The Immorality of Foreign Aid

Sean Gabb, speaking on BBC West Midlands Radio on the 18th September 2012. He makes these points against foreign aid:

  1. That, as the late Peter Bauer said, it takes money from poor people in rich countries and gives it to rich people in poor countries;
  2. That it also gives large amounts of money to friends and clients of the British ruling class – see, for example, the revelation that £500m of the aid budget goes to well-paid consultants, including Adam Smith International;
  3. That is is also largely given with strings attached, so that the recipients buy British goods – this being a roundabout subsidy to well-connected business interests in this country;
  4. That it enables funds to be diverted in recipient countries to evil or just grandiose ends – for example, every pound spent on feeding the poor in some African countries is another pound he local rulers can spend on bullets; or the fact that British aid to India is about equal to the cost of the Indian space programme;
  5. That where the money is not spent badly, it is often just stolen;
  6. That, if we want to help the really poor in other countries, we should trade with them, or assist them to throw off the rulers who have kept them or made them poor.


  1. Brilliant points – but who is Adam Smith International? Any link to other organisations that support the ideas of Adam Smith? I’m a bit surprised – Adam Smith would have supported free trade – not handouts.

  2. The state and its hangers-on and their justifications for state funding – they are no different to all previous elites who embezzled money based on claims to moral superiority.

    I was struck by this when watching the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon about the life of St. Francis of Assisi. A very lovely film by the way.

    Watch part 3 at starting at 11 minutes and 25 seconds in and watch for three minutes. The scene is continued at

    The very fat and well fed bishop is having a huge meal at the church’s expense and doesn’t want to attend to the hubbub re: Francis of Assisi outside. “Do you think I will interrupt my huge meal for this squabble? What heresy!” When asked to leave his meal and sort out the squabble, he cries, “I’ve only just got over Lent, and here you are imposing another one on me!” By the time the Bishop addresses the crowd, he says “how dare you disturb us when we are in the middle of saying our office? Is this a damned plot to rob the church of its authority? Holy mother church must punish those who subvert established authority?”

    Mutatis mutandis, it is the same today. While the charities and consultants are busy with their expense claims and pension funds, they will exclaim, “do you want to rob the starving millions of their aid packages?”

  3. I think I’ll get the parts down from youtube and watch it actually, dj. It looks good from the “trailer” that you flagged! It will be part of my education, which was lacking in some quarters. (That’s not a wind-up, by the way.)

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