The Bible says “The poor will always be with us.” (John 12:8). The Bible is correct.
The American political season is in full swing. The four remaining Republicans are slugging it out. The current front runner, Mitt Romney, made the mistake of uttering the words “I’m not concerned about the very poor” Though the words he said before and after this comment placed it in a different context, his enemies, both on the right and the left, quickly jumped on the 7 words. Negative ads accusing him of insensitivity began to appear everywhere. The leftist media discussed it while clicking their tongues. Not wanting to help the poor is strictly verboten.
In fact, Romney was correct. The poor are already well taken care of. They neither need nor deserve additional help.
Since 1964 the U.S. government has transferred 10-12 trillion dollars from the producers in society to the poor. Yet the poverty rate has remained virtually unchanged. It would make more sense to leave this money in the hands of those who earned it where it could be invested, thus creating more capital, more jobs, and a higher level of prosperity for everyone. Clearly this immense transfer of wealth has done little to help the poor or society in general. It was wasted.
Despite this dismal failure, pandering politicians, social engineers, believers in the healing powers of big government, and well-meaning individuals constantly call for ever more help for the poor.
Occasionally some people ask the recipients of government largess to give something in return. So far their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Many believe the poor deserve what they are given simply because they are poor. Being poor has become a virtue. The poor are noble. The poor should be respected.
Big government lovers always use the tactic of trotting out some poor, unfortunate person in front of the public and demand ever more spending, bureaucracy, and social welfare programs to prevent similar cases in the future. This is a bogus argument. No matter how comprehensive, there will always be people who slip through the cracks.
Being poor is a mindset. While there are some exceptions, most poor people are poor because of their personal behavior, personal decisions, and their general outlook on life. Giving free goodies to these people will not change things. Sending checks to a person who can not keep at job at McDonald’s will not enable him to become the next Bill Gates.
So far China has not fallen into the trap of false empathy for the poor. In fact there seems to be little the government does to help them. Despite this lack of aid to the poor, Chinese society is not falling apart. While the statistics for the number of officially poor people in China are unclear, it is evident there are many. They are visible on the streets and in the alleys everyday and everywhere.
The difference between Chinese poor and western poor is the Chinese are forced find ways to fend for themselves. They might scavenge cardboard, repair small appliances, dumpster dive, or do small jobs. A small percentage turn to crime. Many depend on their children or other relatives. Even the much reviled street beggars are actually doing something to help themselves. The Chinese poor are not sitting in their government subsidized homes waiting for the next check to arrive.
Knowing the check is in the mail relieves the recipients from the responsibility of caring for themselves. The impulse to take care of one’s self is part of human nature. Removing this burden removes a little humanity with it.
If there is a larger lesson to be learned here it is that is the human spirit is always stronger if forced to be on its own. It is not mentally healthy for a group of people to be dependent on others instead of themselves. Dependence kills humanity and the feeling of self worth. Instead of being grateful, the recipients of government largess become resentful, even hostile to the society that makes these gifts possible. What they are given is never enough.
If China decided to confiscate some of the wealth of its most successful citizens and give it to the poor, the results would be that the poor would remain poor. Instead of having to fend for themselves, they would become dependent on the government for their existence. The wealth taken from the achievers limits their ability to invest in new ventures or expanded existing enterprises, thus slowing the overall economic growth of the country. As capital creation is impeded, the level of economic activity is slowed.
China should remain on the course it has taken. 10% national economic growth will help the poor far more than sending them a check.