The inscription on the Statue of Liberty reads, “A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.”
The Mother of Exiles, a symbol of hope to the broken, the tired and poor. In many ways, Lady Liberty personifies the very best of the American dream: charity.
Most of us have felt that tug of humanity at one point or another. A picture of a starving child in Africa, an entire city leveled by an earthquake in Haiti or lifeless bodies stranded on a beach after attempting to flee the horror of their own countries.
Our souls clamor to do something and so, each year the federal government gives billions of dollars to help the suffering world around her.
Sounds beautiful doesn’t it?
Except, this picture of America reaching out to lift the suffering, the poor and the needy is far from beautiful.
Take away the talking points, the videos of star-spangled rice bags and the efforts to clean up after the world’s messes and we are left with the reality that short-term feel good foreign aid is neither helpful nor representative of what America is actually capable of in terms of humanitarian aid.
The fact of the matter is, the work of helping the world around us only works when it’s taken out of the hands of governments and placed back into the hands of private companies, organizations and citizens.
Our Founding Fathers never intended their new government to provide foreign aid. Thomas Jefferson said in his inaugural address, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.”
There are no provisions for government foreign aid in our own Constitution because the Founding Fathers knew that a government could never and should never effectively do what people themselves felt driven to do: help others.
But, the Founding Fathers also never intended to leave their fellow brethren to suffer and struggle alone.
Within the Declaration of Independence, they stated that governments have a right to protect the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” of the American people.
The government’s role is to protect our “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” so we can go abroad as private citizens, unofficial representatives of America’s best and help others find a little of the American dream through our hands.
It’s not that we shouldn’t help, it’s that we shouldn’t let a corruptible, bureaucratic government help in our stead. The Founding Fathers wanted us to put our money, time and resources where we wanted and not to allow the government to call the shots.
According to the 2016 Charitable Aid Foundation World Giving Index, the United States ranks second in giving (Myanmar is first). Seventy-three percent of those surveyed reported helping a stranger in the past month, 63 percent report donating money in the past month and 46 percent said they have volunteered their time in the past 30 days.
As Americans, we are naturally inclined towards charity and aid, and there is absolutely no reason why billions of dollars need to be funneled, regulated and distributed through the discriminating funnels of government.
Frankly, the inscription on Lady Liberty is often read wrong.
Lady Liberty is not the American government; Lady Liberty is each one of us.
We should raise our individual torches beckoning for the poor, the tired and wind-tossed travelers to come find relief in the hundreds of humanitarian organizations and endeavors and millions of privately invested dollars instead of government-funded foreign aid.