Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Disaster Aid to Japan

The picture above is from the earthquake and resulting tsunami that have ravaged Japan. Like other international disasters, people, companies, and nations are rushing to their aid. I've been a pretty big critic of foreign aid in past. In Haiti's recent crisis I've recommended trade, not aid to help them rebuild their country. I've even pointed out the flaws of personally volunteering abroad, especially on short term non-technical trips. I stand by those ideas. However, in Japan's case, foreign aid may meet my standard of doing more long term good than harm. Not everyone agrees with me.

Reuters blogger Felix Salmon makes a compelling argument on why Japan, the world's 2nd/3rd largest economy, should not receive the limited funds of charity. Although I agree with him complaint about how we focus too much on sudden tragedies while ignoring ongoing ones, I think on Japan he might be wrong. It is Japan's stable political and economic system that makes it a good candidate for donation. The problems that normally go with foreign aid, corruption and misuse, are much less likely to occur there.

Not surprisingly, I'm not the only one supporting donations to Japan. My go-to-for-everything Tyler Cowen supports it and my local comedy theater is raising money too. That's right, for this weekend's shows 50% of all ticket sales will go to relief aid. As usual I'll be performing this Friday night at 10:30. This particular show is free, but as I'd like it, donations will be accepted at the door. The photos are from the Boston Globe's Big Picture blog. Here are some equally wonderful interactive before and after photos.


  1. I think another difference with Japan is that we may never see a return on our money spent in Haiti, but we will in Japan. Though one bad thing about aid is that countries have tariffs and they are usually on the things most needed in a emergency, like food, and those tariffs don’t go away in an emergency.

  2. Great point Eric. I know our politicians don't say it, but I know they think it, when we give we are hoping for a return.

    Tyler Cowen seems to think that Japan is about to go through a major transition and that our aid can help us shape or at least not lose during it.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.