On Charity

by

One thing those who disagree with me love to do is characterize my positions as if they understood me better than I do. Let me clarify where I stand on an important issue: what to do with the poor.

I believe, fundamentally, that you cannot simply give someone food and shelter and they will magically grow into a responsible adult. I also do not believe that if you leave someone alone they will magically grow into a responsible adult.

I believe that the one critical element to change a person from an incompetent and unproductive member of society into someone who creates wealth is the same thing that Christ offered to the world: love. Or more precisely, charity, which is the pure love of Christ. (That it has become associated with offering money to the poor is no accident!)

First, people must understand their own self-worth, or in other words, their grand potential. We each have within us the capability of doing great good. That good can come about in our daily work, and we might be compensated for it. Most likely, the vast majority of good we do in our workplace will never appear on our paycheck. That’s OK. We shouldn’t be working for a paycheck anyways. It should be a happy side-effect of us doing what we love and us serving our fellow man.

How do we teach people their grand potential? Love. We love them. That love is best expressed in the family, and when that fails, in our churches and communities and charities. It is extremely difficult to have that love communicated through our government programs. If we expect a government worker to express our love for the people around us, we are going to be very disappointed.

Second, people must understand the conservation laws that drive our universe. In financial terms, it is expressed as you can’t spend that which you didn’t earn. In other words, no matter what your income, if you spend more than you earn, you are selling your future short. As you take on debt, you are binding yourself with chains that cannot be easily broken. It is simply better to live life with $5,000 left over in your checking account each month than $5,000 on your credit card. You do so by spending less than what you earn for several years in a row, and then being very careful to never spend more than you earn.

How do we teach people this principle? We allow them to learn for themselves by allowing the bad effects of their poor choices to take full hold, but also show them that the only way out is to get more income. We can, temporarily, supplement their income with ours, but it must be done carefully and with full understanding of the recipient that this is temporary and is meant merely to stave off the worst effects of their own bad choices. This can only be communicated with love.

Third, we must teach people the basic principles of property ownership. This is taught in the principles of theft and envy. First, you cannot create wealthy by taking something for others. This applies to the lowest in our society who may steal for food or for shelter, and to those in the highest rungs of our society, who may steal by polluting or having someone else pay for their bad mistakes. Secondly, envy is the tendency in human nature to desire something that is not yours, but not to pay for it the same way they obtained it.

We must end the government theft where we take resources from one group of people and give it to others. Using taxes as a means to build infrastructure or, as I discussed previously, as a hedge against the worst possibilities, is tolerable because we are not stealing from one to give to another. However, using taxes to take income from one person and supplement the income of another is theft.

In our political speech, we must not teach people that it is okay to despise someone because of their wealth. We must teach people that they, too, can obtain such wealth if they are willing to make the same kind of sacrifices the rich have to obtain it.

I believe that teaching these three principles will change a great deal in our society. I believe that having government participate in our charity programs prevents the teaching of these three principles. I believe that every individual in our society must feel the burden of the poor and must take action to do what they can to alleviate it.

I do not believe that we should leave the poor to fend for themselves, or allow the to starve or struggle in poverty without offering a way out.

Finally, I believe that wealth is created from nothing when two individuals decide to help each other out. While our money, resources, time and talents are limited, reorganizing  these resources by individual human action and agreements can create an unlimited amount of wealth. After all, who would think that you can build a global communications infrastructure with grains of sand? (Silicon, after all, is a major component of sand.)

This means that we can live in a society where everyone is fantastically wealthy. We can build a future where our descendants look on us as if we were living in the stone age. We have already made significant progress towards this goal, because even the poorest among us have access to motorized transport and technological marvels. But we can, and should, do much, much more.

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