I get so tired of being accused of not caring about my fellow man – and as a classical liberal with libertarian/objectivist leanings, I get that a lot.
But I’ve lived a life of independence and hard work to get to where I am. Some are familiar with my story of growing up poor in rural north Mississippi, a child of hard working, God fearing parents and part of my mother’s extended family, the grandchild of grandparents that I revere to this day.
When you grow up with little, you come to appreciate the simple things and you treasure everything you earn – whether it is money, praise or status – the blood, sweat and tears that these things cost cause them to have special meaning. To me these are more than trophies or totems, they are the building blocks of who I am.
When I was growing up, we were trained not to waste a single thing. I can remember how my grandmother recycled every scrap of cloth, saving up enough to piece them together into beautiful quilts. What people with money saw as something to discard, she saw as something that would be useful…and beautiful. Her hand stitching was as perfect as any Singer machine (she hat one of those old foot pedal powered ones) and I can still recognize her work by the characteristic exactness of it and the hand embroidery work that she was so proficient at. Many of these works of art were given to families who had even less than we had.
Through acts of kindness like this, my mother and grandmother taught me kindness and Christian charity.
But it is in my nature to also abhor waste and frivolous, cavalier attitudes toward money and wealth.
I guess that is from whence comes my distaste for big government and the welfare state that springs forth from it
I pay taxes – a LOT of taxes. My wife and I are fortunate enough to make an upper middle class wage, we have investments, too – but we are not wealthy enough to take advantage of a lot of the tax avoidance strategies that the truly rich do and we make too much to qualify for the tax credits, deductions and “rebates” that those in the lower brackets do. We are stuck in a bracket where our only choices are to pay the federal taxman more money each year than my wife makes at her job – if she wasn’t bored, we would actually be better off from a tax perspective if she didn’t work. We are in the Eloi brackets where the government Morlocks dine on steaks made of our tenderloin and clothe themselves in regalia made from our skins.
I think it is human nature to be charitable…at least most people I know are of that natural bent. They are good people, all of whom would certainly pull Samaritan like duty if they saw you beaten and in a ditch…but like me, they have witnessed a lot of people in the ditch who have spit on us as we pulled them out and set their feet on the path. We have also grown tired of seeing that same person in the same ditch two days later as we travel by, lying there cursing us because we have the wherewithal to avoid being in that ditch with them.
I do not begrudge anyone truly in need of my charity. I will give of my time, my talents and my treasure to help them but where I draw the line is when my charity is expected, abused and taken for granted – and therein lies my problem with governmental programs designed to hand out my hard earned tax dollars to anyone and everyone whether they are in true need or not.
Welfare should be about ensuring survival, not a guaranteeing a certain standard of living – but that is what it has become in America.
I’ve said that in my lexicon, there are two kinds of poverty – absolute and relative.
Absolute poverty is simply defined as a daily battle for survival – I liken this to the poverty in the slums of New Delhi or the outskirts of Bangkok where people live in leaky, one room tin shacks and survive on a bowl of rice a day. Relative poverty is what we have in the US, where poverty is measured as a percentage of the income level – this allows us to classify people who possess items that are not essential to survival (i.e. mobile phones, TV’s, cars and Playstations) as “poor” and is not true poverty. Efforts to “alleviate” relative poverty are nothing more than attempts to provide a certain guaranteed standard of living, not to assure survival.
The solution to absolute poverty is an educated (not indoctrinated) citizenry possessing real and valuable skills and in a growing, expanding capitalist economy, not government handouts. There is no solution to relative poverty because as the national income rises, so does the “poverty line”.
In reality, absolute poverty does not exist in America – and relative poverty is not an issue except when it is used by populists and “progressives” to justify class envy in pursuit of creation of a collectivist state.
Attempts to spend our way out of relative poverty is nothing but an exercise in wealth redistribution that turns to waste.
The simple fact is that there are people who need help – but they are being obscured by people who can’t be helped, don’t want to be helped, simply don’t deserve help and will even curse you for not helping them more.