Last time in my haste to vent about my bad day, I wrote about abrogating our responsibility of protection and basic neighborly conflict dispute to police.
In this post I’d like to look at a considerably larger problem: the shifting of the responsibility of charity onto government. (I’d like to say “this will be a more well thought out post, but I write all of these during baby naps, so…you get what you get.)
Definition 3 in Wiktionary describes charity as “Benevolence to others less fortunate than ourselves; the providing of goods or money to those in need. ” But this definition hides something very important: willingly providing your own goods or money to those in need. (The first clause hints at this with the use of the word “benevolence.”)
As someone with a certain affinity for virtue based ethics, this is a very important distinction we’ve lost. “Forced Charity” is not charity at all it is merely submission to the people with the guns. (Heck it’s not even a Kantian style “duty for duty’s sake.”)
And yet repeatedly we see people confusing using their vote to “tax the rich” or “expand the safety net” as an action of charity. We see this even from groups that should know better, who flog bible quotes to make their point. (Career Suicide Status: Ongoing!)
Research suggests that government grants tend to reduce private giving to charities. But more to the point, higher taxes make it harder for the middle class to find money to give to charities. Consider a case: My tax rate roughly including sales, property, federal, FICA, state, and local taxes is over 25%! And frankly that’s rounding down in quite a few places, assuming I do well preparing my taxes this year and stay in the lowest tax bracket.
That means that for every dollar I (I mean my wife) makes, 25% of it goes straight to someone else. After expenses, and trying to keep a rainy day fund up, there’s just not much left at the end of the month.
Now yes, I’m a bad person. I could do better at actively cutting back my expenses and giving that money to charity. But this also brings out the point: if so much of my money is redistributed before I even get it, I’m less inclined to want to give more. Is that good and just? No, but I am, as I said a sinner.
The difference is I recognize this flaw (for all the my failures to fix it I suppose) whereas many on the left respond by merely voting other people’s money towards their favored issues, calling it “charity” and resting on their laurels. This is the lie that socialism tells us that people seem to accept: forcible redistribution is as virtuous as real charity. (Feel the Bern!)
Virtue must be practiced for it to take root and grow, and we risk creating an entire generation who haven’t practiced charity (or has practiced a perverted shadow of it.) The results will be disastrous. And we haven’t even gotten into government’s lack of agility, desire for power, or Milton Friedman’s four ways you spend money among other horrific downstream effects.