January 19, 2010

The Good Samaritan and Welfare Statism


The following quote is from a post I came across the other day. I found it to be a fascinating analogy, but I'm curious for your thoughts.

"Christ taught that one can not live by the sword - I'd add that one can not give by the sword. If the Good Samaritan had robbed the priest in order to take care of the man in need and pay for his lodging at the inn, he would have been the Bad Samaritan. If he had fancied himself charitable while doing so, he would have been the Hypocritical Samaritan."

13 comments:

Arcane Rest said...

At which point is it okay to take from some one? If you deem they have 3 of everything they could ever want and they really only need 1 of everthing can you take one leaving them with only 2 of everything,is it okay then?

Is it okay for the wealthy to have 2 homes when hundreds of thousands in the United States are homeless?

Is it okay for us to have a Thanksgiving feast when there are millions of starving people around the world?

The answers: never, no, yes, and yes.

The problem is not that the person has things or that there are people that do not. The problem is the sin in the world that has led us to have such great disparities among people. How do we address this?

With LOVE, could the wealthy donate money/time/buildings to assist? Could the people in the middle assist with this too?

The answers are YES AND YES. We should all do this. We should not allow the government decide where money goes because they are historically incompentent with managing money. Donate your money, tithe, and show your love to the people less fortunate and make a better world.

Eric Olsen said...

but in your way, there's still a risk of people not getting covered. what if we created a government that perfectly covered everything....

Arcane Rest said...

You mean in fantasy land? Where I get to ride a unicorn to work at the nerf factory? It seems like perfect coverage everywhere is quite utopian, which means nowhere not paradise.

People don't get covered because that is what happens in the world. Despite the best planning and the bigger you make the government you invade the private market with taxes leading to the stealing from the haves.

Simply put individuals are better at charity than the goverent is at welfare.

Eric Olsen said...

maybe you just hate people.

LOVE the nerf factory idea. that's going to become a new staple in my job search list, along with ice cream taster and roller coaster tester.

Arcane Rest said...

It is definitely not that I hate people but that I care so much I want to give The needy more of my money.  Having the govt force donations, which really aren't donations at all, decreases my power to assist.  The overhead cost of govt run anything is far more than a private charity and/or person.

Giving 70-90% ($ to a private charity) of my money to the needy is better than 40-50% ($ to the govt), does this not make sense?  Have you not heard the complaints of even the libreal media that it is the beaucracy that has delayed money and assistance to Haiti from the govt?

chris said...

Sabai,

How do you imagine the Good Samaritan got his silver coins to help the man in the first place? My guess is that the silver, like most forms of wealth, can be traced back to some form of stealing (a la predatory lending, land seizures, brother was a carpenter and the deal he got on his house was subsidized by the poor family down the street who needed their roof repaired, heck even if it was inherited he didn't have any more merit-based claim to it than did the poor guy on the side of the road). As usual, not sure this speaks to the question, but reflects my thoughts :)

Arcane,

I'd totally take this position if I thought it were true. It very well could be, I'm just not that skeptical of my government vis a vis private charities. I guess I think the taxes I pay (let's not forget that charitable deductions do exist!) to feed poor kids breakfast and lunch via the national school lunch program, to fund an evening bus route to get a third-shift janitor to and from work, or to pay for a veteran's health costs are as effective as a private donation I'd make. With that said, I also appreciate how non-profits can rely on local knowledge to deliver similar services. The problem is scaling up those services so that (theoretically) all folks have access to them (I think public transit is a good example - if you think that market competition among private operators is a better solution see Good Samaritan example above). Perhaps the most potential lies in channeling tax dollars directly to privately run organizations?

Arcane Rest said...

