Bush’s New Vision

There wasn’t much media coverage of President Bush’s speech to the Coast Guard Academy yesterday, but it outlined a completely new vision for US humanitarian policy that could take the US in a new direction in regards to humanitarian policy. A few key pieces of the speech:

America’s national ambition is the spread of free markets, free trade, and free societies. These goals are not achieved at the expense of other nations, they are achieved for the benefit of all nations. America seeks to expand, not the borders of our country, but the realm of liberty.

This sets the tone for Bush’s vision of America in the 21st Century. No doubt the usual anti-globalization groups will be up in arms over this concept, but the values of free markets and individual autonomy are the values that make a healthy society. There is a direct and clear correlation between economic freedom and political freedom, and both lead to a higher standard of living for all. The question at hand is not should we try and support those values abroad, but how should we do so?

The advance of freedom and hope is challenged by the spread of AIDS. Today, on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people are afflicted with HIV/AIDS, including 3 million children under the age of 15. The African continent has lost 7 million agricultural workers. In some countries, almost a third of the teachers are HIV positive. A 15-year old boy living in Botswana has an 80 percent chance of dying of AIDS. It is a desperate struggle for any person, or any nation, to build a better future in the shadow of death.

If a Democrat were leading this charge, the media would have the policy plastered across the front pages. Bush is the first US president to make serious efforts to combat this deadly plague that is ruining Africa and Asia, and spreading across China, Russia, and other nations. The economic, and more importantly human costs of AIDS is immeasurable, and it is time that the United States became a true world leader in combating this plague.

Next, Bush has a nice little slam against Europe:

We can also greatly reduce the long-term problem of hunger in Africa by applying the latest developments of science. I have proposed an Initiative to End Hunger in Africa. By widening the use of new high-yield bio-crops and unleashing the power of markets, we can dramatically increase agricultural productivity and feed more people across the continent.

Yet, our partners in Europe are impeding this effort. They have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears. This has caused many African nations to avoid investing in biotechnologies, for fear their products will be shut out of European markets. European governments should join — not hinder — the great cause of ending hunger in Africa.

Anti-GMO extremists have hijacked common sense in Europe. GMOs are no different than the selectively bred crops that have existed for centuries. They can survive in a wide range of conditions and provide life-giving nutrients to people who need them. The arguments against GMOs have little substance, and the intransigence of Europe towards these crops is unacceptable. The EU must ensure that human life takes precedence over neo-Luddite propaganda. President Bush needs to make this a clarion call to the world to embrace these life-saving crops.

We must also give farmers in Africa, Latin America and Asia and elsewhere a fair chance to compete in world markets. When wealthy nations subsidize their agricultural exports, it prevents poor countries from developing their own agricultural sectors. So I propose that all developed nations, including our partners in Europe, immediately eliminate subsidies on agricultural exports to developing countries so that they can produce more food to export and more food to feed their own people.

This will be controversial in the Midwest, but eliminating farm subsidies is critical towards helping the Third World sell their agricultural products at fair prices. However, it’s fair to be skeptical about this: will Bush really push the politically risky course of removing these barriers to trade or will he flinch as he did with steel tariffs? If he stays the course, he will show principle, but I wouldn’t look for this to take place until after 2004…

For decades, many governments around the world have made sincere and generous efforts to support global development. Far too often, these funds have only enriched corrupt rulers and made little or no difference in the lives of the poor. It’s time for governments of developed nations to stop asking the simplistic question: How much money are we transferring from nations that are rich? The only question that matters is: How much good are we doing to help people that are poor? The only standard worth setting and meeting is the standard of results.

The lesson of our time is clear: when nations embrace free markets, the rule of law and open trade, they prosper, and millions of lives are lifted out of poverty and despair. So I have proposed the creation of a new Millennium Challenge Account — an entirely new approach to development aid. This money will go to developing nations whose governments are committed to three broad standards: they must rule justly; they must invest in the health and education of their people; and they must have policies that encourage economic freedom.

To fund this account, I have proposed a 50 percent increase in America’s core development assistance over the next three years. Under this proposal, our annual development assistance eventually will be $5 billion greater than it is today. I urge the Congress to give its full support to the Millennium Challenge Account. And when I’m in Europe, I will call on America’s partners to join us in moving beyond the broken development policies of the past, and encourage the freedom and reform that lead to prosperity.

Again, another slam against the crowd that charges the US with not pulling its fair share. Yes, it is true that we spend less per capita than most countries on foreign aid. However, in terms of dollar amounts, the US is by far the largest donor to international development agencies. The Millennium Challenge Account is an excellent way of supporting governments that reduce corruption and support economic reform. This will help create a climate in which governments have incentives to remove corruption, which will spur better standards of living and a less exploitive labor market throughout the Third World.

