Kevin Williams has a very thoughtful piece on Capitalism for yesterday’s Day of Thanksgiving. While not directly thanking God (which the Pilgrims did on that day back in 1623), he confronts the wave of Socialism that reared it’s ugly head on November 6 and does a nice job of defending it when most cannot stand against the “kindness” onslaught of those believing that Government directed economies (Socialism, Communism) and behaviors are VERY MUCH superior to customer / individual self-directed choices (Capitalism). In part (reformatted, emphasis mine):
There is a part of the Christian tradition that relates charitable giving to the Seventh Commandment, which is the prohibition on theft. The idea is that the world and all that it contains are God’s gift to corporate mankind — “the universal destination of goods,” in theological jargon — so that the man with two coats holds one of them unjustly when his neighbor shivers in the cold with no coat at all. Private property, in this understanding, is instrumental in promoting the common good, but it does not supersede the primordial gift.
There is great grace and goodness and wisdom in that. But it simply assumes the existence of coats and coat factories, the vast and incomprehensibly complex apparatus of coat-production that incorporates materials, effort, and intelligence from people all over the world, coordinating the efforts of men and women who do not speak the same languages, share the same religion, reside in the same countries, or even know of one another’s existence — from goose farmers to computer programmers to chemical engineers.
And Williams brings up a few thought experiments:
Here is a little thought experiment.
- Scenario 1: You have two coats, your neighbor has none, and so you give him a coat.
- Scenario 2: You have two coats, your neighbor has none, but he also doesn’t have enough food, and he may not be able to make the rent, so you sell one of your coats and give him the money and let him decide for himself what is his most pressing need.
- Scenario 3: You have a thousand coats, and your neighbor has none, and he is hard-pressed in many other ways, so you sell 999 coats and plant an orchard, and redirect a portion of the proceeds from that orchard to helping your neighbor and others like him.
- Scenario 4: You have ten thousand coats, and your neighbor has none, and so you sell 9,999 coats and use the money to plant an orchard and some grapevines and a small herd of cattle — they were pretty darned nice coats that you sold — and you hire your poor neighbor to help you manage all that, as a consequence of which he is no longer too poor to buy his own coat — a secondary but happy result of the greater good that now all of your neighbors enjoy a more abundant supply of fruit and vegetables and milk and meat, whether they are poor, rich, or in-between.
Three and Four depend on one thing: investment. Investment – the ability to have financial capacity to redirect it from one area to another. One would assume that having a 1,000 or 10,000 means that there is a bunch of capital funds in order to carry out those scenarios. Please also note that one person can “turn on a dime” using their own resources than Government can and provide Charitable funding. Yes, you have done well in order to be that Scenario 3 or 4 “you”.
But which is the best and longest term solution of the four? I’d say Four – for it is no longer Charity but the result of investment that creates the highest form of assistance – a job. Yup, something that most Statists / Socialists / Democrats decry. Why? Simple: the best expression of a hand up instead of a hand out. The best expression of independence vs dependency is a job.
Charity is honorable and necessary. We all — but especially those of us who have been blessed with so much — have a positive moral obligation to help the poor. But when we speak of the distribution and consumption of goods, we ignore the more fundamental question of how those goods get produced in the first place. God may have given us the Earth as a gift, but He does not plant potatoes or raise pigs or build the refrigerated trucks that keep people far from the farms and ranches from starving to death. He leaves that to us, one of the many ways in which we share in His creative work.
Here is a truth that almost never is spoken: All of the money that ever has been saved and invested in profit-seeking productive business enterprises has done incalculably more for the poor – by many orders of magnitude — than has all of the money that ever has been put to charitable uses, formal or informal, mainly by preventing them from ever being poor in the first place. That saving and investment, and the innovation and labor that have gone along with them, are the only thing in the history of this little blue planet that has made its inhabitants less poor. Of course we invite the hungry to our table. A hell of a lot of good it would do if we didn’t have anything to put on their plates other than nice intentions or sanctimonious sentiments.
I have been employee for most of my career; a status that would be impossible without “investment” (and not the kind that Democrats and Socialists say when they really mean “we’re gonna take from you and spend it because YOU are too dumb or coldhearted where we say you should”). Capital (money, time, and skill) made that possible for me to provide for my family and NOT be destitute. Too, I was an employer signing the front of paychecks – between the efforts of TMEW and I at our daycare center kept five full time and 3 part timers employed.
So which is better – simple charity or the dignity and the self-esteem of work in giving someone a job?
I maintain the latter. In fact, I hope to employ someone real soon in my endeavors in which I’ve been working on since April.
Go read the whole thing: National Review