Foreign Policy Briefing No. 27

Loose Cannon: The National Endowment for Democracy

By Barbara Conry
November 8, 1993

Executive Summary

The National Endowment for Democracy is a foreign policy loose cannon. Promoting democracy is a nebulous objective that can be manipulated to justify any whim of the special-interest groups—the Republican and Democratic parties, organized labor, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—that control most of NED’s funds. As those groups execute their own foreign policies, they often work against American interests and meddle needlessly in the affairs of other countries, undermining the democratic movements NED was designed to assist. Moreover, the end of the Cold War has nullified any usefulness that such an organization might ever have had. There is no longer a rival superpower mounting an effective ideological challenge, and democracy is progressing remarkably well on its own.

NED, which also has a history of corruption and financial mismanagement, is superfluous at best and often destructive. Through the endowment, the American taxpayer has paid for special-interest groups to harass the duly elected governments of friendly countries, interfere in foreign elections, and foster the corruption of democratic movements.

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Barbara Conry is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.