When Giving is Forbidden: The Real Effects of Socialism on Society

Many people get into socialist activity because they think that it is the best way to improve the world. However, history has shown, time and time again, that coerced giving is not giving at all, and it actually breeds contempt for true acts of selflessness. This has been shown over and over again in the U.S. by regulations that actually prevent people from helping their neighbors. Take for instance the time when health workers too deer meat donated to the homeless by hunters. It was packaged by a state-approved processor, and no defects were found in the meat. What did the health department do? They destroyed the meat! They poured Clorox on it! What in the world would cause someone to destroy $8,000 of valuable, defect-free meat that was given to the poor straight from the people who hunted it!?

And the end of the article is even better. It says, “The department says it is now working with hunters in ways to donate extra game to homeless shelters.” Oh, that’s great. So what the real problem was wasn’t that they were providing deer meat to the poor, but rather they hadn’t asked the right people permission ahead of time. In addition, the department decided to work with hunters after it destroyed the food. It could have done that before and found a way to keep it. But no, when doing good is a government service, they do not allow anyone to do good without checking with them first.

A recent example comes from Northern California, where an 8th grader got detention for sharing his lunch with a friend. Why? Because the food was brought from home, and therefore, to guard the safety of the student receiving the lunch, the kid had to be thrown in detention. This is ridiculous! This is a simple, easy way for people to learn and practice loving each other. But it is banned.

This brings to mind a book I read a long time ago. It was called Learning True Love: Practicing Buddhism in a Time of War. The book was a first-person account of the Vietnam war by Buddhist nun Sister Chan Kong. While Sister Chan would claim no political affiliation for herself, and the left seemed to love her (at least for a time), I actually think what she practices is basically conservatism. Here are some examples:

  • Unlike many modern people who want “universal health care”, Sister Chan actually worked to provide real health care to real people.
  • Unlike many modern people who are concerned about jobs, Sister Chan actually worked to create real jobs for real people, and create new income streams and real productivity for the poor, and not makework jobs just to keep people busy. At the end of the day, the people that Sister Chan helped were whole – they didn’t depend on Sister Chan for their daily needs, but instead were able to provide for them themselves.
  • Sister Chan worked almost exclusively through volunteer organizations. That is, she never forced anyone to give anything, but instead allowed people to give generously to make a difference in people’s lives.

In addition, you can see the true effect of socialism based on what happened to her organization after the socialists took over. Throughout the book Sister Chan documented lots of egregious problems she had with the Nationalist government. However, all of that paled in comparison to what happened after the socialists took over. She was simply forbidden from helping anyone out at all. All of the fears of what socialism would bring if the North took over actually came true when they did. The introduction of socialism, which is supposed to be for the improvement of the people, especially the lower class, actually prevented anyone who wasn’t government-approved from participating in any help. What happens in such a situation? If people can’t help their neighbor on their own, how are they going to learn to do so? Then, pretty soon, you are overrun with people in the government who don’t actually know how to love their neighbor, so the government becomes directly opposed to helping your neighbor, in the name of helping your neighbor. This happens. Every. Time.

I know a lot of people get into government, government social work, charitable social work, and insurance to help people. Because that is the way modern society is set up, I understand this thinking entirely, and am not opposed to the individual efforts. However, I will make a plea that, in your position, you have as a goal to foster more people to help each other for themselves as individuals, rather than trying to channel every eventuality through the system. Find more ways for people to help each other on a natural, daily, individual basis, and not through organizations. There will always be a need for some organizations and some amount of help through there. However, the organizations should have as their priority the empowerment of the people they help (not their dependence), and the empowerment of other individuals to help their fellow man without going through an intermediary of any sort. I shouldn’t have to check with an expert to validate good works. The government is not God, and should stop acting like it.

Side Note – the parent of the 8th grader said, “By all means the school can teach them math and the arithmetic and physical education, but when it comes to morals and manners and compassion, I believe it needs to start at home with the parent.” I used to think this way, too. However, I’ve come to realize that morals and manners and compassion are an integrated part of learning. The real problem is that the schools are teaching them poorly and incorrectly. This kind of thinking says that manners and morals and compassion are entirely subjective. However, I believe that while they are not coerceable, they are in fact objective and can be taught as such. However, when people like Peter Singer are running ethics departments and heading up journals, the quality of moral education on the ground goes to zero. The problem is not that they are being taught, but that we are teaching bad morality. It’s just the same as if we were teaching bad science or bad math or bad history.

