America's Foreign Aid Policy

It's Time for America's Foreign Aid Policy to Follow Thomas Malthus’ Prescriptions

During the late 1700s, Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus each entered their predictions on the future of the world’s economies into the history books. In his writings in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Smith theorized that national economies could be continuously improved by means of the division of labor, efficient production of goods, and international trade. In An Essay on the Principle of Population, Thomas Malthus predicted that the sustainable production of food in relation to population was vital to the mere existence of national economies in order to ensure an able labor force. Smith believed that the success or failure of a nation to progress toward development was dependent upon the quantity of labor and money invested in the production of manufactured goods. Malthus calculated that labor and funds would better serve a country if invested in agricultural enterprises aimed at feeding its own people.

Their vast differences in viewpoints concerning development make it interesting to examine each author in the context of the United States’ reactions to the plight of the Third World. It seems that since the end of World War II, U.S. foreign aid policy has been largely based on the principles set forth by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. However, while Adam Smith has seemingly been the U.S. foreign aid advisor of the past, it may be time for U.S. policymakers to turn their attention to the prescriptions of Thomas Malthus in order to resolve the worsening plight of the world’s poorest.

This paper will first examine the implications and consequences of Adam Smith’s influence on U.S. foreign aid policy si...

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