Monday, September 03, 2012

Is It Government's Role to Care for the Poor?

Jim Wallis of Sojourners has written an article entitled "Caring for the Poor is Government's Biblical Role." His argument isn't so much biblical as it is philosophical. It can pretty much be summed up like this: "Caring for the poor is a good thing, and governments are supposed to promote good, so therefore government should care for the poor."

The intention behind wanting government to step in and care for the poor may be noble indeed, but those who call for such action seldom look beyond mere intentions. There are deeper implications to consider.

Penn Jillette, entertainer and avowed atheist, wrote an article last year for that touched on this issue:
It's amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we're compassionate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.

People try to argue that government isn't really force. You believe that? Try not paying your taxes. (This is only a thought experiment -- suggesting on that someone not pay his or her taxes is probably a federal offense, and I'm a nut, but I'm not crazy.) When they come to get you for not paying your taxes, try not going to court. Guns will be drawn. Government is force -- literally, not figuratively.
When seen from that perspective, all the talk about government doing more to help the poor takes on an entirely different meaning.

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