All Commentary
Friday, August 11, 2023

Can We Please Stop Sending Money to Ukraine Already?

Regardless of where you stand on the war itself, American taxpayers should not be forced to back one side against their will.

Image Credit: ArmyAmber - Pixabay

The Biden administration asked Congress for $40 billion in funding on Thursday, including $13 billion in emergency defense aid for Ukraine and $8 billion in humanitarian aid for the war-torn country. The requested package also includes $12 billion in disaster response funding, $4 billion for the southern border, and funding for a host of other initiatives.

Congress has approved four rounds of aid to date for Ukraine, totalling $113 billion dollars. The most recent funding was approved last December and consisted of $45 billion for Ukraine and NATO allies as part of a $1.7 trillion spending bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer enthusiastically welcomed the new request. “The latest request from the Biden administration shows America’s continued commitment to helping Americans here at home and our friends abroad,” he said.

The Republicans, meanwhile, are striking a more cautious tone. “I look forward to carefully reviewing the Administration’s request to make sure it is necessary and appropriate to keep America safe, secure our borders, support our allies, and help communities rebuild after disasters,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Unwilling Benefactors

Taxpayers, meanwhile, are surely wondering just how long this spending is going to drag on. Will the government continue funding the war in perpetuity? Is there any exit plan here?

More to the point, American funding of the war in Ukraine should never have been a thing in the first place. Regardless of where you stand on the war itself, American citizens who want no part in this conflict should not be coerced into funding one side of it.

The justification for this funding that we hear from politicians is that it helps protect “American interests.” But who are they to decide what our interests are and how to protect them? It’s an awfully paternalistic attitude when you think about it. “We know what’s best for the country,” they are effectively saying, “so we will decide for you what your money will be spent on.”

In this case, that means war machines.

And what of the people who deeply oppose such funding? “Tough luck” is the reply.

Another response is to chastise detractors for being “isolationists.” “You can’t ignore what’s going on in the rest of the world,” they say. But being against government funding of the war hardly has to mean ignoring the rest of the world. Individuals and organizations can get involved in all sorts of ways using funds from voluntary donors.

“But that won’t be enough money,” comes the response.

It might not be enough to satisfy your desires. But why should your preferences regarding someone’s finances take precedence over their own? Taking people’s money by force and using it to fund a cause that many of them deeply disagree with is a gross injustice. And the fact that you personally think it would be “good for America” doesn’t make it any more justified.

A Foreign Policy of Peace

In his book For a New Liberty, the economist and political philosopher Murray Rothbard lays out the ethical problems with war, one of which is the fact that it is financed coercively. “Since all governments obtain their revenue from the thievery of coercive taxation,” he writes, “any mobilization and launching of troops inevitably involve[s] an increase in tax-coercion.”

Though the US is only providing financial aid to Ukraine at this time, this is still an act of coercion, and it’s important to identify it as such. It’s not just that the government’s actions are impractical or distasteful. They are wrong. They are unjust. They are immoral.

The French economist Frédéric Bastiat sharply condemned such coercive transfers of money, which he referred to as legal plunder.

“But how is this legal plunder to be identified?” he asks. “Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”

Bastiat’s council is to abolish all such laws. “The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights,” Bastiat continues. “He will claim that the state is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry…Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests.”

Bastiat’s words are as relevant today as ever. The vested interests tell us that our very civilization depends on them receiving funding. They tell scary stories about what will happen should the flow be cut off. But we’d be fools to take them at their word.

So what’s the alternative? Simply practice the foreign policy of Thomas Jefferson: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.”

This article was adapted from an issue of the FEE Daily email newsletter. Click here to sign up and get free-market news and analysis like this in your inbox every weekday.


  • Patrick Carroll is the Managing Editor at the Foundation for Economic Education.