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Tsunami Aid Should Be Entirely Private

UPDATE 2005-01-07 22:16:45 UTC: The Ayn Rand Institute pulled its original article (which you can still read here, and I changed the link below) and replaced it with a different one, which I discuss here.

Matt Yglesias notes the Ayn Rand Institute's opposition to public tsunami aid and is puzzled by something:

Yet, strangely, the Ayn Rand Institute aside, you don't see many libertarians and conservatives sticking up for this view, though as we all know, all it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing. So where are the libertarian bloggers on this massive injustice being perpetrated by first world governments?

We're on vacation :) but couldn't resist this one.

I'm not puzzled by a lack of conservative opposition to public tsunami aid. Conservatives are largely altruists and do not have a principled opposition to forcibly redistributing other peoples' money in pursuit of a cause they consider to be noble. They begin by conceding the moral ground to their opposition and then try to argue "but we're not as bad as you think!" It's disgusting. (For example, there's much commentary about the fact that has raised almost $9M for the American Red Cross from 120K individuals so far, and the numbers keep rising.)

The lack of libertarian opposition is indeed troubling. But I'll throw my weight (such as it is!) behind this: the Ayn Rand Institute is entirely correct. Public giving is a euphemism for forcible redistribution. That's not giving, it's taking! Property rights are not trumped by appeals of "it's for a good cause!"

I opposed public disaster aid after the Florida hurricanes and I oppose public disaster aid for the tsunami. Private giving is the only morally acceptable form of giving. (And "private" is a redundancy; non-private giving is theft, not gift.)

What are bloggers talking about, instead of the moral outrage of theft cloaked in caring? Stinginess. Conservatives rush to point out that the United States is much more generous than the $35M in announced public aid. Interestingly, one of the commenters (10:48) says that the $35M figure is all that's left in the aid budget, and that more couldn't be pledged without an act of Congress. If this is true, I unfortunately expect Congress to significantly raise that figure. Another interesting comment (10:42) is that the cost of our naval deployments to aid relief efforts is $2M-$3M per day, which isn't included in the $35M.

It's usually considered unhelpful to complain but not offer any solutions, so here goes. Currently, the US military is the only organization on earth with the logistics might to get aid from "here" to "there" in time to make a difference. I wish there was an alternative to using the military, but I don't see one. The best opportunity I see with current resources would be for the US military to be available as disaster relief mercenaries — with relief operations funded by private giving, and only insofar as these missions wouldn't create a threat to national security.

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