With President Obama’s promise to help the Haitian people, Americans are once again confronted with a basic moral question: When the U.S. government gives money away to people in need, who are the good, compassionate, caring people in this process?
Is the president the caring person? After all, he’s the one issuing the order that assistance be given.
How about the people who work for the IRS? Without them, Obama wouldn’t have any money to send to the Haitians.
How about the members of Congress? They’re the ones who authorize the IRS to collect income taxes from people.
How about us, the taxpayers? Isn’t it our money that the IRS forcibly takes from us and puts at the disposal of the president?
How about the voters? Well, at the very least those who voted for President Obama?
How about all Americans, including babies and children who don’t yet pay taxes and vote? Shouldn’t everyone get some moral or religious credit for living in a country where the government takes money from one group of people and gives it to another group of people?
Actually, the money that the U.S. government sends to Haiti does not reflect any goodness, caring, or compassion on the part of anyone. If President Obama wants to help people out, he can send his own money. The same holds true for the members of Congress. And the employees of the IRS. And everyone else.
Suppose I walk into a big corporate convention with a gun. I hold everyone up, and the take is $100,000. I leave the meeting and immediately buy food, supplies, and medicine, which I then send to Haiti. I don’t keep any of the money for myself.
Aren’t I a good, caring, compassionate person? Haven’t I just helped out the people of Haiti? Don’t those convention people from whom I took the money fall into the same category? It’s their money, after all, that I’ve used to help others.
So, what’s the difference between what I have done and what President Obama is doing? The only difference is that his actions are legal (well, except that the Constitution doesn’t authorize him to send U.S. taxpayer money to Haiti or any other country) and mine are not. I will be arrested as common thief and he will be extolled as a fantastic humanitarian saint. But what we have done is no different in principle — we have both forcibly taken money that belongs to others and given it to people in need.
The truth is that charity means nothing in the eyes of God or in terms of moral and ethical principles when the money comes from the government. It only has meaning when it comes from the voluntary and willing heart of the individual. That’s why the only assistance that is genuine, in a moral and religious sense, is that which comes from the private sector — that is, assistance that comes from the voluntary choices of individuals deciding on what to do with their own money.
But what if people refuse to donate to people in need? That is their right. That is what freedom is all about. If people are not free to say no, then they cannot be considered free. By the way, that’s what free will is all about also. While the Lord exhorts us to love our neighbor, He also gives us the freedom to make that choice. He does not force us to do the right thing.
America’s Founding Fathers had it right: no income tax and no socialistic welfare state. Leave people free to keep everything they earn and then decide for themselves what to do with their own money — donate, invest, lend, save, hoard, or spend it. It is that philosophy of economic freedom that we need to restore to our nation. Not only would it produce the massive amounts of capital that raise people’s wealth and standard of living, it would also provide people with much more money by which to help others.