Australian Compassion

Now I thought that Australians were being extremely generous with $110 million in private donations (that’s over $5 per capita) and $1 billion from the Australian government but over at Tech Central Station Jackson Kuhl and Nick Schulz have come up with a measure that they call Amazonian Compassion where Australia comes dead last. They calculate per capita donations via Amazon to each country’s Red Cross. By this measure, the US is the highest with $0.0475 per capita, way ahead of France with a mere $0.0005. They don’t list Australia, but on their measure Australia gets $0.0000.

Unfortunately, there a couple of problems with their measure.

  1. Kuhl and Schultz may not be aware of this, but it is possible to access from outside the United States. Not all donations made at have come from Americans. For example, Mike Power donated twice via, even though he lives in England.
  2. Kuhl and Schultz may not be aware of this, but it is possible to donate to the Red Cross without going through Amazon. The Australian Red Cross (that’s a link where you can donate to them) has received $51.5 million in donations so far, or $US 1.95 per capita, much more that the $0.0475 “Amazonian Compassion” number for the US. Of course, this comparison is silly as well, because only about one third of the donations to the American Red Cross came through Amazon.

Basically, their measure is completely meaningless, and that should have been obvious to them. And naturally they repeat the bogus story about the UN accusing the US of being stingy.

Oh, and this:

International aid organizations:
UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund)
United Nations’ World Food Programme
Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors without Borders (donate!)
CARE International
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – comprises a raft of aid agencies, including the below and others
British Red Cross
Save the Children UK

North America:
American Red Cross
Canadian Red Cross
Save The Children
Oxfam America

Anders Jacobsen: Webloggers: Give to tsunami victims and I’ll give too!


  1. #1 Rob
    January 6, 2005

    Is Amazon a client of TCS?

  2. #2 Agricola
    January 6, 2005

    that is easily the most idiotic TCS article of what is a very big pile.

  3. #3 Robert McClelland
    January 6, 2005

    The right whingers are really working overtime on this to bolster their flaccid egos. A day or two ago I read one of them making the claim that even though Norway has made a huge contribution, they aren’t generous because they don’t have people on the ground distributing aid.

  4. #4 ben
    January 6, 2005

    what Egeland actually said, according to CNN is this

    If, actually, the foreign assistance of many countries now is 0.1 or 0.2 percent of the gross national income, I think that is stingy, really,” he said. “I don’t think that is very generous.

    So that is in fact calling the US, among others, stingy, since we fall in that category of 0.1 to 0.2 percent of GNI (according to this chart). However, this has nothing whatsoever to do with relief funds, and so the Washington Times fails. Egelend and the UN should still shut their yaps though.

  5. #5 Carl Jarrett
    January 6, 2005

    Egelend’s comment is partially, if not largely responsible, for the flood of donations flowing into the disaster area from western governments and corporations. He hit directly on their image and identity and they had to prove that he was wrong. The government/corporation donations have become a penis measuring contest.

  6. #6 snuh
    January 6, 2005

    tech central station proves that has more users than and will the insights never cease?

  7. #7 ChrisPer
    January 6, 2005

    Jeez, you guys make me laugh.

    Amazon is interesting because it is ORDINARY PEOPLE donations, using a commercial group’s initiative to do good beyond profit.

    The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy’s round of derision at Egeland is because the MEASURE used is chosen to make America look bad even though the $ values of govt plus private giving historically are far greater than other countries.

    The penis measuring remark is interesting. Yes, there is clearly some status competition going on here. But interesting how heterosexist or masculinist framing of the terms of abuse is acceptable to you when it would not be if done by for instance a gun lobbyist talking about the females in the anti-gun hate groups.

  8. #8 snuh
    January 6, 2005

    i, as an ordinary person, have donated $100 to the red cross. bizarrely, i did not do this through amazon. this is the first problem with tcs’ measure.

    if, as an ordinary person, i had donated through amazon, tcs would’ve counted me toward american generosity [as i would’ve donated through], even though i actually live in australia. this is the second problem with tcs’ measure.

    since amazon does not have an australian subsiduary or affiliate, tcs’ measure does not allow any way for my contribution to be counted toward the generosity of my country, as my country is excluded. indeed, this measure — in that it can only describe donations in 6 countries [and then only inaccurately, given the first two problems] — ignores most of the world. this is the third problem with tcs’ measure.

    i dunno, but i tend to not give much credence to an analysis which i can disprove from my own experience in three difference ways.


