Do we help those at home or those abroad? The answer should be obvious: we do both! Why? Because we can. Yes, it’s that simple.
I had a discussion recently with some good friends, friends who are more conservative that I. One friend suggested living in an isolationist society. He was serious. His reason was that we help out other countries and we go where aid is needed but no one is going to come to our aid if and when we need it.
While that might be true, it should not matter. We should give aid because we can not because we’re hoping for something in return. If your neighbor’s house is on fire, you don’t haggle over the price of the hose; you give him the hose and turn on the water.
Do people at home need help? Absolutely! Do people abroad need help? Yes and we should help them as well. We live in a small world growing smaller every day. If our neighbor is not doing well, we need to do what we can to help them because we are only as strong and as good as the weakest among us. That sentiment should be applied both domestically and internationally.
I suggested to my friend that we must provide help to keep the avenues of free trade open. He suggested we don’t need free trade and went back to his isolationist viewpoint. He said that free trade is unnecessary as we have everything we need right here. In addition, we need to keep our supplies and products our own so that we have them readily available if and when we go to war. I was immediately reminded of this quote from quite possibly my favorite television show of all time, The West Wing:
You want to know the benefits of free trade? Food is cheaper. Food is cheaper! Clothes are cheaper. Steel is cheaper. Cars are cheaper. Phone service is cheaper. You feel me building a rhythm here? That’s because I’m a speech writer – I know how to make a point. It lowers prices, it raises income. You see what I did with ‘lowers’ and ‘raises’ there? It’s called the science of listener attention. We did repetition, we did floating opposites, and now you end with the one that’s not like the others. Ready? Free trade stops wars. And that’s it. Free trade stops wars! And we figure out a way to fix the rest.
You don’t go to war with someone you trade with and with someone who needs your goods and whose goods you need. You isolate yourself and you become irrelevant. If that’s what you want, fine, move to eastern Montana. But, for the rest of us who want to participate in this global society, we have to figure out a way to work together. That is not accomplished by isolating yourself and refusing to help those in need when you have every capability to do so. That’s not how the world gets better.