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Government Entitlement Programs are Psychologically Dysfunctional

Charity globe sxc hu smallIn an earlier post, “Progressives Don’t Want to Help the Poor to escape Poverty—Entitlement Programs aren’t Charity or Charitable ” I began a discussion on the misguided equalizing of Biblical laws of charity with modern entitlement programs. The problem with this equation is one part poor understanding of Biblical Law and one part social fallacy about the relationship between charity and government programs. Charity is not entitlement and entitlement is not charity. The psychological and social distinction between the two is radical.

Government handouts are given without love, received without gratitude and rapidly become one’s due in the mind of both the giver and the receiver… hurting both.

To whom is one to show gratitude? The state worker who hands out the check? The mailman? oops… sorry mail person? No, that’s not right… Mail Carrier? Sounds like an overgrown pigeon… a carrier person.

Under entitlement, one does not receive mercy, he gets nothing more than what society owes him. He does not feel the weight of his own burden on the community (A powerful motivator in the soul of any person with a sense of personal pride, decency, and work ethic) and has little motivation to work to gain in the short-term only a little more than he expects to get for free from the system. (This is the grand trap.) He feels no sense of personal responsibility or the impulse to give back. He takes and complains that he gets so little. This does not describe every soul who finds himself on the receiving end, but does describe the natural psychological path of these programs generally.

Sowell details in his book, Economic Facts and Fallacies, how, several decades ago, those ranking in the bottom 20% of the economy were the working poor. Now, however, they have been replaced by the non-working poor… who, amazingly enough, maintain a lifestyle that outstrips their gleanings from public assistance.[1]

One does not give of himself as often in such systems; he pays taxes; he says, “the government should do something about this problem,” “There should be a government program to help those people.” One’s duty to the community is often accomplished by voting for those candidates that promise to take care of poor on behalf of the community. I am not saying that there is no charity on the left, that is not the case, but I am saying that there is less… by design. I’ve heard major public figures complain that the constant dedication to charity by the masses was unseemly, diminishing people’s sense of the Government’s responsibility to sustain the poor.[2]

The funding of these programs is built on a vision of government that says it is Government’s duty to cure every ill, and the government’s right to confiscate personal property and earnings to pay not for the earner’s share in public works, but for other non-earners’ share of public works and non-earner’s personal support. Once we deed to the Government the right to confiscate wealth as it pleases, in order to artificially support non-workers, the very mechanisms for prosperity begin to erode. One does not work for what he cannot keep. This is a basic part of human psychology, and will not change. Humanity is not evolving into beings who are motivated by the common welfare, even if some individuals are more conscious of this virtue than others.

These systems are not designed to help the poor, no matter the desire of those who vote for them… they are about gaining power over the nation and using confiscated funds to purchase the support of the dependent masses. Their continued dependence is an important element in retaining that support. The politician seeks power and the voter becomes an enabler of poverty rather than a helper of the poor.

The biblical systems place giver and receiver face to face. There is community accountability for one’s actions, and this accountability is an important part of rescuing the poor from poverty by developing a sense of personal responsibility. When you give out of your larder, open up your fields, or drop by a casserole, the entire dynamic is different from “getting your due in the mail.” When someone shows up at your house, giving their time, literally giving you the shirt off his back or the coat out of his closet, the entire dynamic is transforming for both. Not boaster and deliberately humiliated beggar, but love and gratitude, self-sacrificing neighbor and assisted friend… usually.

Even Theodore Roosevelt recognized one fundamental truth, “The first requisite of a good citizen in this republic is that he shall be able and willing to pull his own weight.”[3] The second is like unto it, that he should be willing to extend charity and aid to those around him that are in need, who cannot work.

Personal responsibility and charity are the true foundations of a free nation.

Entitlement destroys all three.



[1] Thomas Sowell, Economic Facts and Fallacies, 150-57.

[2] On Social Welfare Programs vs Charity: “Their basic thesis was that charity is demeaning and corrupting to both the recipient and the giver and in any case is likely to be sporadic and meager. …Addams, for one, detested charity, and this new construct, derived from Europe, seemed to fit the multiethnic American democracy. It would eliminate the charitable worker and the consequent attitude of superiority of well-to-do individuals…” http://www.uncp.edu/home/marson/348_history.html

[3] Theodore Roosevelt, Speech at New York (1902-11-11); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_citizenship

[4] Media pic is from sxc.hu

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