Kindness Kills?

Why humanitarianism is often counterproductive

The new universalist religion of humanitarianism and human rights--a faith without borders, like globalization, or like communism in the old days--has its optimists, who imagine a future of triumphant international decency, and its pessimists, who think expecting people to be nice is a mug's game. David Rieff is a pessimist--a gloomy pessimist at that. At the end of his ruthlessly lucid book A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis (Simon & Schuster; 367 pages), Rieff, with disconsolate satisfaction, quotes Alberto Navarro, former director of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office, as saying, "Mankind is slowly, but in a very determined...

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