Thursday, August 05, 2010


DeeLittle left a comment on your wall:


before the gvt decided to step in, our country took care of the poor. right here in vancouver, on 78th where there's a community garden...that used to be the 'poor farm' where people who couldn't support themselves, lived & farmed there. the ymca/ywca, catholic missions, people give

ing their neighbors food and helping them get back on their feet....

this country's people help those who cannot help themselves.

the problem isn't 'can't help', the problem is 'won't help' themselves.

do you believe the country owes these people? or is it the duty of their families?

Dear DeeLittle,

Your reply came through garbled. I respect that you cared to reply also and I hear your concerns.

As a young man I met many men of the Depression Era working in machine shops with me. Two informed me that they were married but did not live with their wives anymore. In order to qualify, during the Depression, for welfare, a woman needed to show that she had no husband present in the house. These two men both had departed their homes and hoboed around the nation taking whatever work was available so that their families could eat. By the time the Depression was over, their marriages were in tatters. They’d grown apart. One of these men was an alcoholic by the time I met him. The other was just an old man batching it and still getting by. So the past is not necessarily a model for the present.

Also private charity which you seem to favor has at least two drawbacks. When charity is connected with religious organizations, the charity often comes with proselytizing. Proselytizing to broken people takes unfair advantage of those wounded people. Second, private charity has never, in the history of mankind, been able to meet the real needs of those who for one reason or another have not effectively competed with their fellow humans in the free market system.

As to families taking up the burden: I think you’ll find that the reason many people are failing to compete is the result of them not having substantial family resources or support. To ask families to care for people that they have already not supported with emotional or financial resources will not meet the demand. The working poor rarely have the resources to get their children into educational levels sufficient for them to compete with the children of the rich whose education is paid for by their parents. The rich, though they sometimes also fail, always get a boost up that their poorer neighbors do not get.

Finally, the real issue is whether or not free market capitalism needs poverty for it to exist. Can the free market provide enough jobs with adequate pay so that workers can earn enough to take care of their families, educate them, meet their health needs and retire without poverty? I see no place in the world, past or present, where free markets supply all the jobs necessary to creating such a plentiful nation. So poverty seems to be a natural result of free market economies. Even though communism is a failed experiment, it was obvious that the financial gap between the rich and the poor there, at the end of the Soviet experiment, was not as great as it is in America so a planned economy also has at least that strength.

But here’s the bottom line of my morality. If capitalism will always create a class of citizen who is in poverty, isn’t it the responsibility of those who are most benefiting from the capitalistic system to make sure that they share some of their wealth with those who must be at the bottom in order for the whole system to operate efficiently?

The conservative argument always seems to me to adhere to the Social Darwinian belief that those who can’t compete must sink into the mire and live there unredeemed and unaided. I agree that life is not and never has been fair, but as a citizen, I’m willing to tax myself in order to create a semblance of humanity within the free market system. So many of the rich (lucky to be born into wealth and into good genes and with reasonable intelligence) who benefit from free market economies seem to think that the world owes them this living and that they have no responsibility to return anything to the system that was so rigged as to make them rich while it impoverishes the other.

1 comment:

Imola said...

Thank you for the things you write!