    The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy’s round of derision at Egeland is because the MEASURE used is chosen to make America look bad even though the $ values of govt plus private giving historically are far greater than other countries.


    We gave 15 cents for every $100 of national income to poor countries. Denmark gave 84 cents, the Netherlands gave 80 cents, Belgium gave 60 cents, France gave 41 cents, and Greece gave 21 cents (that was the lowest share, beside our own).

    It is sometimes said that Americans make up for low official aid with private charitable donations. Nope. By OECD calculations, private donations add 6 cents a day to the official U.S. figure – meaning that we still give only 21 cents a day per person.”

  9. #9 ben
    January 6, 2005

    Hey, I was plenty generous this year. I gave about $100 to the NRA, $50 to and $50 to the Walter and Adam Sniper Fund to get Walter and Adam some nice sniper scopes for shooting bad guys in Iraq, as well as some swell care packages.

    I’ll probably support Gun Owners of America and the Beretta Forum next year. The government is spending my money for me for disaster relief, so I’ll spend what’s left protecting my gun rights from the government. Not perfect, but works out ok.

  10. #10 ChrisPer
    January 6, 2005

    Interesting snuh. I didn’t give through Amazon and wouldn’t for the same reasons – I prefer to donate through Australian affiliates.
    Your quote says that the amount is ‘per $100 of national income’ then talks about cents ‘per day’ or is it ‘per person per day’, apparently a different basis. Tell me, can you clarify what all that means? And what are the actual totals of $ for the USA, and how does that compare with other countries, eg Saudi or Germany or the UK?

  11. #11 Ian Gould
    January 6, 2005

    This report – providing data from 2002 – suggests than in terms of foreign aid the US ranked second in absolute terms behind Japan.

    Since then Bush has committed the US to increasing its aid significantly. But on the other hand, the US dollar has fallen substantially – eroding the value of US contributions in most local curriences or inflating the value of Japanese and European contributions depending on how you look at it.

    There really is no single, simple universal definition of aid either. For example, the US counts its substantial military aid as part of its foreign aid budget. Soem other countries don’t.

    Even when we come to the question of private philanthropic donations the definitions are unclear. One measure used by some American right-wingers includes in US private assistance remittances from Mexicans and other foreigners living in the US their families. (On this measure the Saudis and the other Gulf States would probably be the most generous contributors on the planet.)

    The most important form of assistence the US gives to the devleoping world isn’t captured by any of the usual measures – it’s access to US merkets for their exporters; US investment in their economies and accepting their emigrants. Trade and investment flows dwarf all aid.

    There are some areas of the US economy which remain substantially closed to developing world exporters but the EU and Japan certainly can’t criticise the US in this regard as their own economies are much more heavily protected.

  12. #12 Ian Gould
    January 6, 2005

    This article has mroe recent figures suggesting that the US was the largest donor in absolute terms in 2003.

    “In total dollars, the U.S. government is indisputably tops, with $16.2 billion in non-military foreign aid to poor countries in 2003, according to statistics compiled by the Paris-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which tracks aid spending by the 23 richest countries. But when measured as a percentage of national income, the U.S. ranking plummets.

    “The $16 billion is one-seventh of 1 percent — 0.15 percent — of total U.S. income,” says Steve Radelet, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington and a former Treasury Department official. “The fact is that as a dollar amount it’s the most, but as a share of our total income it’s the lowest of all major countries.”

    And the picture doesn’t change when the private donations for foreign assistance of $6.5 billion reported to the organization are included, Radelet said. While the U.S. ranking is higher in that category, the total of government and private aid is only 0.21 percent of income, leaving the U.S. still at the bottom.

    Radelet’s organization has calculated the numbers per capita. Government aid comes to only 13 cents per day per person — about the price of an expensive cup of Starbuck’s coffee each month. Private giving adds another 5 cents a day. But Norway, at the top of the list, gives $1.02 in government aid per person per day and 24 cents in private aid.

    I was surpirsed to read in the same article that private American donations to tsunami relief have only totalled US$200 million to date.

    That’s a very large absolute figure but I bleeive australian private contributions to date are around A$100 million/US$75 million.