Side Note 2 – this is also one of the evils of insurance (insurance is largely voluntary socialism). Once everyone believes that they should be insured against every calamity, we start having our lives run by insurance agents. In a subject that will probably get its own post soon, the churches are starting to implement anti-family policies because their insurance companies are requiring it. The Churches fear the insurance companies more than they fear God.

UPDATE another case in point. Police stopped people from saving a woman from drowning who was trapped in a car. The police themselves did not help, and the woman died.

Why John McClane is One of My Favorite Movie Heroes

From Live Free or Die Hard:

Farrell: I’m not like heroic or anything. I’m not brave like you are.

McClane: I’m nobody’s hero kid. Just doing my job, that’s all. F. being a hero. You know what you get for being a hero? Nothing. You get a little pat on the back, blah-blah-blah. That-a-boy. Get divorced. A wife that can’t remember your last name. Kids don’t want to talk to you. Get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.

Farrell: Then why are you doing this?

McClane:Because there’s nobody else to do it right now, that’s why. Believe me, if there was somebody else there to do it I would let them do it, but there’s not, so we’re doing it.

That’s it. He doesn’t get the glamorous life at the end. He basically returns to squalor between each episode. But the fact is, whatever is put in his lap to do, he’s going to do it, even if it means sacrificing himself. Why? Because he is the one there to do it. He’s going to do his duty. No one asked him to, in fact a lot of people asked him not to do it. There’s no million dollars at the end of the rainbow. His wife isn’t going to come back to him. But he is in a situation where others depend on him, and he is going to do what it takes to get it done. He’s not clean. He’s not nice. He’s not likable. He has every flaw you can imagine. But he is going to give himself on behalf of everyone he cares for, and even everyone he doesn’t.

Society doesn’t need perfection. It doesn’t even really need nice people. Society needs people who look to the needs of others before themselves, and are willing to do the right thing even when there is no candy at the end of the rainbow.

Conservatism – Humility, Duty, and Practicality

I don’t know if this is the whole story, but over the last few months I have been going back over what it means to be conservative. I feel that many of the typical formulations only scratch the surface. A lot of people point to “freedom” and “capitalism” and “democracy,” but I personally view these as being secondary outgrowths of a deeper tradition of wisdom. One of the issues of wisdom is that it is always hard to articulate, which is why much of Hebrew wisdom is given in proverbs, and much of Jesus’ wisdom is given in parables. The best attempt I have seen, so far, in articulating conservative values is Wiker’s 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read.

While Wiker’s book is an excellent introduction to deep conservative thought, I think it still misses on hitting the deep value core of conservatism. Having read a lot of conservative work myself, I think that the best of conservative thought hinges on three principle values – humility, duty, and practicality.

Humility may seem odd, given the self-assured sense in which many conservatives present themselves. However, the humility of the conservative is not in his ideals, which are outside himself, but in what he allows for others. This is the reason why conservatives value capitalism – capitalism is humble, because it recognizes that other people’s prioritization of capital expenditures might be different than their own. This is why conservatives value democracy – it is the recognition that no one person has all of the answers in themselves. This is why conservatives value tradition – it is the act of humbling yourself before the experiences and ideas of those who came before you.

As you can see, while conservatives are usually not very humble in their pushing of conservatism, the ideas themselves are fundamentally founded on expressions of humility.

Liberalism is not humble. Liberalism says that whatever my cause is should fundamentally be put first. Liberalism says that the problems that I see in the world is more important than the problems that you see in the world. Therefore, I am justified in taking your money to solve my problems. Liberalism says that I am smarter than you. This is why liberals are always trying to make the other look morally and intellectually inferior. This is why Republicans are often branded as “anti-science” – they refuse to have actual conversations and debates (those require enough humility to view an idea as worth hearing) and instead just rule out options a priori. Liberalism says that the new is better than the old. That we don’t need to listen to tradition because who cares what the dead think anyway. We can always come up with some hot-button issues that disqualifies them from being heard anyway.

The second value of conservatism is duty. Conservatives view duty in a very unique way. Your duty is unique, and it deals with the people who are nearest to you. Jesus asks us to love our neighbor. We choose our friends, we choose our wife, but God chooses our neighbors. This is the most disturbing thing – we must care for our neighbor simply because he is there. This also means that my duty is going to be different from your duty. This sense of duty is one of the main things that separates conservatives from Libertarians.

