Today, Governor Mitt Romney and former President Bill Clinton walked across a stage, side-by-side, to stand together at a lectern before a large crowd. The meeting of the 8th annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York City had begun; Romney was about to speak. Yes, the guy who saved Obama’s bacon at the Democratic National Convention offered kind introductory words for Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney (see link in next paragraph).
Before getting to the meat of his remarks, Governor Romney began with some humor. After Clinton’s intro, Romney quipped “If there’s one thing we’ve learned this election season, it’s that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good… After that introduction, I guess all I have to do is wait a day or two for the bounce.” (To see Bill Clinton’s introduction and Romney’s good-humored joke click here.)
Drawing from his years of experience in the private sector, Romney offered a fresh, new look at the issue of futile foreign aid. He tied the efficacy of foreign aide to the power of free enterprise: “…[E]conomic freedom is the only force in history that has consistently lifted people out of poverty – and kept people out of poverty.”
In his speech, Romney noted the difference freedom makes in creating prosperous societies:
When I was in business, I traveled to many other countries. I was often struck by the vast difference in wealth among nations. True, some of that was due to geography. Rich countries often had natural resources like mineral deposits or ample waterways. But in some cases, all that separated a rich country from a poor one was a faint line on a map. Countries that were physically right next to each other were economically worlds apart. Just think of North and South Korea.
I became convinced that the crucial difference between these countries wasn’t geography. I noticed the most successful countries shared something in common. They were the freest. They protected the rights of the individual. They enforced the rule of law. And they encouraged free enterprise. They understood that economic freedom is the only force in history that has consistently lifted people out of poverty – and kept people out of poverty.
Romney’s foreign aid plan wouldn’t be just handing out aid packages; he believes in providing a hand UP, not a hand out to needy nations, which would improve people’s lives around the world and be a step toward making the world a safer place for Americans. He continued to extol the virtues of assistance programs that unleash free enterprise, resulting in more durable prosperity:
A temporary aid package can jolt an economy. It can fund some projects. It can pay some bills. It can employ some people some of the time. But it can’t sustain an economy—not for long. It can’t pull the whole cart—because at some point, the money runs out.
But an assistance program that helps unleash free enterprise creates enduring prosperity. Free enterprise is based on mutual exchange—or, rather, millions of exchanges—millions of people trading, buying, selling, building, investing. Yes, it has its ups and downs. It isn’t perfect. But it’s more durable. It’s more reliable. And ultimately, as history shows, it’s more successful.
Romney introduced the idea of ‘Prosperity Pacts’, encouraging microfinance, and more:
Romney said he would negotiate trade agreements and offer “prosperity pacts” in the Middle East and other developing nations to encourage open markets in exchange for U.S. aid. “The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise,” Romney said.
In a reflection of his policy on welfare in the United States, Romney said work is the key to lifting people out of poverty abroad by providing self-esteem and a grounding in reality instead of fanaticism.