Sunday, January 02, 2005

Right-wing math
Hugh Hewitt whines about people criticizing the amount of GNP the U.S. devotes to international aid:

Of course this approach [Hewitt's aid scheme] won't be adopted, because every country would want to team with the United States because not only is it the richest country in the world, it is the most generous country, whether measured by public or private giving.

The idea is that since the U.S. government devotes more total cash to aid than any other government, it is naturally the "most generous government." Or as the Las Vegas Review-Journal argues:

In real terms, the U.S. government handed out $15.8 billion for "official development assistance" to developing countries in 2003 (not counting AIDS and HIV programs and money channeled through the United Nations.) Japan came in second at $8.9 billion.

But once the French bean-counters divide that generosity by each donor nation's gross national product, they complain that none of the world's richest countries donates even 1 percent of its gross national product. Of the richest industrialized nations, Norway came in highest by that new calculation -- at 0.92 percent -- while America ranked last, at 0.14 percent.

The measurement is absurd and dangerous on several levels.

First, America's GNP is vastly greater than that of any other nation. This new "standard" is like claiming your rich uncle is a skinflint because he only paid half your kids' college tuition, when he could have afforded to pay it all.

Like all envy, such selfishness ignores the meritorious work it took to get rich, substituting the theory that the successful had "undeserved wealth" dropped upon them, which they are now required to "share" with those who adamantly refuse to adopt the very behaviors which lead to affluence.

So to review: the simple math of "French bean-counters" proves that the U.S. devotes a very small percentage of its massive resources to aid, compared to European governments. But this unassailable and undisputed truth is "false and dangerous." It is false and dangerous because it makes the U.S., which contributes billions in public money to international aid, look less generous than its European counterparts, which cannot possibly be, since we are clearly the morally superior nation, and anyway, we earned our wealth and if we don't want to give it to poor people who haven't earned it, like dead and dying victims of a horrific natural disaster far, far away from Jesusland, that's our business. If they had been better capitalists, those brown people would've been able to handle this whole tsunami thing by themselves anyway.

By this calculus, the Netherlands would have to donate its entire GNP to international aid in order to qualify as being as "generous" as the United States. So while it is certainly true that the United States gives more than any other country, it gives much less than it could, and much less proportionally than other governments. This doesn't make every American callous and stingy, since private donations are also significant and important. It does, however, undercut American claims to moral leadership and superiority.

Moreover, the "dispute" about U.S. aid levels reflects the right's tendency to distort very simple comparative statistical data, especially when it casts the U.S. in a dismal light. By their logic, the U.S., with one of the largest populations, must be the biggest baby killer in the civilized world, since we have, in gross terms, more infant deaths than a piddling country like Norway or Sweden. It is just morally wrong to adjust our data for population and economic size. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And Leftist. And probably Islamist too. And probably the sort of thing that those pointy-headed elitists teach you in Government Schools and liberal university statistics classes. Moral clarity requires that we stick to blunt comparisons based on raw statistics from Hugh Hewitt and the Heritage Foundation.


At 10:50 PM, Blogger jdeadzone said...



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