To preface, this is directed at Christians specifically, but may have more general application as well.
It’s not uncommon for me to come across more liberally minded Christians arguing in defense of massive government entitlement programs or care programs, most recently the Affordable Care Act, citing Jesus’ love and compassion. “Jesus gave up everything,” “You can only have one master,” “Jesus took care of the poor,” etc. All of these points are true, but in no way are an adequate defense of massive government programs.
Since I am a Christian, I feel it is my call to love everyone and doing so should often manifest itself in financial means of helping out those in need. In this way, I should be willing to give up wealth in vast amounts, not to make an idol out of “success,” and contribute to organizations that can help out those I am unable to reach. In my opinion, this (and going even further in your own possible ways) is the proper response to the calling of Christ and “true religion,” as written in James.
Why, then, am I so vehemently opposed to government programs? Several reasons:
- Government Waste
- Failure of Societal Mentality Change
- Government Role and Viability
Government Waste: The free market isn’t always perfect, but I think that’s a given. No system will ever be perfect in a fallen world, yet as such, I think this is the best defense for the free market. It allows diversification of ability, allowing entities which fail to meet their goal of helping people to be ditched in favor of solutions which are helping those in need. The way these government programs (Affordable Care Act, in particular) are being set up is aiming for a good end, helping the needy, but doing so irresponsibly, causing massive deficits and debts. The programs themselves haven’t been handled in a competitive or competent way, causing for massive wastes of money being dumped in for minimal results (while the Affordable Health Care Exchange websites aren’t correlative directly to the medical care, the waste of the money and utter failure are indicative of government attempts of setting up systems in general). Think of all that could have been saved and gone to non-profits had a competitive, free market business handled the website set up alone!
Failure of Societal Mentality Change: Proponents of these programs often say that as Christians, we should be okay with giving up all the money (which I’m sure we struggle with, but it’s not directly the parting of money to which most of us object) and that society needs to take care of these people and care about them. Unfortunately, while for a short time the needy might be taken care of to a degree, this doesn’t change society in a way which causes them to take action to take care of the poor. A mandatory requirement of money does nothing to incentivize or move people to care about others. As an illustration, look at the number of youths who, while required every Sunday to attend church, leave as soon as they are able? Just because you are required to commit to an action doesn’t cause one to care about it anymore. If we are truly to take care of these people, it must start with a cultural shift in morals and values. [Incidentally, those who work hard and earn more money give disproportionately more to charities on average]/
Government Role and Viability: It is not the governments role to mandate generosity; indeed, this isn’t generosity at all but extortion. The state and society must be separated, as far too often they are combined in the minds of people. A society which encourages generosity is to be commended, but a state which mandates it is oppression. Now, even if to this point you’ve been thinking along the lines of ‘the ends justify the means,’ or that you don’t care so much about this as you do the bottom line, here’s why that view too falls to my side. People, as a general rule, can be trusted to do what is best for them. While generosity will always be encouraged, when people are mandated to give into a system which takes more and more away from them despite their increasing amounts of work, they will find the lowest common denominator. If our system encourages hard work, people will work hard, earn money, and be able to give freely. If our system ‘punishes’ the successful, they stop increasing their production of innovation and skill, earn less, and contribute less. This means the state has less income, and is unable to attend to its (what should be few) roles. In this way, you remove an avenue of donation to the needy by limiting free money individuals have to give, and you also prevent the government from fulfilling other responsibilities which in turn could affect everyone.
These are just some thoughts I’ve been having of late. Thank you, if you’ve read this, for obliging me.