In her July 5 op-ed column, "We Must Put More on the Plate to Fight Poverty," Susan E. Rice suggested that we need to give more aid to developing countries to alleviate poverty.

Unfortunately, in the past 50 years, one sees a multitude of examples in which foreign aid prolonged dictatorships but few examples in which aid alleviated poverty. Despite a general acknowledgment that aid stands a chance of working only when given to competent governments that are not corrupt, those governments are in short supply in the developing world.

And so we continue giving money to corrupt regimes that use it to buy luxury automobiles and homes. How many years of poor results will it take to discredit this "aid" approach?

Having come from the State Department, Ms. Rice is in a position to describe the everyday incentives, at every agency, to do more, spend more and keep dispensing aid. No one at the World Bank, for example, ever advanced a career by not lending more money. These incentives, which have no counterbalancing disincentives, lead to money flowing into a black hole.

Giving more money and credit to people who are hugely in debt is not a way to create an upstanding and hardworking citizen. Likewise, giving money as foreign aid -- or debt relief, which is the same thing -- is not the way to create upstanding and functional governments that can, or want to, alleviate poverty in their countries.

The only workable way to help is to create a system in which individuals pursuing their self-interest can profit from their own work. This means not giving money to the decrepit and corrupt regimes that represent the bulk of aid recipients and giving it only to countries that are educating their citizens and respecting property rights and other aspects of the rule of law. It also means lowering trade barriers to developing countries that then could sell us things, such as sugar and finished electronic products, that we want to buy.