Ignore most grim international reports that show the United States as stingy, greedy, or uncaring based on some esoteric formula that makes a Sweden or Denmark out as the world's savior. Such "studies" always ignore aggregate dollars and look at per capita public giving, and yet somehow ignore things like over $100 billion to Afghanistan and Iraq or $15 billion pledged to fight AIDS in Africa. These academic white papers likewise forget private donations, because most of the American billionaires who give to global causes of various sorts do so as either individuals or through foundations. No mention is made of the hundred of millions that are handled by American Christian charities. And the idea of a stingy America never mentions about $200 billion of the Pentagon's budget, which does things like keeping the Persian Gulf open to world commerce; protecting Europe; ensuring that the Aegean is free of shooting and that the waters between China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are relatively tranquil; and stopping nasty folk like the Taliban and Saddam from blowing up more Buddha monuments, desecrating Babylon, or ruining the ecology of the Tigris-Euphrates wetlands.
I'm sure the New York Times doesn't consider any money spent on the defense budget as contributing to global development; this morning's editorial glosses over that to look at nonmilitary aid. But Hanson is right -- spending money to help bring democracy, freedom, and infrastructure to Iraq, or to depose the Taliban, has helped improve the condition of a great number of people in the world. The Times also ignores private donations, which as many are noting are pouring in for victims of the tsunami -- and which go to support causes all over the world all the time. We should be involved in giving foreign aid: I believe it is a moral obligation. But I also don't think the government should be responsible for all the giving we should do -- rather, private citizens should and do give enormous amounts to charity -- and I think it's unfair for American critics to look only at select measures of government expenditures when considering our generosity overall.