Sunday, March 7, 2010

Other People's Money

Should I admit it? Part of my news diet is the website World Net Daily. The other day this commentary by Dave Welch was posted. (Linked here for your reading pleasure.) I found this very interesting fodder for myself at this time. I am trying to see the balance between self reliance and accountablity for ones' actions and taking care of each other and helping the helpless and needy. A thoughtful Christian should not find this balance easy to achieve. Mr. Welch draws a parallel between opium addiction and what he calls "O.P.M" or Other People's Money addiction. Here are some pungent paragraphs from the article:

The progression from pleasure to pain caused by imbibing something harmful that produces addiction sounds very much like the gnawing hunger and dependency on Other People's Money that has driven our nation to the edge of moral and economic bankruptcy.

The real reason we have a government gone wild is the generational clamoring for local, state and federal governments to provide for us what God and the Constitution intended for us to provide for ourselves. The short-term pleasures felt by opium, alcohol, crack cocaine and taxpayer-funded "pleasure" are the traps by which we are enslaved, because they destroy rather than empower.

We are well familiar with the statement by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that the problem with socialism is that sooner or later we run out of other people's money (O.P.M.).

My beloved aunt once stunned me by saying she believed it was right to take from "rich" people and give to "poor" people. When I followed up, she indicated even that the government should enable it, so that it got done. That's the first time I met a person who believed in "O.P.M." Anyhow, back to Mr. Welch.
In some states well over one-half of the workforce are on the government payroll, and Sen. Jim DeMint reminds us that government dependency is not without great cost: "More people expect government to pay the price and establish the values. This expectation has created a competing vision of America that replaces the principles of freedom with a reliance on government."

The bottom line from a Judeo-Christian perspective – which is the basis for our culture, our laws and our economic system – is that by embracing government as our provider, we are rejecting God as our provider as well as the duty to work and to care for others: Abraham called the name of that place The [YHWH-jireh] LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided." (Genesis 22:14)

Wow, strong stuff, that needs some further thought. The reason this article grabbed me though is that it goes beyond the sort of Objectivism that Ayn Rand espoused that provides the basis for quite a lot of conservative political thought and gives another way to think on the side of self sufficiency and accountability.

The question has to be realistically asked: what is society's obligation to those who are struggling? Take unemployment payments. Does providing unemployment payments serve to a) keep people from being hungry and homeless and provide a stipend for them as they look for work or b) remove from people the urgency of the job hunt, and give them an excuse not to look for work? Paul Krugman in the New York Times examined the question in his column in light of the actions of Republican Senator Jim Bunning. He got 442 comments back from Times readers reflecting all kinds of views. Many comments talked about the nation's debt. Several decried the Republican view as lacking compassion. Some noted many who are using the system in a way that removes the need for them to work.

I haven't gotten anywhere near resolving this in my mind. In fact, an entire paragraph I wrote ended up being lifted out and put in another draft post. What's the balance? How do we as a nation manage our resources and provide for people? Some of this is economics, some of this is philosophy and yes, Virgina, some of this is theology. And none of it is easy.


Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
There's no doubt the incentive problem is huge with every social problem in existence.

I think in some ways Federal giving standardizes what people ought to have. Take the rural south prior to the civil rights movement, for instance. (The 'War on Poverty' years.) People with nothing, no dental, vitamin-deficiency diseases, etc. All races. We made strides with that, and also wasted money in other ways.

We bemoan the public school system, but we never actually TRIED to educate everyone until after Brown v. Board. We screwed up before, and we screwed up afterward too.

Also, just as we wait for the government to do something, can't we wait for "On High' to do it? Either way, we are not out of our chair, but depending on the will of some other entity. When we do get out and do it ourselves, we have a tendency to skip places we don't want to go.

This is why the poor are better at charity than the rich, and why the camel has a better chance getting through the eye of the needle than the rich man into heaven.

I don't know anymore. Sometimes I think people forget that one well-fed educated child is a help to an entire community. One well-fed child w/o education is liable to be angry with society, and one starving kid is an atrocity.

We are screwing up, but having few or no govt programs sounds like a disaster too.

That's some of it, at least to me.

Great post.
Ann T.

the observer said...

Ann T

Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. I am not sure where all my thinkings are leading. I don't think I'll be Progressive tomorrow, but somehow, what we did for 8 years doesn't seem to be the answer either.

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
What I honor most is the thinking it through. We seem to be on automatic, left, right, and middle.

I am hoping for a transformative moment and these keep getting lost or used for less stellar purpose. All these lost opportunities to fix ourselves.

We may yet create an all-partisan reform if we keep putting reform into our conscious thoughts, with such thoughtfulness as you have in your post.

Thank you,
Ann T.