We had a good time at the Yaron Brook v. Dan Slater debate at the U of Chicago. Dan Slater is a bright young professor who acknowledged that foreign aid often had untoward consequences, but thought it served practical purposes nonetheless. Yaron Brook was more forceful, more controversial, and more consistent. Actually, towards the end of the discussion, Dr. Slater remarked that Dr. Brook was remarkably consistent.
I will try to write up something more detailed. I have 2 napkins-full of notes. But it is midnight and I still have to walk the dogs and I have to be at work tomorrow morning.
Slater did argue that foreign aid served our foreign policy goals. Pakistan was a case in point, he said. We gave Pakistan a bunch of cash, and they give us some help with Al Qaida and Taliban people in the borderlands. Brook argued that it was a waste to give them the money, that Pakistan would have done nothing to us if we had simply gone into the borderlands with our military, because they would have been afraid to engage.
On the moral point, the altruists turned to the Rawlsian veil of ignorance argument in defense of international aid. Brook was having none of it.
The dramatic high point, I think, came in the case of the question: is it all right for the government to take 5 dollars from you if it saved some foreign child from death by whooping cough? Brook was asked if he would want his 5 dollars back in that case. He said yes. He said he wanted to choose for himself which charitable cause he supported, that others had no business sticking their nose in his business and that others had no idea what he might need that 5 dollars for. Moreover, he argue, if the government can take 5 dollars, why not 100 dollars, why not all your money? After all, there are probably hundreds of thousands of kids who need 5 dollars just for whooping cough.
Slater replied that was a form of the slippery slope argument, of which he disapproved. Brook replied that slippery slopes were part of real life, that the US income tax was a good example of a slippery slope in American history that had proved very slippery indeed.
Writing about this is a slippery slope,
And I'm sliding in deep.
If I keep writing I have no hope
Of getting sleep.