Socialism vs Christian Charity (or any other kind for that matter)

“Forced charity isn’t.” – me

This actually comes up a lot.  Somebody picks out a philosophical quote meant to apply on a macro scale and then uses the unaddressed exceptions to pick it and its larger argument apart.

Ran across a post where someone took issue with one of a quote from Dr. Thomas Sowell:

“No society ever thrived because it had a large and growing class of parasites living off of those who produce” – Dr. Thomas Sowell

Which this person posted with this as [the beginning of his] commentary:

For me the tone of this message is very much a Eugenics one??….One fundamental question…Just who should we consider to be these parasitic elements within society??..The impoverished??…The disabled???…the handicapped??….the elderly??….And for the sake of argument…What solution or remedy dose our dear Mr. Sowell, offer to address the issue at hand I wonder?/…perhaps he favors the re-implementing of the old concept..The final solution???…I ask…How can a society claim to be a free and just one, and advocate the cause of man kind….If in such a society  the value and worth of its citizens are determined solely based upon their monetary worth??….Rather then  the sacred principle that all life rich or poor, disabled or elderly etc. is unquestionably sacred and precious??….

None of which was intended, I am certain (I’ve read a lot of Sowell) by Dr. Sowell.  It’s just a simple statement of fact.  And nowhere in it does Dr. Sowell say anything about the disabled, the elderly, or the “poor”.  Because he’s not really talking about them here.  *(actually Dr. Sowell talks a lot about the poor in his works and points out, using actual data, that most of the poor are only poor temporarily.  This is not to say that there are not some people who are incapable of making their own way – but the fact is, that is a small percentage of the poor)

I pointed this out, along with encouraging him to pick up and read one of Dr. Sowell’s books from start to finish so that his questions might be answered — and they’re not the answers presumed by this guy’s leading questions.

Here’s the kicker… I don’t think this guy is a leftist.  He is apparently a staunch right-to-lifer.  And maybe he’s struggling with these questions and being led astray by idiots like the guy at Young Turks who had the very same take on Sowell’s quote.  He took the quote to mean that anybody who wasn’t in the 1% was a parasite (which … I mean, where does one find that in the quote?  He’s putting words into Sowell’s mouth).

So with that in mind, and the fact that he does seem to be concerned as we should all be about the less fortunate – those who truly cannot pull their own weight, and the fact that he was conflating Sowell’s worldview (based on one single sentence) with (and I kid you not) Bernard Shaw’s and Karl Marx’s worldviews (Sowell would spit his coffee out all over his computer screen), I set about trying to address his followup question:

Only if I may ask one question??…How would you defy a Socialist??..Or should I ask..How would you recognise if a individual is a Socialist or not??…Just curious.

Ahem ….

A socialist endorses something that I don’t believe Christ ever endorsed. Yes, he endorsed caring for those in need, but he never endorsed taking something from someone else to give to the poor. Charity happens when one gives freely of himself to another — not when some gives freely of someone else to another. It is incumbent on us as individuals, voluntarily — whether we do it individually or by forming voluntary groups to pool resources.

In fact, I have no problem with a group of people getting together voluntarily and creating a socialist community, or even a full-blown communist one – as long as nobody is forced to join or coerced into staying.

Of course, when this is done, all the problems of socialism’s incompatibility with human nature come out. When you get what you need without having to lift a finger even though you are perfectly capable of contributing to the community, your incentive to contribute is diminished. Now perhaps some extremely noble people will actually work harder to contribute more, but the more they contribute, the easier it makes it on those who don’t contribute. Eventually you end up with a group of people carrying a vastly disproportionate burden of productivity in such an environment. Unless they’re exceedingly altruistic, they will eventually resent those who are taking it easy and living a life of relative leisure, while those on the net receiving end develop a sense of entitlement — of being owed something they have done nothing to earn. And due to those expectations and the fact that everybody wants a better life — the expectation is that they are also owed that better life and they will likewise resent the ones carrying the bulk of the water.

Now – it is true, and Dr. Sowell would be at the front of the line to agree, that we as human beings have obligations to our fellow man, starting at the family level — our first line of defense, and working up through extended family, community, and on up. Here’s the deal.