President Bush is essentially playing a game of brinksmanship with Europe. For long Europe has wrapped itself in the mantle of moral superiority claiming that they do far more than the US to help the Third World, while simultaneously supporting trade barriers, protectionist tariffs, and supporting corrupt governments like Zimbabwe. Bush is setting a different course for the United States, one that will hopefully encourage free trade, better standards of living, and increased opportunity for the Third World. If Bush can stick to his plans and make these proposals into policy it will continue to fulfill the promise of the United States as the world’s beacon of freedom and opportunity.

6 thoughts on “Bush’s New Vision

  1. Funny how Republican “vision” for the 21st century involves policy that will put money into the pockets of their own constituency and take money out of the pockets of constituencies who don’t support them. If globalization didn’t promise bountiful cash rewards for American corporations, Bush would be no more interested in “expanding the realm of liberty” across the globe than any of his predecessors were.

    Like so many puppets on the strings of the globalization fantasy, you fail to see past the dollar signs in the eyes of your party’s corporate interests to recognize that it poses a far greater long-term threat to our national security than Saddam Hussein or even Al-Qaida ever have. And that doesn’t even account for the economic carnage it will create.

    On the surface, Bush’s call for “expanding liberty” to the third world sounds admirable enough, but it’s pretty clear those words are a front for a “let’s put their nine-year-olds to work in Nike sweatshops” agenda. Ultimately, we’re just gonna have to learn the hard way about what globalization really means for a nation like the US. Chances are, there’s not gonna be much chance to correct the mistakes once they’re in plain sight however.

  2. Mark: The whole purpose of the Milennium Challenge Account is to ensure that the legal systems in Third World nations are resilient enough that those sorts of abuses don’t go on. One of the reasons for tying foreign aid to reducing corruption is that corrupt government officials are the primary way in which unscruptous factory owners can cheat the system.

    The whole argument that "globalization is exploitation" is such a sloppy cliche. Too often the same old talking points about sweatshops are raised without ever looking at what globalization really is and what it really does. Countries that are isolated from the global marketplace are practically doomed to failure in this interconnected age. Breaking down the barriers that prevent those Third World nations from participating in the global economy is absolutely critical for their success. Ensuring that they have strong and responsible governments is also critical for their well being. Doing both is a sure-fire recipe for success. Countries that do not reform corrupt governmental systems often have the most trouble integrating into the global marketplace – which is why the Millennium Challenge Account anti-corruption policies is a strong step in the right direction.

  3. Working towards a goal of global upward mobility is certainly worthy, but the structure of current globalization plans punishes the success of civilized economies by allowing the corporations who made their fortunes there to then move their facilities elsewhere.

    And you’re kind of contradicting yourself when you say that global free markets will ensure governments that will protect against abuses. Isn’t the whole idea of your free-market utopia to lift all ethical and accountability constraints from the shoulders of corporations to function exactly as they please? Your reassurance that globalism will lead to governments that will hold companies responsible flies in the face of your worldview that nothing should stand in the way of a capitalist seeking to turn a profit. If there are governments across the world that put up even marginal barriers to lawless capitalism, wouldn’t that be perceived as nothing short of a complete failure to laissez-faire ideologues like yourself?

    Incidentally, I agree with your comments about Europe’s silly prohibitions on GMO food crops. Your endorsement of Bush’s call for eliminating agriculture subsidies is quite suspect though, considering you’re in southern Minnesota whose economic vitality is completely dependent on farm welfare. Are you really so committed to ideology that you’re willing to destroy your neighbors livelihood? If so, you and I are different in more ways than simply politics.

  4. "Isn’t the whole idea of your free-market utopia to lift all ethical and accountability constraints from the shoulders of corporations to function exactly as they please?"

    Only in a very straw man version of free market ideology. Capitalism needs transparency and the rule of law to function. If these are not present, you get a form of unstable crony capitalism that produces little growth. The whole purpose of the Millennium Challenge Account is to make sure that does not happen.

    Conservatism is based on more than just the free market. Conservatism also upholds high ethical standards and personal responsibility, both of which are critical to a healthy society. Yes, there should be limits on corporate power, but those limits should be narrow enough as to maintain personal economic freedom. There’s nothing wrong with enforcing basic regulations on the market, so long as those regulations are narrowly tailored, few, are enforced equitably, and do not do more harm than good.

  5. “High ethical standards” and free-market economic structures cancel each other out. One has to leave their ethics at the door to be successful in a system where one-upping your competitors and “maximizing the efficiency of production” are integral to your survival.

    Your descriptions of regulations being acceptable so long as they “do not do more harm than good” defies the theory of the free market since one person’s idea of a policy “doing more harm than good” will be substantially different than the next guy’s. Who gets to decide whether a regulation “does more harm than good”? And who should have the capacity to revoke the regulation if they believe it “does more harm than good”? This analogy itself is a perfect illustration of just one of the many reasons why real free market economies can never exist…and never will for any significant length of time.

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