Let’s play a little game. Ready?
Pick your favorite charity. It could be your local food bank, your church, the American Cancer Society, or some non-profit that makes sure nobody steps on ant hills. Whatever cause you think needs money, let’s go with that one.
Now let me ask you a question:
Is it a good thing for you to take a $100 bill out of your wallet and give it to your charity?
Of course it is. You worked hard for that money, and you decided to send it somewhere to put that money to work for something you believe in. The organization has more money to accomplish its goals, and anyone who is helped by that organization is better off because of the donation.
Now let me ask you a similar, but fundamentally very different question:
Is it a good thing for you to go into someone else’s wallet when they aren’t looking, take out $100 without their consent, and give that money to your charity?
The outcome of this scenario is no different from the first. To quote myself: The organization has more money to accomplish its goals, and anyone who is helped by that organization is better off because of the donation.
Isn’t this morally correct? We all learned during our childhood it’s okay to rob from the rich as long as you give it to the poor. Thanks Robin Hood. (especially the Disney Robin Hood with the animals, that movie was awesome!)
Wait, did you say rob? As in stealing? Maybe that’s not so “right” after all.
When the government takes your money and spends it on the social programs they deem necessary (despite how you feel about it), this is fundamentally identical to someone going into your wallet and sending your money to a charity of their choice.
Don’t get me wrong; the government performs some necessary functions and deserves some of our money. There’s no question we need a federal government. The problem is when people mistake public policy for personal compassion. Voting for politicians who want to raise taxes to pay for social programs is not a substitute for the personal compassion of spending your own time or money helping others.
Penn from the group Penn and Teller wrote an opinion piece on CNN and part of it perfectly describes how I feel:
It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.
People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.
People try to argue that government isn’t really force. You believe that? Try not paying your taxes. (This is only a thought experiment — suggesting on CNN.com that someone not pay his or her taxes is probably a federal offense, and I’m a nut, but I’m not crazy.). When they come to get you for not paying your taxes, try not going to court. Guns will be drawn. Government is force — literally, not figuratively.
Public policy is not, nor will it ever be, a replacement for personal charity and compassion. If you want to do some research on the subject, I highly recommend the book “Who Really Cares” by Arthur C. Brooks. Voluntary charity is better for the person receiving the help, the person giving the help, and the entire nation.
We, as a nation, need to take more personal responsibility for doing what’s right and stop relying on Washington D.C. to do it for us. When have they ever gotten anything right in the last 80 years anyway?
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