WHAT IS CHARITY?
WHAT IS COMPASSION?
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© May 2012, The Center For Development
Many people feel that welfare programs are the mark of an advanced civilization - a "kinder and gentler" nation. However, one must remember there are two types of welfare - private welfare and government welfare. They are very different with entirely different consequences. Let us examine the differences.
CHARITY MUST BE VOLUNTARY
The donors. Let us examine the consequences of public versus private charity. One principle is that charity must be voluntary. Private charity is voluntary. Government welfare programs are not voluntary.
If one pays taxes for social programs under the threat of a jail sentence for tax evasion, it is hardly charity. It is coercion! When one is forced to contribute, the entire spirit of charity is ruined. No longer is charity an expression of caring and compassion for others. It is a forced morality that isn't moral at all. It takes on a viciousness - "Contribute (pay your taxes), or go to jail".
This occurs because the donor has no control over how much and when money is given. This is harmful as a sense of control is a beneficial quality in society. Anger results in less altruism, instead of encouraging sharing. High taxes also leave the people with less money for private giving.
There are other consequences. Voluntary private charity helps the donor to learn sharing and generosity. Government programs in which money is collected by force breed anger and resentment.
With government welfare type of “charity”, the donor’s attitude becomes “leave me alone, I already gave in paying my taxes”. Also, and even more damaging, if one is faced with the choice of paying a high percentage of one's income to the government or not working as hard, many people choose the latter. This results in less money available for charity and less productivity in the entire society. This is an important negative consequence of high tax rates.
The Recipients. There are also consequences for the recipients of private and government welfare. Recipients of private welfare are not treated as though they are entitled to help. They know they receive it due to the goodness of the donors.
In contrast, recipients of government welfare become spoiled and regard it as a 'right'. Many have become used to handouts. Their desire to work hard is diminished. They may also sense that help isn't coming from the heart, but rather from compulsion.
'Free' health care (of course it is not free - some hard-working person is forced to pay for it) or any 'free' benefits cause most people to care less about what they receive. After all, they don't have to pay for it. This creates laziness and dependence, the exact opposite of responsible behavior.
Consequences for the charities. These are different as well. With private welfare, if the charity is found to be wasting money, committing fraud or otherwise acting unprofessionally, donors learning this will withdraw their support and the charity will go out of business. This is a powerful incentive for them to maintain their integrity.
Government welfare programs, however, have no such constraints. Fraud is rampant, for example, in Medicare, Medicaid and most government welfare programs!
Waste also becomes a terrible problem in government programs, and could be called a type of fraud. For example, it is known that administrative costs in government welfare programs are at least twice that of the administrative costs of private welfare agencies. Private agencies often publish their costs, while government programs rarely are forced to do so.
The only way to get a government program to stop or go out of business is usually an act of Congress, which requires a lot of political clout. As a result, government welfare agencies waste much more than private charities in administration and every other type of costs.
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT AND RESPONSIBILITY
Character development requires taking more responsibility for every area of our lives. Private welfare encourages responsibility on the part of the donor, the charity and the recipients.
Government welfare takes responsibility away from individuals and private groups, transferring it to a bureaucracy. This tends to hinder personal development. America was established to allow maximum liberty of the people, which requires maximum responsibility.
Some people are born richer, smarter, healthier, more beautiful and so forth. The social welfare advocates understand this. But in attempting to change reality, they impose a new kind of unfairness of their own making that is far more devastating.
Many self-made people endorse forcing others to support questionable welfare schemes. If these individuals want to give away their own funds, that is fine. But to impose their idea of ‘forced charity’ on others is just a new kind of unfairness and tyranny. The only difference is it is their design, not the Creators.
Often the advocates of government welfare and socialist programs have a hidden motive - to create dependency rather than to really help and free people.
I call it "The Overprotective Syndrome". It is analogous to parents who overprotect their children. Overprotection weakens the children and makes them less able to care for themselves. The childrens' dependence secretly increases the parents' power and control.
Samuel Gompers, a famous American labor leader, stated this principle very well:
"Doing for people what they can and ought to do for themselves is a dangerous experiment. The welfare of the workers depends on their own initiative. Whatever is done under the guise of social morality that in any way lessens initiative is the greatest crime that can be committed against workers. Let social busybodies and professional 'public moral experts' reflect upon the perils they rashly invite under this pretense of social welfare."
Booker T. Washington was a famous black educator and writer who founded Tuskeegee University. He taught black people (and everyone else who listened) to be responsible, excel at your job, and you will gain the respect of good people of all colors and races. You may not gain the respect of bigoted people, but you will never gain their respect, anyway.
Today, Booker Washington is pushed aside in favor of modern “leaders” who downplay the importance of self-development and taking full responsibility. Instead, leaders increase racial tension by advocating special privileges, special rights and more welfare for their constituents.
Modern black leaders ask, for example, for Civil War reparations from people who weren’t even alive during slavery, instead of teaching their constituents to be self-sufficient. This is the handout mentality that has been developed in America due to public welfare schemes. It is the rule in Europe as well and much of the developed world today, sadly.
RETURNING TO PRIVATE WELFARE
Asking for and receiving help from others is often beneficial for both giver and receiver in mysterious ways. The process of freely giving and receiving, however, is spiritually worlds apart from government welfare that confiscates money at gunpoint from the population to give to those the bureaucracy decides deserve it.
Those in favor of more government welfare ask, "Are you willing to allow people to starve in the streets?" The answer is, of course not. But there is another way. It is the way that was in place in America and elsewhere before the rise of the government welfare system.
The alternative is private charity and private welfare societies, a concept that is as old as civilization. It is superior to government welfare programs in many ways. Private charity allows the donor to control how much and to whom he donates - a critical principle to help control misuse of funds.
Most importantly, private charity is voluntary. It comes from the heart. It encourages an attitude of altruism by appealing to one's compassion, not fear of arrest. And it does not produce the 'side effect' of anger and resentment, as does forced taxation.
The recipients of private charity also have a different understanding. The gift is not a 'right', but simply a little help along the way. Private charity runs much less risk of robbing people of the incentive to succeed on their own. As a result, recipients are less likely to become dependent and lazy. The administration of private charity is far more efficient because less bureaucracy is involved and the administrators are directly accountable for their actions.
Some say our problems are so huge - the homeless, the poor, the sick - that private charity can no longer handle it. I do not believe this for an instant.
Along with privatizing welfare, underlying causes of social problems have to addressed. For example, government mortgage and bank guarantees, and tax exemptions for home mortgage interest have helped push home prices beyond the reach of the common man. Medicare, Medicaid and a government-enforced allopathic medical monopoly contribute to the health care cost crisis. These flawed ideas have to be changed, or we will forever need to apply band-aid solutions.
Some will violently disagree with all that is written here. Please consider carefully the question of how best to encourage others to take responsibility and become self-supporting members of society. Helping others requires more than throwing money at the problem. And when that money is obtained 'Robin Hood style', it creates more problems than it solves.
'entitlement' programs have the appearance of charity, but it is only a
facade. This vicious and misguided
philanthropy confiscates wealth by force from hard-working taxpayers to a large
bureaucracy, and does not empower the recipients. Forced giving reduces altruism and breeds resentment,
dependence and laziness. Solutions
lie in setting personal examples, and realizing that charity must be voluntary.