Two Views of Tsunami Relief: Government Doing Too Much, Not Enough

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( -, the liberal, anti-Bush advocacy group, is urging its members to help tsunami victims in South Asia because doing so is a test of global leadership -- and "the world is depending on us."

But on the other side of the coin, the Ayn Rand Institute, a group that promotes the "individual rights" philosophy of author Ayn Rand, believes the U.S. government should not help tsunami victims at all.

In an online message to its members, said it has been inundated with requests from concerned citizens, asking "how we can push through our sadness and lend a hand" to tsunami victims.

The message, dated Dec. 30, says generous Americans are ready to give -- "but the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration have made a weak initial contribution to the effort -- first offering $15 million and then $35 million when they came under pressure. Clearly, we can do more." says although $35 million sounds like a lot of money, it is "insignificant," given what's needed. "To put it in perspective, we're spending $35 million in Iraq every 7 hours," the group noted. [As of Monday, the U.S. contribution to tsumami disaster relief stood at $350 million.]

"In this hour of need, if America chooses to embrace our role as a world leader, we can have an unparalleled impact," the message says. It urges MoveOn members to pressure lawmakers to act; and it also urges Americans to donate to private relief organizations.

"Now it's time for America to show its true colors. We want to be known as a nation that leads the world with compassion, generosity, and community -- not with disastrous foreign military adventures," the message said.

"We are a nation that values human life, family, and extending freedom and opportunity to where it is most needed. We must now reach out in a serious way to do just that."

'Not the government's role'

On the other side of the argument, David Holcberg, a research associate at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif., says it's fine for private organizations and individuals to send money to tsunami victims, but he says the U.S. government should not give any money to tsunami victims -- "because the money is not the government's to give."

In a recent commentary, Holcberg writes that the U.S. government has no right to take taxpayers' hard-earned money and give it away.

"Year after year, for decades, the government has forced American taxpayers to provide foreign aid to every type of natural or man-made disaster on the face of the earth: from the Marshall Plan to reconstruct a war-ravaged Europe to the $15 billion recently promised to fight AIDS in Africa to the countless amounts spent to help the victims of earthquakes, fires and floods -- from South America to Asia," Holcberg says.

Holcberg rejects the altruism by which Americans are expected to sacrifice their wealth to provide for the needs of those who did not earn it.

The Ayn Rand Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

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