcats.

4) As I said before, any money simply goes further in poorer parts of the world.  The average 3rd-world worker makes $1/day--that's $365 dollars a year, if the worker takes no holidays or weekends.  Most of us waste five times that on our daily coffee--at five bucks a pop, that is.  It is simply bad monetary policy to buy high, so it makes more sense to divert even a fraction of our own local, state, or national charity to international causes, due to the greater buying power our dollars have.

Obviously, obstacles to the free disbursement of charitable donations exist, but they exist just as much (or more) in America; however, these should not be barriers to the moral, economic, and political gains of international charity.  Indeed, entrepreneurs are beginning to capitalize on the direct-donation market, especially online; the next decade or two may see a revolution in the way we give!

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