A gift given with an evil heart profits nobody

Response to the Dec. 26, 2004 Asian tsunami has been amazing. Private donations from individuals, groups and corporations have been tremendous. These private donations are better than federal foreign aid and United Nations mismanagement.

Contrary to the cold, uncaring, stereotypical depiction of corporations, businesses have stepped up to lead the charge. It is being seen that humans are running the businesses, and making decisions on various factors of this catastrophe, including factors beyond just the bottom line.

The CNN Web site has a list of major companies that have made large contributions to relief efforts in the forms of money, supplies and underwriting logistics. This list is pages long and only includes well-known companies such as American Express, Pfizer, Intel, Disney, Starbucks, Sears, Coke and Pepsi. Most of the companies have pledged more than $1 million in donations. Besides these firms, there has been a major outpouring of donations from companies of lesser prominence throughout the United States and the world.

Corporations can be charitable and profitable at the same time. Charitable giving boosts consumer confidence. Starbucks is donating $2 for every pound of a certain brand of coffee sold. This is a good way of maintaining business and subsidizing beneficial programs. Many companies offer donation-matching programs, wherein the company will contribute one dollar for every dollar an employee donates. These are great programs because they involve people personally and amplify the results of charitable efforts.

Individuals have raised tons of money in contributions to relief efforts. The money is coming from people everywhere. In all walks of life people are giving, from million-dollar celebrity contributions to the widow’s mite.

At my church, many people offered to help. Religious doctrine, as an example, became religious practice. Those receiving are better off for what they have received and those giving are better off for what they given.

That said, business is the most effective route for disaster relief.

International businessmen already have networks and contacts established to organized relief efforts. They hold durable capital such as trucks, freight ships and storage facilities. These are needed for delivery and distribution of supplies. They are already on the ground and have the ability to put relief dollars into immediate action.

Private charities such as Doctors Without Borders are more effective than governments in giving aid because they don’t confront antagonistic nationalist sentiments or restraints imposed by economic sanctions.

Compare this to the United Nations, which after only a few weeks into the current crisis, has been severely criticized for its lack of ability to organize relief efforts. It has demonstrated poor management of funds from various governments, particularly in turning that money into effective aid.

The UN’s activities are part of a larger political game by those who are willing to use human suffering to bolster their political power.

Name-calling and self asserted saintliness by government officials reviles the vanity and superficiality of political foreign aid.

Japan, which has promised the most foreign aid, has ambition to gain a seat on the Security Council. It is hoping that the relief effort will be its leverage to gain influence. UN Undersecretary-General Jan Egeland calling Western nations “stingy” promoted a contest of who is more moral. But foreign aid does not demonstrate morality.

Governmental aid is not money generated by those willing to help, but rather by those forced to pay taxes. As the ethicist Murry Rothbard stated, “If a man is not free to choose, if he is compelled by force to do the moral thing, then he is being deprived of the opportunity of being moral.”

Hence, large pledges of foreign aid cannot make a country more moral than another because tax- generated giving is not charity.

As voluntary individual donations have demonstrated, tax funded foreign aid is unnecessary.

BBC News reported Britain’s private donations have outpaced the British government’s pledges.

Disney reports that it has money set aside for sporadic disaster needs. Savings for a rainy day- what a novel idea! Compare this to our federal government- drowning in debt and unstable in tackling even foreseen disasters.

In some sense it is tragic that it took a disaster of such magnitude to make people feel responsible to help others. Nevertheless, we have shown that we are capable of providing aid in mass amounts to those in need through voluntary contributions without political involvement.

I hope the generosity and private aid demonstrated in the tsunami relief efforts may be part of continuing trend and paradigm for local and global welfare.

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