Foreign Aid is a ridiculously complex topic. I really enjoyed diving into it in today’s video. I’m afraid I probably oversimplified things, but I’m excited to learn more about this topic for future videos. The first thing I noticed about foreign aid, is that contrary to the way we talk about it in US politics, very, very little money goes into this. The exception, from the US perspective, is aid that we give to countries who turn around and use most of the money to buy US weapons. Egypt, Israel, and Jordan, our three largest recipients, are all examples of this. Countries we have destroyed, like Iraq and Afghanistan also get a lot of money, for obvious reasons. As this video illustrates, foreign aid is mostly used for short term political uses, not to pursue larger humanitarian goals.
There certainly are really great things that foreign aid has done. Helping to stamp out AIDS and other diseases in Africa is one great thing we do. But a lot of that is private charity, and all of those efforts combined are chicken feed compared to the military related aid that the US shovels down the throats of multiple countries. The EU structural funds, one of the topics of today’s video, are an example of enlightened self interest. The rich European countries know that the best way to ensure a peaceful continent, and avoid having to have much military spending, is to fire hose money into the poorer countries in the continent. I wish the US did more of this. If the cost of a single aircraft carrier was spent on aid to Tunisia, we could really transform the region, and the world, for the better. It’s a shame we don’t do that.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Ladies and Gentlemen… foreign aid is racist. Not the idea of it, but the way it works in practice. Money given to poorer countries can have incredibly positive results, but countries are treated radically differently just because of where they are, and who is being helped. Let’s take a look at one very prominent example.
In October of 2018 Poland passed an important milestone. The goal posts are obviously somewhat arbitrary, and the criteria depends on the organization, but according to the FTSE, a London based financial news service, Poland officially became a developed country. It is no longer an emerging economy. Poland has made extraordinary progress. It only freed itself from centuries of oppression by Germans, Austrians and Russians in 1918. Then the catastrophe of World War II was followed by 44 years of Communist mismanagement. Back in 1989 Poland was a wreck, environmentally and economically. Making it to the ranks of developed countries in just 29 short years of frantic reform is amazing.
I don’t want to sell this accomplishment short in any way. What the Polish people have acheived is extraordinary. It’s a model that all developing countries should try to emulate. But what I have a problem with is the way this accomplishment is being used by certain people with certain agendas. Recently, an alt-right YouTube personality I’m not going to dignify by naming, used a trip to Poland to come out as a white supremacist. If you’re not familiar with some of the important details of Poland’s progress, it can be easy to fall into this trap. The argument goes kind of like this…
Poland is the highest flier, but most of the formerly Communist countries of Eastern Europe have made similar progress. Millions of people in these countries were slaughtered during World War Two, and many of the most important cities were destroyed. For four decades after that, the Countries of the Eastern Bloc weren’t just mismanaged, their economies were actively subjugated to the economic benefit of the Soviet Union. They were arguably just as oppressed as any colonized country in Africa or Asia, and they became independent much more recently. Yet just three decades later they’re mostly democratic, and in much better shape economically than most of the African, Asian and Latin American countries that are constantly whining about the legacy of Imperialism. Is there something different about these Eastern European Countries?
I’m just asking questions here. Is there something superior about White people or European culture? Are White People just smarter or better suited to economic development or something? Uh, no. Let me shut this argument down right now. White people just get better development aid. Like worlds better. Have you ever heard of European Structural Funds?
The Structural Funds are the EU’s secret weapon. Every year tens of billions of Euros flow from the EU’s richer regions to its poorer regions. Anti-EU feeling has been on the rise in Europe over the past decade. Italy, Poland, Hungary and others have elected folks who campaigned on Euroskepticism. But when these folks make it into power, they all change their tune pretty damn quickly. Viktor Orban of Hungary in particular loves to outrage the bureaucrats of Brussels. But he’d never dream of taking Hungary out of the EU. His government would lose billions.
Let’s take Poland as an example. In 2017, Poland contributed around 3 billion Euros to the EU budget. But the EU spent almost 12 billion Euros in Poland. That’s 9 billion Euros of what I think it is very fair to call development aid. Now in the United States, where we can spend a billion dollars on a single building, that may not seem like much, but compared to most foreign aid, it’s an extraordinary amount of money. As many of you like to remind me, Israel is the largest beneficiary of aid from the United States. Israel gets half to a third as much from the United States as Poland gets from the EU every year.
And put simply, EU structural funds are awesome. Like most developing countries, corruption is a problem in Eastern Europe. EU funds tend to be well administered. Unlike aid from the United States, that mostly goes to paying professionals from the United States, EU structural funds tend to go more or less directly to useful stuff. According to the Guardian, the 56 billion Euros spent in Poland between 2007 and 2013 built a modern road system, schools and tons of other key factors in Poland’s economic miracle. After World War II, the US embarked on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe. It’s seen as a great success, and one of the best things the US has ever done. The Guardian, adjusting for inflation, reckons that between 2007 and 2020 Poland, will have received the value of two personal Marshall plans from the European Union.
Considering Poland’s nightmarish history with Europe, the Poles deserve every penny of aid they got. But other folks deserve it too. Again, Poland is a model for what foreign aid can accomplish. I don’t want white people to get worse aid here, I want everyone to get Poland’s treatment. Of course, that’s not practical. It would be too expensive. We should pick a few countries. My first nominee would be Tunisia.
If we really care about democracy, we should want to prove it is possible in the Arab world. That’s exactly what the Tunisians have been trying to do since the Arab Spring in 2011. Many countries have recognized this, and they have received more aid than many African countries. But it’s still limited to the kinds of aid that non-white people get. Poland gets 8 to 9 billion dollars a year from the EU. According to the International Aid Transparency Initiative, that’s a similar figure to the entire amount that Tunisia has gotten since democratizing in 2011. Not from the EU, from everybody, US, EU, and multilateral institutions like the World Bank. And that’s over 9 years, not one.
Apparently the international community doesn’t really care about Democracy in Tunisia. Oh and by the way, I don’t want to mislead with my emphasis on the former communist countries in Europe.
The structural funds were beefed up when the European Economic Community was superseded by the EU’s founding in 1993, but parts of the structural funds have existed since the 1950s.
So this awesome foreign aid for white people has been a big part of the economic development story across Europe for half a century, from Ireland to Spain, to the less successful, but still damn impressive stories of Portugal and Greece. How about we give some non-white countries this treatment? How about Tunisia? Next time we’ll talk a little more about that worthy country.
Thanks for watching, please subscribe, and click on the bell next to the subscribe button to get notifications whenever I upload a video.