Home > Religion & Philosophy > Human Nature, Charity and Personal Responsibility

Human Nature, Charity and Personal Responsibility

originally posted on MySpace in July ’08, but it seems appropriate for the current public debate, so it will remain a “sticky post” for a while.  new material will appear below

I’ve been thinking a lot about charity and personal responsibility lately. There are those in our current culture who believe it is the responsibility of government to provide for those who cannot, or – as is usually the case – simply will not provide for themselves. I propose to you that this responsibility, in a very limited fashion, falls on the individual.

It is true that those of us who have more than we need have a moral obligation to help those who cannot (note, I did not say “will not” this time) help themselves. We do this through charitable contributions to faith-based organizations and on a one-to-one basis whenever possible. However, one’s primary responsibility is to first provide for oneself and one’s family. This is an unalterable fact of human nature; we care more about us and ours than we do others . . . and ultimately, this is how it should be (and forever will be). That isn’t to say we shouldn’t “love others as ourselves”. It simply means we cannot and should not love others more than those to whom we have a direct responsibility.

When Government puts a gun to your head and demands that you be charitable (and this is exactly what is happening when taxes are raised, collected and used to fund social programs), it does not and cannot instill a sense of empathy and compassion for those less fortunate. Rather, it creates resentment toward those who are seen as too lazy to work for their supper. You cannot steal someone’s property, give it to someone else, and expect either person to come out better for it. Again, this is simply human nature, and it will never change. Also, no amount of money confiscated from taxpayers can ever eliminate poverty; therefore, individual charity is still required. However, because the individual now has fewer resources with which to provide for a family (their first priority), that charity cannot and does not materialize.

The only method for truly dealing with poverty is to reignite in the average American a sense of personal responsibility – first and foremost the responsibility to do yourself that which needs to be done for yourself and your family, but also the responsibility to help those who are truly in need, rather than expecting someone else (the Government, i.e. “everyone else but me”) to do it for you.

One other thing is also required, and it’s not pretty. It must be accepted by all of society that poverty cannot and will never be eliminated. The best we can hope for is to mitigate the suffering of those who cannot provide for themselves and to force those who can to do so. There will be poor always! There will forever be those who simply cannot make it on their own without assistance from others. Those unfortunate souls deserve our help, and we should give it to them – but not because we are forced to do so by those who have no understanding of basic human nature and no desire to take that responsibility on themselves.

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