Chris

the amount of money given to the govt is simply wasteful in some areas. It is easily seen through the amount of debt encurred by the federal govt over the years. The program are often run into the ground by braucratic policy. As good as it is to say that the govt could be a Good Samaritan in itself, it simply cannot. The govt is a spender of money with no way to make a profit ( with a couple exceptions, ie, interest on bailouts). The govt takes my money and uses it to build programs that are run horribly. There isn't a program that has not been run on budget, even the transit system. The VA is significantly worse withimitations to the veterans care so much so that vets would rather go to a private hospital and pay for care since it would take so long to be seen or adequately treated.

The govt is not efficient and is a drain rather than a gain for the economy. Although some ideas are good, the are executed poorly running up the tab to the taxpayer.

Also, you don't think that any one could be honestly wealthy because of a unique product leading to wealth? That is very surprising. It is interesting that in a country where business relies on treating a customer correctly to be successful you see that the only way to make money is to be immoral.

Eric Olsen said...

yeah, the "only way to make money is through theft" is pretty out there.

I think Chris brings up a good point, though. I think people don't think enough about the inefficiencies of government programs BECAUSE they're going to "good" things. Kind of like how most people don't pay attention to how the church spends their donations, because it's going to a church, "a good thing."

chris said...

Arcane,

My argument isn't that the government is efficient, its that nonprofits are just as inefficient. That's the evidence I'm looking for. No need to convince me that inefficiencies exist, the do. I'm tossing around the idea that inefficiencies are just as egregious in non-profits.

Onto the wealth question..
First off, I don't think most folks who accumulate wealth are inherently immoral, and definitely don't consciously set out to screw people over. With that said, I think the system is inherently immoral so that 9/10 instances of wealth accumulation is equivalent to stealing. Perhaps the Good Samaritan was the 1 in 10 - I've got no way of knowing...but the world was way less capitalist then so his odds are a bit better. The woman who develops a unique product as you mention (assuming she can operate outside of this system) is a tiny, tiny fraction of that 1 in 10.

I don't think business in this country relies on treating a customer "correctly" (whatever that means), but rather making a customer believe her or she is being treated correctly.

chris said...

Of course this perspective is "out there" in this time and place. But can you share an example of profit-making that doesn't involve stealing? (And by the way, is my forced donation into the pool of government small business startup incentives stealing too?).

Don't want to lose sight of this exercise, but pull it back another layer and ask give an example of profit-making that doesn't require any existing wealth/capital. Because if I can take the risk to get my good idea off the ground cause my dad can cosign a $10,000 loan for me, while the other guy with a better idea doesn't get to pursue it, that's nearly tantamount to theft in my book.

Excluded this thought from ast comment, but now in response to Eric...is overhead greater in government or churches?

Eric Olsen said...

Chris, can you give a couple examples of profit-making theft? I just don't think I understand your point yet. I think my definition of stealing implies "force", but doesn't count when it's based on consumer ignorance. Is that the kind of thing you're referring to?

That's why, for example, church spending doesn't bother me AS much. Because, their spending is all funded on willing donations, not legal mandate.

Because then it becomes a persuasion game (telling people that in order to be a better steward of your finances, as Jesus spoke about, you'd spend your money on some of the Copenhagen Consensus' top good/dollar list, rather than trying to build another wing on your castle.)

Arcane Rest said...

Let's say I make design a product and patent it for whatever it costs. This product cost me $5 to make but I can sell it for $35 based on what the public will pay for this product. Because I am making $30 of profit (prior to other expenses) I expand my business and in 15 years become a millionaire. Is this considered stealing or a dishonest business man?

If so, when can a person make a profit? And how much profit is 'okay' before it becomes 'unfair'?

Arcane Rest said...

Let's say I make design a product and patent it for whatever it costs. This product cost me $5 to make but I can sell it for $35 based on what the public will pay for this product. Because I am making $30 of profit (prior to other expenses) I expand my business and in 15 years become a millionaire. Is this considered stealing or a dishonest business man?

If so, when can a person make a profit? And how much profit is 'okay' before it becomes 'unfair'?