Compassion as a public good
To preserve the system, and indeed, to grow it, leadership must cease in their attempts at top down “social justice”, redistributive economics and the use of class warfare to enact their political agendas
Can you legislate goodness? Can you tax it? Can it be subject to a fine? Can you quantify it to fill the massive matrices of bureaucrats in Washington, London or Brussels?
This discussion, thought put to rest decades ago, is experiencing a resurgence in the 21st century.
In earlier ages, during medieval times, the Catholic Church preached to the people their depravity. They were not to be trusted – not even to read the Bible. They should, instead, pay homage to their political and spiritual leaders and hope, through indulgences, that a terrifying God would be merciful and grant them access to heaven after their short, brutal lives. Charity was the function of the church, exercised using moneys wrested from the people through fear.
This top down approach to goodness produced one of the largest bureaucracies in history. As happens with all bureaucracies, the Catholic Church’s function quietly morphed from the protection of the poor and became instead about controlling their subjects and perpetuating their own wealth, power and influence.
Cue the reformation.
Finally, enlightened minds like Martin Luther began to free people from their bondage, and the technology brought about by Guttenberg gave them the tools to pull themselves forward. A brilliantly blinding fire of individuality bravely thrust deep roots through the renaissance, leading to the founding of our current political and economic systems. Out of the rebirth of this individuality, the virtues of kindness and goodness, as a personal response to wellbeing and the needs of others, became something of a norm.
Yet there were doubts. The prophets of doom said that the system was not functional and sustainable; naysayers pointed to cases of individual failure; and the communists decried inequality.
Demonizing individual civil rights as the cause of continued (if diminishing) poverty, these prophets forced upon the world Marxist Communism. “It is only through communal rights,” they said, “that all people will find wellbeing.” The ensuing bloodletting and misery was without precedent – even in historic terms. The model collapsed in disgrace.
This was to be the shining moment of free market capitalism and representative democracy.
Yet the doubts lingered. Following craftily couched arguments of social justice, the principals of social democracy, as stylized by European countries attempting to appease communist agitators still in their midst (keen to sell to the world the idea that capitalism is bad and must be progressively eliminated), have replaced trust and individual goodness. In their place, the old idea – the one that says people are bad and not to be trusted – has again gained a foothold.
This foothold has brought a new authoritarianism and is bringing the social democrat model to the point of collapse. This time, through increases in taxation and redistributive economics, governments of Europe and the United States seek to “spread the wealth around (…) because it’s an issue of fairness.”
A recent article exposes these realities. Currently, in the United States, 49 percent of homes receive some sort of federal subsidy, and 46 million Americans survive on food stamps. Worse than that, 45 percent of all health spending is done by the federal government, and direct payments from the federal government to individuals has increased by $600 billion during President Obama’s three years in office.
This authoritarian attempt at redistributive justice has unleashed anger. Those decried for their selfishness while paying the lion’s share of the taxes responded. “Don’t tread on me” became their motto. Those on the receiving end of the government’s compulsory charity only became angrier, using the vitriol to demand even more. “We are the 99 percent” they insisted while forcibly occupying what was not theirs. Forced charity is never humanizing – neither for he who gives, nor he who receives.
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