Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Private Charity vs. Government Assistance

In the Christian Bible, Jesus said we are to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and take care of our fellow humans. He also said it’s not our business why they have no food or clothes.  His instruction is to help alleviate the suffering of others, without passing judgment on the person needing help.

Now, I'm not Christian, nor do I belong to any religious organization.  That being said, I've read the Bible cover to cover several times.  I've cross-references several issues within its text. I've seen the contradictions within the text as well as in people's attitudes and actions.  And I've seen the mistranslations, some accidental, others seeming intentional, as with, for example, the Old Testament passage that "men should not suffer a witch to live".  As a result, I do not and cannot believe the Bible is infallible.

Based on my own study and learning, I've discovered that the Christ teachings within it (seen best in the red-letter editions) come the closest to my natural inclinations.  They are humane almost to a fault, like the passage I paraphrased from the portion of the Sermon on the Mount called the Beatitudes.  These are the first 12 verses of the Book of Matthew, Chapter 5.

Conservatives, by and large, often tell me that yes, those are good ideals to live by, but they are the choice of the individual, and that they were never meant to be implemented or enforced by government. They tell me that when governments do these things, it's theft from the people who earned the money (taxation) given to lazy people (redistribution).  As has been noted elsewhere in passing during this discussion, they also believe and say that charitable giving should cover the needs of the poor and down-trodden.

Taking the last view first, as many people as there are who need assistance, relying solely on charitable contributions is problematic at best, simply because charities are unable to cover very much of the real need.  I've hear conservatives say that if they didn't have to pay so much in taxes, they would be able to give more to charities. 

But there are two major problems I see with that.  One is that giving to charities is a choice, not only in how much to give, but also in which charities to give to.  And two, such a solution is really not viable, because it still would not be enough to cover the needs of the people who would be forced to rely on those charities.

Then there is the fact that many wealthy people, as well as corporations, give to charities for no other reason than to get a tax deduction.  In reality, they couldn't care less whether people in need got help or not.

Now here's the crux of the matter.

Governments are and should be a reflection of the highest aspirations of the people of a nation.  If assisting those in need is a matter for individuals, as conservatives correctly state, then it should also be a matter for governments as representatives of those highest ideals of the people.  Therefore, the ideals of the Beatitudes, regardless of ones' religion or lack thereof, should be considered within the bounds of government actions, and a necessary and perhaps over-riding part of governmental operations. 

To insist that government not be involved in expressing our highest ideals is tantamount to admitting our own hypocrisy.


© 2017 by Don Rice Jr.

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