When consolidating all assistance funds flowing from the United States to developing countries, the total is $129.8 billion. This is the total of government aid, philanthropy, and remittances -- funds sent directly by private individuals to other private parties in developing countries, often family members. A far second in total giving behind the United States is the United Kingdom at $20.7 billion.
There are a couple of important messages here.
First, of course, is the incredible compassion and generosity of Americans. American largesse does not need to be pried or forced by the government. It flows organically from free, civic minded and often religiously motivated citizens. And it comes from citizens of every income strata. The religious giving data shows that whereas the average congregation gives $10,700, the median number is $2,500, indicating that there are many smaller, less wealthy congregations engaged.
The other headline is the central importance of the private sector in both generating prosperity, but also in sharing it.
Bookshelves now strain with studies showing the failures of government-to-government aid.
It is individuals who create wealth. Compassion and personal responsibility reside in the breasts of those same individuals. Neither can be said of government bureaucracies.
Barack Obama spoke at the commencement ceremony at Wesleyan University the other day. He talked about national service and, recalling John F. Kennedy, committed to doubling the size of the Peace Corps if elected president.
From what I see and what the data shows, Americans don't need government to make them care, contribute, and volunteer. If anything, they need less government so they'll retain and keep control of more of what they produce and subsequently share with those in need.
Other countries may have their own motivations for what causes them to view Americans the way they do. But the data is clear. Americans are unmatched in creating prosperity and sharing it.
It's time to pay closer attention to what Americans do rather than what others say.
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