Giving Back

Wrongheaded liberal or collectivist ideology is frighteningly pervasive, often in forms in which it is unlikely that the people involved are even aware of their infection.  Well, I've had it. I'm pointing at it, every time, and making a fuss.

As I was watching the latest professional golf tournament, I counted at least a dozen instances in which the announcers used a phrase with subtle, skewed implications. In reference to several PGA professionals' impressive charity work, the announcers referred to the activity as "giving back." As a paraphrase, they would say, "It really is impressive, Jim, how David Toms has taken the time and made the effort to give back." Or, "you can really see that these guys think that 'giving back' is really important." Or, "My goodness it's good to see these guys giving so much back to these communities, Bob."

It is not sufficiently tempting to simply write this off as benign happenstance of word choice. There are too many more obvious, and more longstanding phrases to describe the charity which these pros are performing. The term "charity" is still used quite frequently, but always in association with this vague notion that something is being returned to someone. Why use the term 'back'? Why aren't they just giving? Who took something? When did they take it? How did they get away with it? Why was no one sent to jail? Was someone sent to jail? They took something from the Boy Scouts? St. Jude's? -- gasp -- from the Clinton foundation? This is a travesty! They darn well better give it back!

Wait a minute:

Giving "back" implies that the property they are giving to the various groups was somehow once 'taken' from those groups in some sense. This is the evil idea that has been propagated (sometimes knowingly, sometimes not) by collectivists for, well, forever.

When those who have property or wealth have come by it by looting or parasitizing their fellow man, as occurs in feudalism, tribalism, socialism, fascism, communism, (and crony capitalism), then, yes, for such a wealthy man to give to another in need could be considered 'giving back.' But in a free politico-economic system of capitalism, wealth is created by individuals who think and exert themselves to provide a product or service which is demanded by the freely choosing people who make up the market as a whole. The method by which a man in this system becomes wealthy is the moral 'day' compared to the moral 'night' of the listed collectivist systems. It makes all the difference in the world. A wealthy man within capitalism has created the good, the wealth. The market did not create it. The consumers did not create it. The producer created. It is his life that went into creating it. The others recognized the objective worth of his creation and freely traded value for value. Nothing is 'owed' to those who sought and traded for the valuable good or service that the wealthy man created. Nothing. The collectivists have never gotten this right in their heads. They want to bring the same assumptions that were correct in all the collectivist forms of government and try to apply them in politico-economic system specifically designed to avoid the tyranny of pull, of 'who you know,' or 'who you paid off,' or who's your bother, or who's your bought legislator(s).

Granted, the collectivist efforts over the past 100 years have made the ground quite a bit more muddy and the air more foggy. But we have to wave the banner for the morality of capitalism and freedom within the rule of law, where physical force is kept out of the market. It's hard to say that without twitching a bit at the knowledge that there is so little remnant left, but someone has to stand up and say that that was what was intended, and why.

So to say that the pro golfer or any honest wealthy man is "giving back" is tantamount to saying that, like the despots, like the tyrannical mob of socialism, like Attila, or like the feudal lord, the honest producer has in some sense 'bled' the public or wrenched from their grasp that which was or could or should have been "theirs." And now, our golf announcers can benevolently nod approval that the wealthy man is somehow doing his just penance and returning some of the good life that he 'took' from them by 'giving back.' This is terrible. Though subtle, it is as great a wrong as can be committed. It is the calling the good, evil, and the evil, good. It perpetuates the uncritical ingraining of an evil idea into the vernacular, and that's a dangerous place for an evil idea to be! It continues to fuel the hatred or resentment of the successful. It furthers the continued unthinking acceptance of the idea that all wealth is generated by a manner of theft, and that therefore rightful claim to wealth is only, at base, with those who earned or created nothing (because if you created a value, you must have had special privileges, or helpful regulations, or pull, or took advantage of workers, or, on and on...)

On the one hand, I do certainly believe that the use of the phrase 'giving back' does perpetuate these insidious notions. On the other hand, what is going on here with respect to those who use the terms is a bit more complicated than the notion that they're all just a bunch of commies. I suspect that some of the 'give-backers' have no idea that it doesn't just mean plain old charity, and they've never even suspected anything else. These are the sheeple happily grazing on the vernacular weed. (I'd ask them to think about the 'back,' and suggest they reconsider its use, say, by writing a lengthy rant about the issue.) Then, I expect some of the 'give-backers,' the ones actually doing the giving, really did come by their wealth in a way that they feel or know was in some way dishonest or by way of forced, unearned market advantage, or pull. Heavens knows it's getting harder and harder to find a large business interest that isn't playing footsie with the government. Well, these folks really mean it. Most of them feel relief that the masses seem to be fooled into thinking what they are doing in a golf charity is generosity. They feel guilty. Or, perhaps, they think everyone stinks the same. Then there's the media, most of whom are secretly or nakedly uncertain about whether they themselves have truly earned anything, and are thus quick and ready to claim those billions from corporations just had to be made by use of some government pull or by shaking down the masses, and should certainly be 'given back' in a hefty helping. Then there are the recipients; some of whom are rightly oblivious to all this stench, and some of whom are quite certain that the petty millions being sprinkled their way are insufficient payment for the misdeeds of nefarious businessmen. Why, they've seen it in the movies, and heard it in the classroom. It's hard for them to remember in which setting it was more dramatically portrayed. I'm sure there are more players, each with varied crust of collectivist grime caked onto their moral apparatus - from immaculate to immobile. Regardless, I realize that the shades of culpability in its use are many, its presence in our common language, unquestioned, is more than concerning.

It is a sad state.

We find our governments fornicating with corporations, or seducing them, and we don't stop it. We just tell them to hide it. Call it fancy names, like "stimulating" this or that sector. Sure. It's an appropriate choice of a word. But regardless, keep it covered up. Or we find our government playing mob boss, and making made men out of this or that business interest. You know, setting them up proper, and takin' out regulatory or contractual or legal hits on 'their guy's' competition. So what? These friends -- they're too big to fail. Never mind the colossal untold history of destroyed families, crushed businesses, broken dreams, stillborn genius, aborted inventions, and on and on that these blind bureaucrats have left in their wake as they 'thought they knew best" and peddled their measure of brute force to whatever corporate or special interest with some campaign or political capital would bed them. Never mind all that! They were working for the 'common' good. Right? Well, just remember, we see just the tip of the iceberg of all those 'unintended consequences' from legislative and executive mucking around in the stew of market variables. The bulk of those 'unintended consequences,' are individual's lives and livelihoods. Just take a moment and imagine that history -- that looming hulking weight of anguish and evil that these men, entrusted with defending freedom, have perpetrated in the name of the public good.

Well.... in light of all that, maybe I should just be a bit glad that somebody, somewhere is giving?