March 26, 2010
Coercive Charity Destroys the Human SpiritBy Joseph Rosenberger
After the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Senate's health care bill (without changes because they could not craft and pass a bill of their own), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proclaimed that the effort reflected American's founding declaration of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
A society that compels each individual to provide for the personal happiness of one's neighbor, which can come only from selling one's labor or one's private property, and then handing those earnings over by confiscatory taxes, is a society with less individual freedom or liberty. At the current bankrupting levels of benevolence that comprise Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, this health care log will no doubt pulverize every bone in the camel. The destruction of our great nation -- what the enemies of America could not accomplish by war, we are doing to ourselves by misplaced compassion.
We are not a collective. Nor are we slaves or servants to each other. While we hold many things in common, we must keep our hands off that from which all goodness and compassion come: the individual.
We are to be a nation of individuals, not only in principle, but practice. And what makes an individual real is the granting and protection of boundaries that surround each individual -- boundaries that secure each individual's freedom and happiness. Without such strong, inviolate boundaries, freedom to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is impossible.
When an individual looks within himself or herself and freely gives something of value, such as the labor of caregiving or buying medicine for a sick neighbor, the giver is giving of his or her very life itself, expressing freedom, and in so doing, experiencing genuine happiness -- and, no doubt, creating happiness within the recipient.
On the other hand, when an individual -- out of any motive whatsoever, be it compassion or envy -- compels another individual to take something valuable and give it to lessen the unhappiness of another or be punished, then the compeller commits a theft. It is a crime. Coercive kindness is a theft of life and liberty, and it diminishes one's ability to pursue happiness. And stealing from one's neighbor by proxy, by having one's elected representative do it on one's behalf, is not only cowardly; it is evil. Compulsive charity teaches us that it is okay to trample upon an individual's border. It teaches us to prey upon our neighbor's property and sanction stealing.
Furthermore, as the ancient wisdom reminds us, "The bread of idleness is a curse." Nothing crushes the spirit like living perpetually on the charity of others.
And it gets worse. The unintended consequences are all around us.
Having paid one's benevolence taxes, it is human nature to adopt society's standards and say, "I have been nice enough. Screw you." Doubt this? Look at how paltry charitable giving is among liberals, socialists, and progressives as compared to conservatives, as a percentage of income.
Look at what welfare compassion has done to the institution of the family and the role of fathers in particular. Out of our misguided compassion, we made it economically irrational for poor women to marry, as the public entitlement dole is a more reliable husband, notwithstanding how it condemns the woman to dependency and poverty. Our prisons are filled with men who had no fathers to teach them how to channel their energy into civilized endeavors. Yes, some mothers do well and are rightly celebrated, but the vast majority do not.
Another misguided compassion is directed to a woman who refuses to act responsibly and practice safe sex. We convince her that the human life she gestates is not what it is. Just abort it and be free; it is the compassionate thing to do. Never mind that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness presuppose that one gets to have a life in the first place. (And do we honestly think anyone capable of justifying the murder of innocent viable human life that is no real threat to the mother, other than being inconvenient, is capable of governing a just society? If they can condone that, then they will champion anything that suits their appetites.)
Our Constitution tells us what we must all contribute to -- what those taxes are that shall pay the price of our civilization. They are enumerated, such as for the common defense, a common currency, and for the nurture commerce between states. What they all have in common is the obligation to protect and grow marketplaces, where individuals may come to exchange things of value to make money and raise capital for more good things. Our wise founders added the Bill of Rights to protect individual property in all its forms.
This health care law is yet another stake in the heart of America. It is a theft upon our individual liberty, a pernicious tax burden on our marketplace, and a destruction of the human spirit.
Postscript: The sages of old taught us that the highest form of charity is to provide someone a job or help him start a business. Growing a business is a greater charity than giving aid to the poor. It is more valuable because it empowers an individual to create something to give back to society, not just receive something and simply consume it. For individuals to create jobs, they must hold their wealth, in all its forms, safe and secure within their individual border, safe and secure from their benevolent, compassionate, paternalistic government.
The solution, or more rightly, the compass heading of a more proper solution, is to make both voluntary benevolence and personal responsibility by individuals ridiculously irresistible. If we want clinics that provide for the indigent, then make generous contributions to them pre-tax deductible up to 25 percent of one's taxable income. Such funds may be given only to registered primary care clinics. Make all health care professionals immune from punitive damages unless an objective jury of their medical profession peers establishes deliberate malfeasance. Make health savings accounts irresistible; shield them from all taxes. We can do this wonderful good without stealing and destroying liberty.