The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

USA trails in giving to others

with 4 comments

Just below is an interesting and important chart. Most Americans, I’m told, believe foreign aid to be a rather huge part of the national budget. And the President has often labeled US contributions to certain issues as the largest in the world.

In raw dollars, he may be correct. But it’s an apples and oranges comparison.

Say you were comparing the giving of two churches, both of which give a thousand dollars to world hunger. Is the giving the same? Depends on what’s left.

Suppose one church has five thousand members and an annual income of ten million dollars, while the other church has fifty members and an annual income of a hundred thousand dollars. The former gave one hundredth of one percent of its income; the latter gave a tenth. Both gifts may be commendable, but which is sacrificing for world hunger?

Likewise, it’s not very helpful to compare national giving of very large nations with that of small and medium-sized ones. So let’s look at foreign aid and military spending as percentages of gross domestic income. And we’ll see where nations’ hearts are in alleviating world suffering:

clipped from

Dave Pollard’s environmental philosophy, creative works, business papers and essays.

Richer and Meaner chart 2

  blog it

Now it may be worth making a raw dollar comparison of military spending among nations, for nations compete against other nations militarily, and so many dollars buys so many guns. For that, see the next post.

Tags: , , , , , , , Monte Asbury


Written by Monte

August 21, 2007 at 12:42 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Hi Monte

    This is an excellent example of why “a picture paints a thousand words”. This really puts it into proper perspective. Thanks for posting that.

    Monte says: Thanks, Chuck, well said! And welcome!


    August 23, 2007 at 10:08 am

  2. very, very interesting statistics. thanks.

    Monte Says: You bet, John – thanks for coming by. The web really does contribute to democracy. We never could get to this kind of info in the old days.

    John Smulo

    August 22, 2007 at 9:20 pm

  3. I’m reminded of the story in Mark 12:41-43

    The temple was big and beautiful. Many people came there to worship God. Inside the temple were some big money boxes. People put money in them. The money was for the temple and all that was used in worship to God.
    One day Jesus sat across from the money boxes. He saw many rich people put in lots of money. Then one poor woman, a widow, walked up to the boxes. She put in two small copper coins worth less than a penny.
    Jesus looked at his friends. “This poor woman put in more than the rich people did,” he said. “Here’s why: the rich people still have much money left. But this woman only had two coins. She did not have any more money. The rich people only gave part of what they had. She gave all of what she had.”

    Monte says: Yes, that’s intriguing. It’s like true generosity isn’t gauged by how much is given, but how much is left. The beauty of it is that the poorest person, in God’s sight, may be the greatest giver. True equality!


    August 22, 2007 at 7:57 pm

  4. I see your point. The smaller church is making a larger sacrifice relative to its income. And I agree that the US should step up aid (well, not aid, but investing in developing nations; is a great lecture highlighting this point), but when it comes down to the amount of aid delivered, does Zimbabwe care that the US spent less than Italy comparatively, or that they gave the most out of all?

    Monte Says: Good point, and I certainly agree. For Zimbabwe’s purposes (or, say, Zambia, which might be a less controversial example), the more the better. Perhaps a better use for these data (percentage of GDI) is as a reality check for the givers rather than the receivers of aid. It’s merely another way for Americans to examine their national role in the international community, in hopes of making that role better informed and more intentional.
    Thanks for your comment! Fascinating link, too!


    August 21, 2007 at 11:32 pm

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