Enlightened Aid: U.S. Development as Foreign Policy in Ethiopia

Enlightened Aid: U.S. Development as Foreign Policy in Ethiopia

Enlightened Aid: U.S. Development as Foreign Policy in Ethiopia

Enlightened Aid: U.S. Development as Foreign Policy in Ethiopia


Enlightened Aidis a unique history of foreign aid. The book begins with the modern concept of progress in the Scottish Enlightenment, follows the development of this concept in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century economics and anthropology, describes its transformation from a concept into a tool of foreign policy, and ends with the current debate about foreign aid's utility.

In his 1949 inaugural address, Harry Truman vowed to make the development of the underdeveloped world a central part of the U.S. government's national security agenda. This commitment became policy the following year with the creation of Point Four--America's first aid program to the developing world. Point Four technicians shared technology, know-how, and capital with people in nations around the world. They taught classes on public health and irrigation, distributed chickens and vaccines, and helped build schools and water treatment facilities. They did all of this in the name of development, believing that economic progress would lead to social and political progress, which, in turn, would ensure that Point Four recipient nations would become prosperous democratic participants in the global community of nations. Point Four was a weapon in the fight against poverty, but it was also a weapon in the fight against the Soviet Union. Eisenhower reluctantly embraced it and Kennedy made it a central part of his international policy agenda, turning Truman's program into the United States Agency for International Development. Point Four had proven itself to be a useful tool of diplomacy, and subsequent administrations claimed it for themselves. None seemed overly worried that it had not also proven itself to be a particularly useful tool of development.

Using Ethiopia as a case study,Enlightened Aidexamines the struggle between foreign aid-for-diplomacy and foreign aid-for-development. Point Four's creators believed that aid could be both at the same time. The history of U.S. aid to Ethiopia suggests otherwise.


Harry S. Truman first introduced the concept of a global assistance program in his 1949 inaugural address, proclaiming that America’s future security demanded a strong United Nations, a flourishing European economy, a mutual security alliance, and the development of the underdeveloped world. This last point—the fourth point—he later insisted, “is in the long run the most important of all.” The idea resonated with the press and with the public, who immediately dubbed it “Point IV.” Truman told them, “We must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and our industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas” in order to make the world a better, safer place. For the most part, the American public agreed and widely celebrated this new vision. Such popularity stemmed from the program’s perceived multiple purposes and benefits. “Politically, economically, social or humanitarian, from any of these points of view, this is a good program,” explained the assistant secretary of state for economic affairs. “Whatever emphasis the individual puts on it he can find it met.” Point Four promised to do almost everything, for almost nothing. Although some were skeptical about the “almost nothing” part, they believed its central tenet of progress via economic growth.

The International Technical Cooperation Act of 1949 turned the fourth point of Truman’s speech into policy. It picked up where Truman had left off, declaring that “the United States and other nations of the world have a common interest in the material progress of all peoples, both as an end in itself and because such progress will further the advance of human freedom, the secure growth of democratic ways of life, the expansion of mutually beneficial commerce, and the development of international understanding and good . . .

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