Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Charity vs. Entitlement

Alright, I'm going to take a quick breaks from the pure economic ideaology of the last couple of posts to clear up something about my personal ideaology. This is partially because I keep on having to explain this to people who I am debating and partially because those of you who are particularly disenchanted with my view on the world won't have to be bothered trying to determine what it is that I think.

I believe that charity is good. It is one of the things that makes us human, and care for your fellow man is both good for others and personally rewarding. I am personally quite charitable, and I have at times sacrificed time or money that I didn't really have in order to provide for others. The important note here is that I made sacrifices by choice. No one was hurt. No one did anything that they didn't want to do. There was good all around. Others received what they wanted or needed. I gave and found it personally satisfying.

I believe that entitlements are bad. Every entitlement has a victim, which makes them fundamentally different than charity. Entitlements are promised by the government, and they are promises of a product that the government neither has or produces. The only way for the government to get it is to take it from someone else. This can be in the form of money, time, or liability. Regardless of how it is done, the end result is one person being victimized in order to provide for someone else.

We'll take this one step farther. By and large, there are two people who are often exempted from much of the entitlement liability. These are the groups receiving the entitlements, meaning that the more you are given, the less that is expected of you, and the individuals who are powerful enough in government to avoid it. This largely leaves Middle America carrying the load, with the most productive members of society being most heavily punished in order to provide for the least productive members of society.

Charity is personally rewarding, while entitlements create a sense of loss. Everyone does their best to exempt themselves from as much of their tax burden as possible. In stark contrast, people overwhelmingly go out of their way to give by choice. Post-9/11, most accountants didn't go out of business, but the private giving was so profound, that it became difficult to find immediate uses for the money.

Individuals receiving charity have an incentive to better themselves. Quite simply, relying on charity is relying on good will. It is not usually permanent, and if you manage to make it so, a certain degree of appreciation towards the benefactor is usually observed. Contrast this to entitlements which have a tendency to create a dependent class that far from being appreciative, is usually militant in its desire to be given more. Also, charity respects the rights of the giver of the right of the receiver, while entitlements respect a right to property of the receiver that supercedes the right of the individual who actually owns the property.

That's where I stand. I have been accused of being impractical. I am not. I have been accused of being zealous. If the above is zealous, then I suppose I am. I have been accused of being uncompassionate. Anyone who knows me in real life would probably consider this absurd. I have a philosophy that finds giving to be very good. That same philosophy leads be to believe that giving is a choice that I make. Money taken from me isn't giving on my part, and it makes no one better in the end.


Blogger Jed said...

Bingo, Bravo, and Well Said. What never ceases to amaze me is that it seems the "average" american has at least some notion that capitalism is what made our country great, and yet they are ready to cede such an important aspect of life as healthcare to socialism, a system which had we embraced universally, would have prevented our nation from becoming what it is.

11:34 PM  
Blogger MiamiMed said...

Thanks for the encouragement.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Petri said...

Academically I agree with what you have written. True entitlements are supposed to be ephemeral ideals that preserve and enumerate the basic ehtics of civilized society. The rights to free speech, or religion, or to protect oneself, do not subtract from others prosperity. By giving people material entitlements, property instead of the right to pursue it, you by definition must deduct it from someone else.

This idealism seems to run into rough territory when you attempt to ground it in the reality that we also want everyone to live as long as possible, no unnecessary death, which translates to all the healthcare no one can afford, welfare, and food stamps. We mandate helping our fellow man because I am not honestly convinced that should we remove these programs they could be continued on voluntary charity alone. Many of these programs would work well if they did not breed sloth and dependency as often as they allow someone to get back on their feet.

I think many people would agree with your ideas fundamentally, but they would only last as long as the first person who died because they didn't help themselves. In our society, that would equate to someone elses fault, maybe a societal failing, and we would be back on track to handing out freebies to ease our collective guilt.

8:14 AM  
Blogger MiamiMed said...

I just don't understand why we would need to have any "collective guilt" over someone dying because they failed to try and help themselves. I guess that I don't see taking care of people who won't try and do it themselves as a social responsibility, so there is no breach of responsibility in failing to do so. You're right that most people won't see it that way. That's why the laws are what they are. I simply disagree with them.

The ability to keep the husk of a body alive I don't see as a great achievement. I think the goal should be to get people back to a pertinent level of function. My true beliefs on medicine and charity intertwine here. Someone who has fallen on hard times and needs a hand is an excellent candidate for charity, especially when this is an aberration from the normal behavior of the individual or there are extenuating circumstances. I genuinely equate creating legions of utterly dependent people who have no intention of taking care of themselves with sticking the end stage Alzheimer's patient in the ICU. Yeah, we do it, but I don't believe that it is the right thing to do.

If the programs didn't breed sloth and dependency, then charity would provide. We live in a very giving country, believe it or not. There is more than enough money to feed and take care of people for a couple of months when they fall on hard times. People willingly do this now. Programs only become necessary to take care of people that other people don't want to care for, which usually implies a pretty bad dude or some very long periods of dependency.

I guess that I don't see everyone living as long as possible as the ultimate ideal. Death happens to all of us in the end, no matter what we do. We make decisions all the time where we play our death against longer life in order to achieve something else. If I go skiing or mountain biking, I am risking death for pleasure, and I am willing to take that risk. Collectively, there is more death because of these things, but that doesn't inherintly make them bad things.

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