Who deserves some help?

I’m looking forward to reading Bryan Caplan’s follow-up to his post, Poverty: The Stages of Blame. In the follow-up, he plans to explore what that implies about government and personal behavior.

This topic baffles me. When kept in the abstract, people seem to default to an attitude that ‘something must be done to help’ because people are poor ‘through no fault of their own.’

But, when you start talking about specific people, Caplan’s logic tends to override that abstract reasoning.

But, few people backtrack and wonder how many people really fall into that abstract “through no fault of their own.”

Update: Here’s Bryan’s follow-up post, Poverty: The Stages of Blame Applied. He makes good points.

2 thoughts on “Who deserves some help?

  1. “Who deserves some help?” — Nobody. It’s a false question. The challenge of how to determine the “deserving” ultimately boils down to arbitrary criteria, professions of sympathy, and a little bit of narcissism. It opens the door for politicians to organize coalitions of the gullible and tyrannize the minority that isn’t part of the “in-crowd”.

    “through no fault of their own” implies that poverty is a punishment, it’s not. It’s the natural human condition. Every person is born penniless, naked, and dependent on others. Some grow up with advantages or disadvantages deriving from the family they were born into, their genetics, the location they were born, the opportunities or tragedies they encounter, etc.

    Try this on for size: “My mother died… through no fault of my own” Makes no sense, does it?

    “Help” and charity are fundamentally tools of power. I give you a handout, you are now beholden to me, I feel like a more powerful, superior person (maybe I buy your vote), etc. Charity used to belong primarily with churches, expanding the power of the trans-national church beyond that of local nations and rulers. Now the government has co-opted charity (call it welfare) and requires regular tithing (call it taxes). Except now, if you choose not to tithe, instead of earning the censure of your fellow parishioners you go directly to jail. Political theater has become the opiate of the masses and the mainstream media has become the bully pulpit.

    The only good definition of “deserving” involves earning what you get. If you earn great wealth, you deserve it. If you earn a prison sentence, you deserve it. If you earn a failing grade in school, you deserve it. If you earn a pink slip, you deserve it. If you earn some help, a scholarship, a promotion, you deserve it.

    Any other use of the word is just a variation of grade-school whining: “It’s not fair!”


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