P.J. O'Rourke on Government "Charity"
Charity is one of the great responsibilities of freedom. But, in order for us to be responsible - and therefore free - that responsibility must be personal.
There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as "caring" and "sensitive" because he wants to expand the government's charitable programs is merely saying that he's willing to try to do good with other people's money. Well, who isn't? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he'll do good with his own money - if a gun is held to his head.
When government quits being something we use only in an emergency and becomes the principal source of aid and assistance in our society, then the size, expense and power of government are greatly increased. The decision that politicians are wiser, kinder and more honest than we are and that they, not we, should control the dispensation of eleemosynary goods and services is, in itself, a diminishment of the individual and proof that we're jerks.
Government charity causes other problems. If responsibility is removed from friends, family and self, social ties are weakened. We don't have to look after our parents; they've got their Social Security check and are down in Atlantic City with it right no w. Parents don't have to look after their kids; Head Start, a high school guidance counselor and AmeriCorps take care of that. Our kids don't have to look after themselves; if they become addicted to drugs, there's methadone, and if they get knocked up, t here's always AFDC. The neighbors, meanwhile, aren't going to get involved; if they step outside, they'll be cut down by the 9mm crossfire from the drug wars between the gangs all the other neighbors belong to.
Making charity part of the political system confuses the mission of government. Charity is, by its nature, approximate and imprecise. Are you guiding the old lady across the street or are you just jerking her around? It's hard to know when enough charity has been given. Parents want to give children every material advantage but don't want a pack of spoiled brats. There are no exact rules of charity. But a government in a free society must obey exact rules or that government's power is arbitrary and freedom is lost. This is why government works best when it is given limited and well-defined tasks to perform.