No Relief

In The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry Goldwater wrote:

Foreign aid has been characterized by waste and extravagance both overseas and in the agencies that administer it . . . Our present Foreign Aid Program, in sum, is not only ill-administered, but ill conceived. It has not made the free world stronger, it has made America weaker. . . . The American government docs not have the right, much less the obligation, to try to promote the economic and social welfare of foreign peoples. The Foreign Aid program is unconstitutional.

How greatly the terms of our national debate have changed since Goldwater's book first appeared thirty years ago. Today, foreign aid is a sacred cow that enjoys the unstinting support of the Democrats and many—probably including almost all elected—conservative Republicans. Under Ronald Rea gan, who was elected President in 1980 with the explicit pledge to reduce wasteful federal spending, foreign aid expanded. A campaign has been launched in recent months, led in the public media by the ubiquitous Ben Wattenberg, to sharply increase the transfer of American tax dollars to foreign lands via aid programs.

What has definitely not changed is the validity of Senator Goldwater's critique of foreign aid. Far from being the "servant of our national interest" that President Reagan called it in 1987, it has turned out to be an unqualified...

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