The Libertarian view of duty always seems to come back to this quote from Rand: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” Conservatism views the world quite differently. Conservatism says that there are situations that we can be in, which we did not choose for ourselves, in which we have duties to others. If someone is drowning, we have a duty to save them. This is even rightfully enshrined in law. If it is within our direct power to directly save a life, we must do it. That is why conservatives are against abortion. Women, even when they did not choose to carry a baby, nonetheless has a duty towards that baby that they carry. Husbands have duties to their wives, wives have duties to their husbands. This is why conservatives are against no-fault divorces – we all have duties that we must fulfill, and society is depending on each person performing their duty.

However, because of the individual nature of most duties, most of them are not able to be legislated. That fact, paired with the individual nature of duties, means that, out of humility, conservatives are not able to encode within legislation a person’s individual duties. We must recognize that each person has duties that we may or may not be able to see and understand, and therefore we cannot legally lay claim to whether or not that person is fulfilling their duty in many circumstances.

Liberals also have a concept of duty, but one which is much different than that of conservatism. The liberal concept of duty is much different than the Christian concept. The liberal concept of duty, rather than focusing on individual people and their duties towards each other, abstracts both the person with the duty, and the person to whom the duty is owed. The conservative view of duty is very concrete, with each person having a duty towards the people with whom they are in contact. The liberal view of duty relies on alienating people from each other – the “haves” and the “have nots,” the “white” and the “black,”, the “unprivileged” and the “privileged.” By abstracting these two groups, it also means that their interactions are likewise abstracted. A “privileged” person never has to actually meet an “unprivileged” person and find out what they need or how they can help. They only are able to see them as part of the group, and will never be able to see their differentiated needs apart from their membership in the group. And the person who is receiving the duty will never know the person from whom they received it, and will continue in thinking them in abstract terms. When the good samaritan found the traveler on the road, he interacted with him. That interaction probably changed both of them. I’m sure that both the priest and the Levite who passed him by would have contributed to the “road safety fund” at their local tabernacle. But touching a hurting person on the side of the road? They were just too busy. That is someone else’s job. We need to get the government involved to help.

The final conservative value is practicality. Practicality is itself an outgrowth of humility. It is the recognition that the accomplishments we want to accomplish may not be the same ones we can accomplish, and being humble enough to take the tasks which are doable and are under our control. It also means limiting the scope of what we are trying to do – recognizing that our own interference through government can actually prevent good things from taking place. Liberals never seem to realize that even when their intentions are good, they are often preventing more good than they are doing. Conservatives recognize that they must limit the scope of what they do, because otherwise they may do more damage than good. It also recognizes that all laws will, somewhere, somehow, do damage to someone. There is no stopping that. But recognizing that fact will mean that the laws will be few enough and small enough that the damage is minimized, and no law will be enacted unless it is worth the risk of the damage that it can do.

I am sure that there are other things that can be said, but for the time being these are the underlying, driving considerations that I have noticed in the deeper conservative thought.

Oh, Look, the Yuan is Now the World’s Reserve Currency

According to this news report, the UK is going to start issuing bonds denominated in Yuan (note – the Yuan and Renminbi are the same thing). Russia and China are already starting to do exchanges in Yuan, and have upped their commitments in the past year. China is looking at doing similar transactions with Australia. It’s even gaining ground among American companies. This is bad news for the American economy, who has profited from the world using dollars as the reserve currency.

However, such things are coming to a close. Why? Here’s the deal – a lot of times people get things they don’t deserve. That’s not a problem. The problem is what you do with it. If you treat your good things as being under your stewardship, then you can keep it a long time. If, instead, you view it as yours to extract from others, you will lose it quickly.

I think that is the point of the story of the rich man in Luke 12:16-21. Jesus did not deride the man for being rich or for having nice things. However, his goal in all things was himself. When he got the surplus grain, he just decided to build bigger barns, and then do nothing and sit on it. In other words, rather than stewarding his possessions, he was just going to consume them.

When you act as a steward, you do in fact get benefits. However, *more* than just you benefit. There was nothing wrong with the US being the world reserve currency, and nothing wrong with us benefitting from it. However, what has happened is that our own view of our role has shifted. We do not see ourselves as being stewards of the international monetary system; instead of acting as servants of the system and its participants, we view it as servants of us. As such, we are in the process of being stripped of it.