    I don;t want to impugn American generosity and i’m sure the victims of the tsunami couldn’t care less where the aid is coming from but that figure, if correct, seems surprisingly low for a country with such a reputation for generosity.,0,5346632.story?coll=ny-top-headlines

  13. #13 Ian Gould
    January 6, 2005

    Ann Coulter (!) of all people, in the course of one of her standard exercises in slander and racial defamation puts the lie to claims that the US contributes more “than all other countries combined”: “According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2003, the U.S. gave $37.8 billion out of a total $108.5 billion in foreign aid from the world’s major countries — notable for being more than three times the amount from the next largest donor, the Netherlands, clocking in at $12.2 billion. Americans make up about 5 percent of the world’s population and give about 35 percent of the aid.”

    Except of course that 1.3 billion of the world’s people live in China, another billion live in India and around 500 million live in sub-saharan Africa.

    So I guess Ann’s point is that compared to the Ethiopian, Sudanese and Bangladeshi governments, the US is relatively generous.

  14. #14 Agricola
    January 6, 2005

    tim, you may be interested to know your friend Fumento has weighed in on the subject as well. it contains this gem: ” Draining the pools would be terribly laborious, especially since mosquitoes can breed in nothing more than a footprint. The best answer would be spraying with DDT. Unfortunately, environmentalists have demonized DDT based essentially on unfounded accusations in a 1962 book, Silent Spring.

    Yet notes Paul Driessen, author of Eco-Imperialism and senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality, “DDT is not only probably the most effective mosquito killer on earth, it’s also been tested for literally decades and has never been shown to harm people.” It’s questionable whether it even has any impact on the environment. There are other insecticides available, Driessen observes, but “they don’t have the repellency of DDT and a single DDT spraying lasts six months.””


  15. #15 Tim Lambert
    January 6, 2005

    Well, it’s not as completely wrong-headed as some of his other stuff. DDT would work as a short-term solution until mosquitos developed resistence. Of course, the rest of his stuff is wrong.

  16. #16 ben
    January 6, 2005

    The most important form of assistence the US gives to the devleoping world isn’t captured by any of the usual measures – it’s access to US merkets for their exporters; US investment in their economies and accepting their emigrants. Trade and investment flows dwarf all aid.

    hear, hear!

  17. #17 Eli Rabett
    January 7, 2005

    ben might ask himself why the best equipped army in the world has to depend on charity for sniperscopes.

  18. #18 ben
    January 7, 2005

    among the reasons, that we spend so much money on international aid. That would buy a lot of sniper scopes, no?

  19. #19 Ian Gould
    January 7, 2005

    The US economy has a GDP of something like $8-10 trillion a year. $20 billion a year in foreign aid is around 0.2-0.25% of that. Using Coulter’s figure of $38 billion ups the percentage to somewhere between 0.4 and 0.5%.

    Your federal budget is around $1.8 trillion. Defense accounts for around 30% of that, foreign aid for around 1-2% at most.

  20. #20 dsquared
    January 7, 2005

    DDT has its place in mosquito control, but nobody seriously suggests that you should spray it on pools anymore (it kills fish). It is used as a spray inside dwellings (by the way, it is in the use as a wall spray at a single application “lasts six months” – it is pretty clear that anyone claiming that DDT lasts six months in a pool of water hasn’t been thinking about his factoids even a little bit).

    The reason for this is that when people make big claims for the long-lastingness of DDT, what they’re actually talking about the reason the stuff was banned (as an agricultural pesticide) in the first place. It lasts six months as a mosquito killer on your walls precisely because it doesn’t break down and remains active. That’s why you don’t want to use it unless there are no alternatives; unless you are really poor locally, it is a better idea to spend the extra money and use more regular sprays of a less persistent insectide. In lots of parts of Asia you have to use the new insecticides anyway because the local mozzies have developed immunity; it is only in Africa that there are large popultions of non-DDT-resistant anopheles.

    DDT isn’t the hellbroth that the WWF tries to tell you it is, but some people are absolutely pathological about it; you’d think it cured the King’s Evil to listen to some folk. Of course, the reason that people like Fumento are so mad keen for DDT is that it’s a stick to beat the enviros with. In this case, I would suggest that a (metaphorical) plague is appropriate on both houses.

