Aid and the Angry American

An op-ed in the Orlando Centenial takes umbrage at the suggestion of Business for Diplomatic Action Inc., in their "World Citizens Guide", that Americans travelling abroad should not talk too much about American pride. They respond:

To be American is to be bold and outspoken. And that bravado is no small part of the American urge to help other nations suffering famine, disease and disaster.

Let's look at the actual advice given by the Guide:

Be Proud, not arrogant: People around the world are fascinated by the U.S. and the lives we Americans live. They admire our openness, our optimism, our creativity and our "can-do" spirit. But that doesn't mean they feel less proud of their country and culture. Be proud of being an American, but resist any temptation to present our way as the best way or the only way.

The op-ed piece neatly ignores what the Guide actually is claiming (don't present the American way as the best or only way) and depicts the advice as being against having pride in America.

Yet, if if the op-ed got the Guide correct, there are problems. The American "urge to help" that the op-ed calls on is effectively (or at least comparatively) a mirage. Taking numbers from 2005, the Center for Global Development ranked the US 19th (of 21) in the aid component of "commitment to development" and 12th overall (source). Per-capita foreign aid assistance in 2002 from the US government was $0.13. This was exceeded by the aid from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland & the UK. While private aid ($0.05) relatively fared a little better, it was still exceeded by that from Ireland (0.06), Switzerland (0.07), and Sweden (0.24). (source). That's right, Ireland, Switzerland and Sweden ... well known for boasting about their way of life!

The op-ed ends with "So, world, please bear with us. We're Americans." Unfortunately, that just will not cut it.


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