Making “Point 4” Work:
Some Unsolved Problems in Aiding Backward Areas
Few actions by an American Chief Executive ever produced a more whole-souled response than President Truman’s call in January 1949 for a “Bold New Program” to help the undeveloped areas of the world. Even the professional opponents of idealism were silenced by the warmth with which the proposal was greeted. To be sure, there were warnings against playing Santa Claus to the world—it is quite wonderful how this amiable saint has become in recent times the symbol of all that is foolish—but almost no one came forward to argue that we should tend to our own affairs and leave the Hottentots in peace and poverty.
One can only speculate on the reasons for this widespread approval. I have no doubt that in the main it can be attributed to good nature and generosity. However, it is also probable that some Americans saw a better justification for their own comparative wellbeing when it was accompanied by efforts to help those who are less fortunate. There were also a good many sententious pronouncements, which some people no doubt took seriously, that if we did not raise the world to our own level of living we would be dragged down to the level of the world. It can be assumed that fear of Communism, that great buttress to the golden rule in our time, had something to do with the endorsement.
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