Isn’t a little bit of socialism a good thing? During the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama was confronted by an average American, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (aka “Joe the Plumber”), who posited a simple question, “Your tax plan is gonna tax me more isn’t it?” Obama responded flippantly, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” Isn’t that the epitome of charity? Shouldn’t those who have more, who have “been lucky” share their surplus with those made less fortunate by life’s vagaries? Obama’s statement is epitomic—of a sterile socialism.
One of progressivism’s most significant victories is the redefinition of what it means to be a charitable citizen. Most people want to feel as though they are basically decent and that urge is usually fulfilled by acts of charity. Progressives have captured the popular notion of this virtue and have reforged it in the fires of statism, reshaping it on the anvil of humanism, and have produced a monstrosity. Charity is conflated with social responsibility, safety nets, and notions of redistribution.
Traditionally, charity was understood as an act of compassion, derived from an individual’s expression of religious conscience, and most often carried out discretely. Every notion that we have inherited from our Judeo-Christian heritage follows the model of individuals acting in response to the need of less fortunate individuals. The individual acts, prompted by the specific need of another individual, to meet needs that were understood to be real and immediate. In one Christian example, people of faith voluntarily formed a private religious community (not a civil authority) to minister to the needs of their brothers and sisters, keeping all things in common. In another well known example, the Good Samaritan acted on his own accord to provide for the desperate and immediate need of another. Interestingly, two quasi-government officials, a priest and a Levite, passed the man in need, leaving him to die.
Biblical charity is always an act initiated by an individual to meet the need of another. Charity is never the product of state action. The state can only confiscate and redistribute. Governments do not create wealth and prosperity only exists in proportion to the economic liberty enjoyed by its citizens. Government is merely a necessary evil in a corrupt world, and it is only legitimate when exercising the few powers granted to it by providence: “to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.”—Preamble to The Constitution of the United States of America
Safety nets, social security, income inequality, The Affordable Health Care Act–these are all euphemisms designed to obfuscate, confuse, and distract from the reality of these programs. Far from being charitable, they are statist mechanisms for the redistribution of resources by an incapable few for the enrichment of a kleptocracy. They are lies from their inception and rely on inertia, deception, and the inexorable passage of time to conceal their development to maturity. Initially, social security was supposed to provide benefits to widows and orphans. Now, its decrepit carcass has swollen to unsustainable proportions and functions as a slush fund for a political class corrupted by ambition and avarice. All of these government programs are tainted with a fatal flaw, they attempt to replace a duty incumbent on all of us, as individuals, to be our brothers keeper. When governments presume to play God the result is always catastrophic.
There is no such thing as a little bit of socialism. Just as there is no such thing as a little bit of leprosy. The malignancy spreads until the host is consumed. The doctrines contained in the Bible condemn socialist attitudes and commend individuals who act in accordance with their conscience to meet the needs of others. Prior to the rise of progressivist ideas in America, charitable private and religious institutions flourished, enriching those in need as well as those who gave. As the statist chains are tightened around our necks, the American people continue to be the most charitable among the leading nations. However, a people must be prosperous to be widely charitable and the less free we are, the less prosperous we will be. President Obama was wrong. His government can only confiscate. We, the people, are the ones who create and give. Obama’s socialism isn’t good for everybody, it’s only good for a covetous few.