Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Perils of Charity

Hundreds of thousands dead or injured. Millions displaced. Billions of dollars in damage. How can we respond to last weekʼs devastating earthquake in Haiti? Americans are generous … and wealthy, so we give. How can we not?

But charity can also be dangerous to its would-be beneficiaries. Too much giving can destroy local economies. How can the farmer sell his produce when food is given to the hungry? How can the manufacturer sell his goods? The merchant his wares? When they canʼt, they too end up in line for the dole. If and when the largess comes to an end, its recipients are left without the means to support themselves, permanently dependent on the fickle generosity of others.

Haiti poses an especially difficult problem in this respect.

Even before the earthquake, Haiti was one of the poorest countries in the world. It was and is also one of the most corrupt. Nearly 40 percent of its national budget was already based on foreign aid, while just one percent of the population controlled half of the nationʼs wealth. With that in mind, how much of our charity will really go to those in need?

How can we truly help Haiti and the similarly troubled nations of this world? Neither our generosity nor our military might can fix their problems—at least not without more money and time than we will ever be willing to invest. Maybe the best we can do is to lead by example, which means fixing our own problems and achieving our full potential as a nation of freedom and opportunity.

But thatʼs enough cynicism for one day. Besides, I have a donation to the relief effort to make. How can I not?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Airway Insanity

It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

We should have learned at least two lessons on September 11th. First, our conventional security measures donʼt work. Second, informed passengers are more effective at fighting airway terrorism than even the mighty U.S. Air Force. Instead, President G. W. Bush created the asinine Transportation Security Administration to execute the same failed procedures under federal control.

Ironically, it took the likes of anti-gun Senator Barbara Boxer to push for something different. Eventually, the Congress enacted the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, with the Bush administration resisting all the way. This program allowed a handful of pilots to be armed with handguns for the defense of their aircraft. It was inadequate, but at least it was something new … and a step in the right direction.

On Christmas Day, A.D. 2009, a would-be Nigerian terrorist attempted to detonate an explosive device hidden in his underwear while on a flight to Detroit. He was “subdued” by other passengers. Again, conventional procedures had failed, while travelers who acted in their own defense had prevented something terrible. The lessons of September 11th had been taught once more.

Of course, as before, we learned nothing.

The TSA under President B. H. Obama has responded by doing more of the same. Invasive and useless screenings have increased, while those who actually foiled the December 25th attack—the passengers—have been ordered to stay in their seats. They could be stripped and caged, but that won’t stop our enemies from finding ways to kill us.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.