A Few Definitions:
I use ‘state’ to mean country, and also the current way something is (eg ice is water in a solid state) – hope this doesn’t confuse anyone. I will take this moot to only refer to relatively large scale donations predominantly involving geographically dispersed actors (e.g. in different states) where at least one actor has the means to give donations (monetary or otherwise) in view of aiding another actor in some way. ‘Foreign aid’, in this definition, would be one state giving such donations to either state or non-state actors, and charity would be a non-state actor giving such donations to states or non-state actors. This is a normative debate more so than anything else – meaning it is far more important that states should be the primary givers of aid donations, rather than any practical considerations as to whether or not certain states currently actually do. I will also assume that all actors are rational and will likely act to further their self-interest. It will be assumed that giving something as aid donations is somehow good for wither the country giving it or the country receiving it.
States are a collection of institutions to which individuals cede a portion of their personal sovereignty/freedom, allowing those institutions to perform collectively defined, ‘legitimate’, functions. For example, in a state of anarchy, everyone would be vulnerable to suffering a violent death – a state adds in protections to firstly ensure that this does not happen (through legal systems/deterrents) and consequences if it does happen (police force/jails etc). It is important that this secession of personal freedom be extended to aid donations. States are only legitimate because people collectively define them as being so, and therefore inherently even tyrannical rulers have a self-interest in furthering the interests of their populations. Most state-led aid organisations (such as USAID) give conditional aid, aid which furthers the self-interest of the giving state as a whole in return to furthering the interest of the benefiting state. When individuals and non-state actors give aid, they would likely give aid to further their own self-interest. This results in, for example, George Soros destroying multiple countries (such as Ukraine), the Clinton Foundation, the Catholic Church’s opposition to birth control and I take it at least someone here has read Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari. USAID acts (or should act, not sure if this is always true though…) in the interests of the US government, George Soros acts in the interests of himself. If therefore USAID benefits, so too should the people of the US. If George Soros benefits, he becomes richer relative to everyone else, and will probably do the same thing again. Some individuals might have good intentions, as some states might have bad intentions, but the only way to reach a superior method of aid donations is by analysing underlying interests. For this reason, foreign aid is superior to giving charity.
Nationalism vs Cosmopolitanism
If you were to break down the world at the moment into labour, capital, and states, and were to look at these three categories solely in terms of relative power, it would become quite apparent that capital, currently, has far more power than labour. This is a necessary consequence of globalisation. Open borders means labour is movable, meaning cheap labour can be brought in from anywhere, meaning competition or workplaces is becoming/will one day become such that there will no longer be a lower/upper class in a given state or area, but rather a global upper and global lower class. States have their sovereignty eroded by agreements and institutions (eg the TTIP or the EU), and with the free flow of labour, are at the behest of capital, needing to appease them to ‘attract investment’, causing them to make decisions that are not necessarily in their own interests. Capital can choose to move where it wants, and generally can set governing rules as states have/are/probably will grant(ing/ed) them increasing them authority to do so. Those with the means to give charitably and ‘charities’ are usually representatives of capital (eg compare how much bill gates spends on ‘charitable’ causes with how much even a large collection of middle-class families have the wherewithal to spend). To restore some level of balance in state-market relations (increasing power of the state relative to capital) it is wholly necessary to limit ‘charities’ to only spending on those causes that help the state as a whole, rather than those that help the rich owners of capital.
Foreign aid is not necessarily mutually exclusive with an individual’s choice of which charities to support. Firstly, this is due to the fact that most wealthy states have democratically elected governments in whose interest it is to appease their populations/get re-elected, and therefore should not make unpopular decisions on which causes to support (influences such as popular culture/media are also present for charities and thus I will not delve deeply into them). Secondly, in legislatures with multiple parties being represented, where multiple social cleavages are present, compromises will no doubt be struck to attempt to represent the populations’ interests, to the extent that voter’s interests are represented by that democracy. Pluralist states will still allow for some level of non-state involvement as is deemed legitimate by that particular state. Basically this means that individuals do have a choice as to where the money goes in so far as their state is a functioning democracy. Even if the state in question is a tyrannical dictatorship, granting legitimacy to the state is better than seeking anarchy, due to the power disparity between capital and the state discussed above, and therefore sacrificing a little personal choice/sovereignty/freedom, in this instance is also justified.
Non-state actors seeking to further legitimate charitable causes should have their funds rerouted through the state to make sure that furthering those causes would be in the very least interests of the giving state, if not also the receiving actor. This maintains individuals’ choice as to which causes they want to donate to, but retains some oversight over how funds are being managed, what causes are being supported and whether or not supporting the supported cause is actually in the best interests of the state giving the aid donation.
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