  21. #21 wbb
    January 7, 2005

    A certain type of right-winger is turned on by the idea of DDT being an answer to thirld-world misery. They are thrilled by the possible dilemmas (repeating dsquared) it might present to the left. It truly gets them interested in the issue. Which is a good thing in a small consciousness raising way. Similar to the rise in interest amongst war-bloggers in the idea of democracy abroad which has been forced upon them by sticking to the Bush/Wolfowitz agenda.

  22. #22 ben
    January 7, 2005

    Eli, before I forget, and before this post evaporates:

    They weren’t depending on charity for sniper scopes, of course they had their GI scopes. The charity was to get them the best sniper scopes. It’s more selfish than charity, basically, we’re paying for dead bad guys.

  23. #23 Eli Rabett
    January 8, 2005

    Ah, thanks Ben, now I know that the best equipped armed forces in the world don’t have the best sniperscopes.

    On a completely different tack, I find the entire discussion of how much various countries are giving distasteful. While the initial US response was irresponsible it was not as disgusting as the breast beating going on now about how wonderful the current level is. I come from a tradition that views charity as a duty, not as a badge to be worn by the giver.

  24. #24 ben
    January 8, 2005

    Not all snipers in the US military are issued the BEST sniper scopes money can buy, but they are issued sniper scopes as good or better than any other military are issued, and certainly adequate to do the job. We just like to pamper them when we can with fine sniper scopes.

    I come from no tradition whatsoever, but form a philosophy that views charity as neither an obligation nor a badge, just something that you may do if you choose to help fellow human beings if you think they warrant the help.

  25. #25 Eli Rabett
    January 8, 2005

    Ben, wanna bet? Why I bet you those Australian marksmen have really good sniperscopes.

    You are getting real good at those butt covering vacuous statements which work real good if everyone is too polite to call you on them. I bet you those GI sniperscopes are just as good as the best in the world armour for various motor vehicles the US sent to Iraq, and the body armour that all the soldiers and marines had, which was the best in the world, just like our emperor wears.

    OTOH one can understand why folk would not accept charity from you if that is your attitude. Or if they accepted it why they would punch you out at the first opportunity. The price would be too high except for the desparate.

  26. #26 ben
    January 8, 2005

    honestly, I don’t actually know what our snipers, or any other country’snipers are issued in terms of scopes. From the links you haven’t posted, I’m confident you do not know either. I am confident that all US snipers that are plying their trade in the field are issued some sort of adequate scopes at the very least. I think our guy just got the longest recorded kill in Iraq just recently. A Canadian holds that title for Afghanistan (and overall), IIRC.

    Emporer what?

    If my standards for giving charity are too high for the recipient, then I will not be sad if they do not want my charity. It’s a mutually acceptable situation.

    Now settle down, Eli, it seems you’ve got your knickers in a twist.

  27. #27 Eli Rabett
    January 9, 2005

    Dear Ben, I note again that you must hate America with your continued insistance that our brave boys are not issued the best of sniperscopes. Interesting that you now say you do not know what sniperscopes they are issued, but were willing to denigrate our brave men and women and those who supply them by claiming that you would help provide them with the best of sniperscopes implying that they were not so supplied. Your weak attempt to retreat to the position that they must have at least adequate scopes is a poor effort to assuage our justifiable anger. Adding after that that a commie canadian is a better sniper than one of our brave men and women is disgusting. We know where you live.

    How are your new clothes?

    As to your standards for charity, what you give is not charity, but a self promotion payment. As with everything else, anything you do is about Ben, Ben, Ben and has little to do with helping our brave men and women. How much longer do you think we will put up with this?

  28. #28 ben
    January 9, 2005

    Eli, you’ve completely lost me. I have no idea what point you’re trying to make wrt. the sniper scopes… or the commie canadian… or anything else.

    You are correct about the charity. What I give is not charity, and it is inevitably for my own benefit, at least at some level. I would not accept charity from others either, at least not in the form you give. I’d accept it in the form that I give though.

  29. #29 Ian Gould
    January 9, 2005

    “I would not accept charity from others either, at least not in the form you give. I’d accept it in the form that I give though.:


    I’ll bear than in mind if the US is ever hit by a really catastrophic natural disaster.

  30. #30 ben
    January 10, 2005


  31. #31 Eli Rabett
    January 11, 2005

    Well, Ben, I could not have said it better. The first step to compassion is the ability to imagine oneself in the shoes of others.

    I thank you for making my points and retire from the field.

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