Helping Until It Hurts

Dave Killion — November 3, 2010

Jody Paterson continues to campaign for more government support for the less-well-off.  In her November 02 post, she notes that Minnesota has recently expanded its program for supplying food to poor families, while the poor in BC may have to resort to food banks.  I don’t like people being hungry, but I think Minnesota has made a bad decision.

We live in a world full of problems, and we have limited resources with which to tackle them.  Paterson may place a high priority on social support for British Columbians, but some other folks are more concerned about protecting endangered species, or fighting AIDS in Africa, or providing education to women in less-developed countries.  Since everybody only gives to charity either as much as they  can or as much as they want, when group A is able to persuade government to force group B to support the causes A prefers, group B will provide less support to the causes they prefer.  If Paterson has her way, I will give less to the Red Cross because I will be forced to give more to a cause that I think is less deserving.  I don’t think this is what she intended.

Of course, government force often leads to unintended and perverse consequences, and Minnesota is no exception.  This recent expansion of the welfare state is only the latest in a long line of bad policies that has led to a mass departure of people from New York, California, and Minnesota to better managed states like Texas and North Carolina.  That’s not good for the poor in Minnesota, and it won’t be good for poor people in BC.


David C says

Dave: Great post. Here are some of my thoughts on this matter. Many people do not help the poor precisely because they think that the government is already doing so through entitlement programs. Of course the faceless bureaucratic state does a horrible job of curing people of their mental health problems and addictions – all it ends up doing is creating a dependent class. The big problem here is that this all causes a disconnect in our society between the middle and upper class and the poor. We SHOULD be volunteering at local charities: there is nothing more satisfying then helping the poor and less fortunate – it is healing for both the volunteer and the one helped and it creates healthier community. By essentially forcing people at gun point (what taxation is) it causes resentment in working people about being forced to give to the poor: some who surely don’t deserve it. Some, unfortunately, do need help though. Organisations like the Mustard Seed continually show through real results the superiority of the private charity model over government hand outs. I have volunteered at the Mustard Seed in both Calgary and Victoria and contrary to what liberal progressives and socialists say Christian charities DO NOT proselytize their patrons at every turn and they do a far better job of caring for the downtrodden then some faceless bureaucrat who makes street people with mental health problems fill out giant forms (most can’t by the way which is why they often end up needing advocates – usually from private charity or religious centers).

— November 4, 2010

Tim says

According to David Degraw, 10% of the population in the US controls 70% of all financial assets.

Imagine a game of musical chairs which starts out with 10 people and 10 chairs. The 10 people represent the population and the 10 chairs the nation’s wealth.

The music starts. Everyone stands up and begins walking around the circle of chairs. People aren’t too stressed at this point, because even if one chair is removed, each still has a pretty good chance at the nine remaining chairs.

Imagine that at some point, as the music is playing, one person leaves the game, taking 7 chairs with him. Now, the nine remaining players are in a state of panic because, there are only three chairs left. At first, they all say, “Hey!! That ain’t right.” They feel a collective sense of outrage. But as time goes on, they soon forget about the one player and the seven departed chairs, and return to the game with the three remaining chairs.

As the music continues, each person begins to regard the remaining eight with distrust, animosity. They start to think, hey, that person shouldn’t even have the right to play. He ain’t from around here. Or, that person over there is a lazy, good-for-nothing. Why should he be able to compete for one of these remaining chairs? But, the music plays on, and on and on they march – building up resentment against one another.

The End.

— November 6, 2010

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