Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Justice and Helping the Poor

Conservatives and liberals have for years argued
back and forth about how we as a society should
assist the poor among us. The debate has intensified
in recent years as our nation's government has expanded
to greater size and scope than ever before under President
Obama and the Democrats.

Liberals seek the shrinkage of the gaps between the rich
and the poor through government intervention, in the form
of taking from the former to give to the latter via taxation;
the monies going to fund government programs established
to give the poor housing, food, medical care, education,
and legal services, among many things to ease their lives.
Conservatives favor charitable giving from individuals,
giving what they are able to give to charities and places
of worship which similarly target the collected monies.
Liberals support potentially unfair treatment by government
in order to achieve equitable results. Conservatives support fair
and comparable treatment from government which may result in
potentially inequitable results, but would still give relief to the
poor while ensuring that individuals keep the fruits of their
labors and the security of their property without confiscation
by the government or anyone else.

The problem with the liberals' solution to poverty is that it
is wasteful in its allocation of resources to the poor, in that
the programs which they create, among other drawbacks,
does not both establish and enforce a means standard for
receiving the help intended for the poor. Many were the times
when programs gave out money to people who not only didn't
qualify for the payments but also to people who figured out
how to "game" the system in order to receive much more
money than they were supposed to receive, if they were to
receive any money at all. This leads to not only increased
dependence upon government programs and the taxpayers
who fund the programs through their not at all voluntary
contributions. Conservatives want to replace these programs
with private initiatives, meaning voluntary giving monies to
charities, which would have more leeway --- and incentive
--- to more efficiently steward the monies in assisting the
economically hurting. However, many people on both the
right and the left see this as an uphill battle with a dash of
"mission impossible", in that they think that there would not
be, and never would be, enough money to cure the ills of
the impoverished in the United States, so they think that while
it is fine to promote private charitable activity, we also ought
not push the government out of the process. But then, the
conservatives want to cut back on the money taken by the
government to fund its anti-poverty programs and implement
oversight measures to have accountability and efficiency
in the programs' operations, while liberals balk at both,
especially at the former, claiming that the poor would be
deprived of necessary assistance.

Lately some liberals, including some who are prominent in
government, have been referring to the Bible, in quotations
and in general references in order to exhort Americans in
supporting increased government spending on the many
programs established to lessen poverty. Funny this, coming
from the same bunch who frequently cry, "Seperate church
and state!" when discussing other issues, such as student
vouchers for children so that they can attend private schools,
some of which are schools run by the Catholic church, or
some other religious institutions. Those who would benefit most
from the vouchers would be children from low-income families,
as they would have an opportunity at a better quality education
than they would otherwise receive from the public school system
and their tired, poorly run, decaying (both physically and edu-
cationally) schools, being in thrall to the teacher's unions which
resist reform with vehemence. These same unions are hardly
citadels of conservatism, it must be stated. Let's briefly examine
Scripture to see what it really advocates re: justice for the poor.
No, I'm not going to go all "Sunday school" on you, my wonder-
ful readers, but the subject matter discussed here requires a
quick but studious look at some Bible passages:

Leviticus 19: 15 states: "You shall not commit a perversion of
justice; you shall not favor the poor and you shall not honor the
great; with righteousness shall you judge your fellow." This
means that we are admonished not to "favor the poor" BEFORE
we are warned "not to honor the great," for favoring the impov-
erished is an even stronger human temptation, albeit one of
what is good and noble within us as humans. For here, some
might be harsh with those who are well-to-do just to be "just".

And in the Jewish faith, Rabbi Shlomo Rashi, an 11th century
intellectual figure who is one of the most influential teachers
of the Torah, gives us this: "Do not say that since the wealthy
man is obligated to help the poor one, it is proper for a judge
to rule in favor of the poor litigant so that he will be supported
in dignity. The Torah insists that justice be rendered honestly;
charity may not interfere with it." So, according to Rabbi Rashi,
helping the poor is and shall always be an individual obligation
on the godly, but should not be the driving force of the law in
the treatment of same.  In other words, we must stop penalizing
the wealthy in order to be caring to the impoverished.

The Peasant says we ought to do two things: to make a system
of justice which allows people to keep more of their earnings
from their enterprising activities and to be secure in their property,
which in turn will give people more money for charitable activities,
and, as individuals, engage ourselves in those charitable activities.
This prescription is consistent with the scriptural passage and the
advice of Rabbi Rashi which we have just discussed here.
We must put our money where our mouths are. And in so doing, we
will shut the mouths of those who want to foist an increasingly
redistributionist system of justice on us, and have the unmitigated
gall to attempt to justify their plans with Scripture.

NOTE: Your faithful Peasant will not be posting next week, so that
I shall have the time to prepare a very special post which I shall
publish on or about September 23, the first anniversary of this blog.
"Peasant With A Pitchfork" will be celebrating one year in existence,
to the enjoyment and gladness of you, my beloved readers, and to
the frustration and consternation of our enemies: the elitist, statist,
insular politicians and their allies who want to turn our great 
country into a place we patriots would not recognize, nor would
want any part of. Let freedom ring!       MEM                                      

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