Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I found this column against charity, posted at LRC today, to be one of the most mean-spirited (bordering on disturbing) things I've ever read from that site.

But it goes far beyond that. Accumulation itself is benefaction. The accumulation of capital, no matter who owns it, adds to the demand for everyone's labor, and so enriches everyone who can get out of bed. Giving, on the other hand, is a tricky business. It can easily result in waste or in actual harm.

Yes, because no business investment ever ends up being a waste. (Insert eye rolling.)

In a rich country, why are poor people poor? Sometimes, it's true, bad luck can strike, and a person may need help. But that's what friends and neighbors are for. And if a person doesn't have any friends, and his neighbors won't help him, chances are he's not worthy of help. Over a lifetime, most people get what they deserve. The fact is that most people who experience perennial bad luck simply have bad habits. They drink too much, they don't care for themselves, they're ignorant, they're lazy, or they have other vices. In a free society, someone who's poor almost certainly deserves his fate. To hell with him. And to hell with charities that encourage him to stay that way.

Yup, if you're a child with leukemia then go whine about it to someone who cares. It's your fault, and you deserve what's coming to you.

Seriously, what an asshole column to write.


  1. Sounds like something a true Randian cultist might write.

  2. Now that I've read the column I think he actually does make some good points, but I can understand your reaction to the general tone he takes.

  3. I think we can all agree that giving "charity" to people who truly are lazy and worthless (they do exist) is a bad idea.

    But if government welfare was ended, I doubt many people would voluntarily give to them anyway.

    Unless the author single-handedly raised himself and worked off all his bills as a child, he has no ground to complain about "charity." At least that's my take.

  4. I am a strong believer in the virtue of charity and also a believer in the generosity of most people. That is one reason I find government welfare so offensive. It replaces voluntary generosity with extortion.

    That is the problem with socialism in general. It is pessimistic. It assumes that people are greedy and that government is the only way to fairly distribute resources. It also assumes people are weak and stupid and need a government to care for them.

    Free people on the other hand tend to assume the best of humanity. We acknowledge the human capacity to help those in need and to prosper through our own efforts.

    So I find it rather silly for a supposed capitalist to be opposed to charity. True generosity as opposed to governmen hand outs is the heart and soul of a free society.

  5. "So I find it rather silly for a supposed capitalist to be opposed to charity."

    I don't think those who may appear to "oppose" it are really against charity and giving so much as they, in the footsteps of Rand, oppose the idea that it is somehow immoral to keep what is yours and to refuse to give it to strangers.

    Is someone who gives to charity more moral or virtuous than someone who does not? I would deny that that is the case.

  6. Are charitable people more moral? Toughie. Since I don't really care about morals as much as ethics it doesn't really matter much. Morals tend to do with guilt, sin and good and evil, minor stuff. Ethics are about how we treat others. Of course these are just my definitions, feel free to ignore them except as information on how I see things.

    Charity certainly doesn't make a person more ethical, because keeping what is yours, when you don't have any obligation to give it away is not unethical. So objectively I would say that charity is not a personal virtue.

    However I would say that most moral and ethical people I know are charitable. Most people I know are empathic enough to wish to help the less fortunate. I also know that voluntary charity has tangible benefits. Promoting educational efforts and subsidizing health care are purely practical measures for a successful industrialist because not only does it generate goodwill it creates educated and healthy workers. So a good workforce and happy consumers are a motivation for charity that bypasses the moral angle altogether.

    My point is that without government handouts, I believe there would be more generosity and charity than there is, not less. I also think those who talk about the pure virtue of selfishness are missing the point. The right to be selfish is paramount and should be protected. The need to be selfish is however overrated and diminishes with prosperity. A struggling worker or burgeoning capitalist will need to be quite selfish simply to meet his needs and goals, however a prosperous tradesman or wealthy business owner will find that it is not only easy to be charitable but brings back more rewards in the form of goodwill and enhanced community than the amount spent doing so,


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