Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lessons from Haiti's Earthquake

As the world's electronic media processes the misery caused by the recent severe disaster in Haiti, historical and economic principles are visible.

The world's governments have responded quickly, sending help in various forms: medicine, food, clothing, and relief workers. As is often the case, the United States leads the world, sending more aid than other nation.

But as impressive as the millions sent by governments may be, that aid is dwarfed by the billions sent by charities and other relief organizations. Responding faster, and with more resources, non-governmental organizations (NGO's) not only are the real source of help for those who suffer, but they also illustrate well an economic and historical pattern: private-sector charity trumps government programs.

For any form of human need, a government program is a poor answer. Charitable giving, by contrast, is more effective, more flexible, quicker, and less wasteful.

From tsunamis to droughts, from earthquakes to famines, meaningful and significant help can never come from any form of government. It comes from individuals who decide to give, and from the organizations to which those individuals give. Governments use money taken by threat of force (taxes), and distribute it through large offices which take a percentage of that money to pay their employees, their photocopiers, telephones, filing cabinets, and staplers: a recipe for inefficiency and ineffectiveness.

Volunteer organizations and private-sector charities are focused on goals: distributing food and medicine, building school and hospitals. Government aid agency are focused on providing continued employment for government workers, regardless of whether or not actual human needs are addressed.