The case for US foreign aid

Doug Bandow wants us to believe that foreign assistance is the cause not only of failed states and corruption around the world, but also of world poverty ("The Case Against Foreign Aid," Sept. 29). And he could find precious little evidence of progress in the developing world in the last 30 years. It is one thing to have honest differences over the efficacy of supporting foreign assistance programs; it is quite another to misrepresent the reality.

Since 1970 literacy in developing countries has risen by almost 50 percent; infant mortality has been cut in half; life expectancy has risen by a decade; the percentage of people living in absolute poverty has been cut almost in half; smallpox has been eliminated from the world and polio, already eliminated from the Western Hemisphere, is on the eve of global eradication.

The United States, thanks to the generosity of the American people, has been at the forefront of these achievements with its foreign assistance. And the US Agency for International Development (USAID) works to build leadership, strong institutions, and accountability in countries where assistance is rendered. But if we were to believe Mr. Bandow, foreign assistance is just one big funnel moving American taxpayer dollars directly into the pockets of corrupt foreign officials. What USAID is really all about is the transfer of knowledge. What the developing countries want from us is not access to our dollars, but access to the institutions and values that have made this country so great. Yes, there is a cost to this, about one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget.

Development is a journey, not a destination. The process of helping the global community alleviate poverty, reduce infant mortality, open markets, and apply basic democratic principles is complex and long-term. It is also eminently worthwhile. The investments we make today toward a more prosperous, stable global society will make a world of difference for the generations that will lead us into the next millennium.

J. Brady Anderson Washington Administrator, USAID

Japan's lax nuclear regulation

Regarding your article "Fallout of Japan's nuclear policy," Oct. 1: As we learn more about the nuclear accident at Tokaimura, it seems reminiscent of one 40 years ago here in Oak Ridge. Then as now, the consequences are limited to the facility itself because the physics of the chain reaction in a processing tank confine what is going on to the immediate vicinity. Still, there is no excuse for controls to be so lax as to allow such an event. It points to a large-scale failure by Japan to properly regulate its nuclear program and maintain world-class standards.

The most important lesson of this accident may be that we cannot tolerate anything but the highest standards for nuclear power.

Theodore M. Besmann Oak Ridge, Tenn. Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Faith in public service

Thank you for the recent review of Jedediah Purdy's book "For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today" ("The antidote to ennui," Sept. 16). I was also home-schooled and am now the president of student government for both Kennesaw State University and the entire University System of Georgia. So often I find skepticism and criticism of student government and politics in general. Either we are written off as unimportant to the prevalent "private life" or we are lumped with politicians who are neither statesmen nor representative of their constituents. Any attempt to impact our society is then written off. I hope people will read this book and respond with renewed faith in efforts to renew public life today.

John M. Fuchko III Kennesaw, Ga.

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