The question has been part and parcel of the ongoing political debate around Obamacare and other federal entitlement programs on the chopping block in budget battles. Who do we trust more to administer charity to the masses…the federal government or the individual?
I’ve been told by a Progressive friend that it’s cruel and cavalier to think that government shouldn’t have a role in helping people because simply because life has no guaranteed outcomes.
It is not cruel or cavalier to point out what is obvious to everyone. Nobody can say that… from the moment they were born until today that they have been able to cheat the laws of probability and relative reaction 100% of the time. In fact, I think it would be a service to everyone if the “hard knocks” philosophy were taught in schools again as it once was. Sadly, that philosophy has morphed into “Whatever bad thing happens to you, the federal government will get you out of it.” It’s a ridiculous and naïve way to think, but it’s been seeping into our society over the past 85 years of social entitlement programs.
In thinking about this more, I was considering the “Dickensian England” state Progressives like to believe this nation to be in at the moment. It’s nowhere near that yet, but is about to be due to the government debt bubble threatening to burst as a result of runaway federal entitlement spending. I was reminded of Scrooge’s conversation with the two men seeking donations to charity from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In Googling the original text to make that point here, I found an excellent article published by Hillsdale College that makes my point much better than I could myself. (Emphasis and links are mine)
In the same year that Dickens published A Christmas Carol, Herbert Spencer published an essay, “The Proper Sphere of Government.” Spencer wrote that one of the most under-looked and most harmful effects of the Poor Laws of Britain – their welfare system – was that the wealthy would lose their sense of charity and feeling towards the less fortunate.
He put in an essay the very point that Scrooge was making in Dickens’s novel. Spencer wrote that wealthier classes would feel the annoyance towards the forced contributions to the poor that is evident in Scrooge’s response to the gentlemen that were asking him to help out the poor. One hundred and sixty-seven years on from Dickens and Spencer we must ask ourselves: Have we arrived at the point where we see those less fortunate than we as an annoyance, something to be taken care of by our government with the taxes taken out of our paychecks so we don’t have to be bothered to even think about them?
When the federal government takes your tax dollars to pay for someone else’s doctor’s visit you are not being charitable. You had no choice in the matter.
The federal bureaucrat who sent the doctor the check is not being charitable for he or she is spending your money, not theirs.
The doctor is not being charitable, for he is being paid for their service.
On the other hand, St. Peter’s Free Clinic in Hillsdale is an example of true charity. Volunteers provide the medical care and other services, local residents and churches provide donations to pay for the medicine and supplies, and those who receive the service recognize the love and respect that they are being given.
America remains the most charitable of all nations. Despite the recession, American charitable giving exceeded $300 billion in 2009. Probably every reader of this column has given to some charity this year. But this Christmas we should make an effort to examine how we can make the transition from a government that makes us into Scrooges to a government that gives us the opportunity to be truly philanthropic.