Still not convinced by the previous posts? As stated earlier, welfare payments are viewed as a foundational means of transferring wealth between members of a society by those who believe in collectivism to achieve the goal of social justice. But what of the fruits of this approach – what does it produce for a society or its people? Are people made more independent or more dependent? Dependence serves to decrease ones choices, but it is our making choices which leads to us achieving our purpose. Therefore, an action which increases independence, or lessens dependence, serves to increase our ability to achieve our purpose. Let’s take a specific example from today to see how well our current policies align with our purpose. Jason Greenslate is a twenty-nine year old from San Diego who is pursuing his dream of becoming a rock star. There is no problem with that in and of itself. We should all use our talents as they are the means by which we fulfill our purpose. However, it is not just the goal itself that matters, but also how a goal is achieved. The choices we make in reaching a goal define who we are, and who we become – and therefore whether we achieve our purpose.
Jason was interviewed several times recently by Fox News. He is incredibly honest, and his answers provide insights into the failure of both a civic education and public assistance provided under the oversight of our Federal government. Let me make that clear. I am not saying that assistance should not be given within a society, but instead that it matters a great deal in how it is done, who does the giving, and that government is generally a poor steward of resources and inefficient means of transferring wealth. Jason’s generation, within the public school system at least, have received a strictly secular education, and the present policies have by and large been in place for this generation, with many of the reforms implemented under the Clinton administration having been undone.
Let’s start with a few basic questions. First, just because you can do something, should you do it? Second, if the rules say that it is okay, is that enough to determine one’s actions? The rules within our society today are based almost solely on human law. Man turned toward himself. So what of morality in that case?
Jason has received public assistance in forms of food stamps and paid healthcare for several years. By his own admission, he has not worked at a job which paid money for his services for over a year. Instead he has pursued his dream of becoming a musician. He views that as his work and lifestyle. The recording company he is under contract with provides him with a car to use, and his attorney provides housing for him.
His responses are telling. When asked if he understood why people may not agree with his situation, he responded, ‘Just because my job is a little cooler than yours. People are more jealous than anything.’ At its heart, this is an elitist response as it views some jobs or professions as being superior to others. When asked if he thought he was gaming the system, he replied, ‘Why would I be gaming the system when I fit the qualifications.’ The rules of America are you have to pay taxes, and he has ‘gotten in line for a system that is set up in America.’ The rules are enough. You have no personal responsibility. If you fit the criteria you are entitled to use the system. Jason views the assistance he receives as giving him the ‘opportunity to focus on my career.’ He is focused on himself, but does not see his actions as self-centered. His actions are a far cry from one taking care of his fellow man. He understands that the money he receives comes from the ‘government, taxes, us, the people’ – even though he has contributed no taxes in over a year, and has used his freedom to choose his particular lifestyle.
When asked if he cares, he says he does – he is thankful to America. When asked if he realizes that others paying for his lifestyle choice results in his taking away resources from others through the taxes they pay, leaving them less able to pursue their dreams, he responds, ‘so they can have dreams, but I can’t have dreams.’ Again, there is no concept of personal responsibility or selfishness, only the notion that it is okay because the rules say it is okay. Jason has chosen to be poor, and there is no understanding of the morality of taking resources from others in order to support his choices. Instead he is ‘entitled’, simply because society says it is okay. This is a type of collective morality and a perverse incentive which encourages dependence and a focus on oneself. A society cannot prosper, and probably cannot even survive, with this mindset. I’m not saying that all in his generation have this mindset, but rather that there is a growing number who share it.
The primary role of government is the administration of justice, and in the words of Augustine, ‘Justice is the virtue which accords to each and every man what is his due.’ Are those like Jason receiving what they are due? What about those whose wealth has been confiscated under the guise of human law? This is a pivotal question. What would happen if everyone within a society took Jason’s view of morality? Would this still be just? If it is not justice, then, again in the words of Augustine:
‘Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity.’
As to whether the actions of those like Jason are just, I would point to the following three quotations:
· ‘Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.’ Phil. 2:3-4
· ‘For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you.’ 1 Thess. 2:9
· ‘For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order; if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.’ 2 Thess. 3:10-11
First, put others above yourself and care for their interests as well. Second, do not be a burden on others, but labor, all the while keeping your purpose in sight. Third, if you can work then you should. In the words of Clement, ‘to the whole human race then, discipline and virtue are a necessity, if they would pursue after happiness.’
Finally, I am not saying that Jason is the problem. He is merely the result. The problem is much larger and deeper. We’ll look at this in the next post.