Charity begins at home – and the wider the separation in relationship between the givers of charity and the recipients, the less prevalent it should be. The higher up you go in societal structure, the more you should be focusing your efforts on those who have fallen through the cracks at the lower levels. I could argue that in a free society, government has ZERO role in this.

Even if it does, the formula should be the same. The higher up you go, the more narrowly focused the program should be.

This is for a couple of reasons, and one of them is to avoid encouraging the mechanism I described above, by which you have an institutionalized force that rewards sloth and punishes the industrious. The other is that the closer the giver is to the recipient, the better position the giver is in to decide whether the recipient is gaming the system or is actually deserving or in need due to circumstances beyond their control.

Churches, and the accompanying religious — traditionally had a great role in this. Our system was designed for a moral and religious people, as John Adams observed. As America abandons God, it is attempting to create a central government to replace Him.

And it will lead to no good end.

Update:

Ok, he’s a trolling leftist:

With all do respect sir…Do you honestly believe for one moment that Socialism is taking from the wealthy and giving it to the poor sir?

‘Nother update:

Dude is completely off his rocker.  In his view, socialism isn’t wealth redistribution.  Because WallStreetNewWorldOrderBankingSystemFundedtheBolsheviks and …. yeah, he completely lost me at that point.

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About philmon

Part mountain junkie, part decent amateur photographer, part survivalist, part not-so-decent amateur musician, part sysadmin. Husband, step-dad, grandpa, and music freak who digs mechanical clocks, barometers, and Gil Elvgren pinups. Studied Meteorolgy & Computer Science. And the U.S. Constitution.

5 thoughts on “Socialism vs Christian Charity (or any other kind for that matter)

  1. Robert Mitchell Jr.

    “Rather then the sacred principle that all life rich or poor, disabled or elderly etc. is unquestionably sacred and precious??….” Rather a Catholic position, that. But I’m pretty sure he would claim to be a “Bright”. Funny, that…….

  2. philmon Post author

    It is a Catholic viewpoint, and one I am in agreement with. Full disclosure, I was raised a Catholic.

    And in that upbringing, non priest or nun ever suggested that it was ok to steal from a third party to help the needy.

    And judging by what little information I could garner, his mother was staunchly pro-life, and may very well have been a Catholic.

    Now, one could argue for a Catholic state … and if he’s gonna do that then he should go ahead. But at that point, you really do lose the idea of religious freedom altogether, and you’d better own up to it.

    1. Robert Mitchell Jr.

      Ah, one of many sub-sects of Atheists. I think they formed because of “Atheist Coffee”…….

  3. Severian

    Yeah, “bright” is a term some noxious evangelical atheist — Stephen Jay Gould? — came up with to describe fellow noxious evangelical atheists.

    As for the rest of your excellent piece, I believe the heart of it is this:

    I pointed this out, along with encouraging him to pick up and read one of Dr. Sowell’s books from start to finish so that his questions might be answered — and they’re not the answers presumed by this guy’s leading questions.

    I’ve always wondered why this species of concern troll thinks this kind of thing works. I mean, let’s stipulate for the sake of argument that Prof. Sowell is talking about eugenics and final solutions (after all, Hitler was in the habit of calling Jews “parasites”). If that’s the case… why has nobody ever follwed up with Sowell himself about it? More to the point, why has “Tom Sowell, genocidal eugenicist” not been pilloried on every tv show, radio program, newspaper, and blog post in the land? Most every active conservative I know is at least passingly familiar with the name. Do concern trolls really expect us to believe that Daily Kos, NPR, etc. haven’t gone over every single word the man has ever written, looking for exactly this kind of thing?

    Rush Limbaugh has had an army of Very Angry People In Distress transcribing his every word for the better part of two decades (Mark Steyn jokes about it all the time, as he apparently fills in for Rush every now and again). But nobody’s bothered to check out one of Sowell’s books from the local library? That seems rather… implausible.

    [My guess — and it’s straight from the sphincter — is that this is another case of liberal projection. They don’t actually read very much, and so are often surprised at the stuff that can be found in books. Hell, they’re often surprised at the stuff that can be found in books they themselves have praised to the skies — look at all the Lena Dunham fans who have been reduced to claiming that quoting her own published words, in context, is somehow libel].

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