Good Intentions Gone Awry

Dave Killion — June 29, 2012

I continue to follow Jody Paterson’s blog, which mostly concerns her new life working with an NGO in Honduras. She recently posted about Angelitos Felices, a foster home where, in addition to the regular volunteer work she does, she does EXTRA volunteer work

“At first glance, the place is awful. It’s dark and strangely damp, a big empty space stuffed with children and smelling like a mix of musty clothes, garbage and a whiff of excrement. I’ve started dabbing patchouli oil under my nose to help me hang in through a couple hours of being inside the place.
The room where the kids sleep would be ridiculously overcrowded even if the bunks were all functional and there were enough mattresses for every bed. But that’s not the case, and I have to presume a lot of them sleep on the floor in the dank and empty space on the second floor adjacent to the bedroom.”

I am full of admiration for the way Paterson puts her money where her mouth is, but I give her a hard time on this blog because I think she typifies a peculiar and all-too-common type of blindness particular to supporters of government aid and the welfare state. In this instance, Angelitos Felices sounds like the kind of place that many folks would like to support, but the amount of money people are willing to voluntarily donate to charity is strictly curtailed by the amount of money they are compelled to donate to charity. So instead of giving voluntarily to provide food, shelter, and medicine to Honduran orphans, we are forced to give involuntarily to provide clean needles to Canadian IV drug addicts, and to subsidize food and shelter to people whose behaviour has exhausted the charitable goodwill of their own friends and family. And this is due in great part to people who, like Paterson, have pressed the government to do more and more and more. They may think that they are doing good deeds, but really, all they are doing is making it harder for us to support the truly needy.

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