Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Trickle Down Charity

Smile Politely is hurting for content this week, since a lot of our writers are university affiliated and therefore, crunched right now. So, I may do two columns this week.

Today's column is an expansion of a letter to the editor I did four years ago when Bush was re-elected and decided he had a mandate. It ridicules trickle-down economics, because in my world view, the idea that it is a social good to make rich people wealthier is a ridiculous one.

It's available here: Trickle Down Charity


brownie said...

I've noticed one of your favorite words to write is "debunked," usually in close proximity to a policy or idea you disagree with. This is fine, as I'm all for the truth. But I wonder how often you investigate the "debunking" of ideas, policies, etc, that you do agree with. If honesty is a virtue you value (because of it's inherent relationship to truth), then be courageous and look at ALL debunking, because there is indeed plenty of drivel floating around on your preferred side of the aisle.


Dan S said...

Do you have a specific policy or idea that I have failed to debunk, or you just generally moaning? :)

Robert Sievers said...

I have a better idea. Instead of giving gloves and mittens to the poor, let's pass a law forcing rich people to send in golves and mittens to the government. After all, they can better afford it. We will have the government determine who should get them, and then you and I can rejoince that social justice is being done.

Dan S said...

Yes, Bob, that does sound like social justice.

As a follower of Jesus, why are you so afraid that the government might mandate that suffering be reduced in the world?

brownie said...


Regligion is a crock.
There is no God.

Robert Sievers said...

Dan, as a follower of Jesus, why aren't you afraid that the government might cause suffering to be increased in the world?

Answer, because you trust the government, and I don't. Even though you and I fundamentally disagree on everything political, I have way more trust in your ability to reduce suffering than the government. If the government taxes you less, you will do 10 times better at helping others.

Dan S said...

Really? You believe a single person with good intentions and a few spare dollars has more power to reduce suffering in the world than the government of the most powerful nation that has ever existed?

I appreciate your confidence in me Bob, but it is woefully misplaced.

Robert Sievers said...

Dan, obviously you as a single individual cannot give more than the government. Don't be rediculous. I am saying that if everyone who claims the name of Jesus would give to just causes, this country would have no health care crisis, no edication issues, nor severe poverty problems.

However, that's not the real issue. I started thinking about why it is that I find your approach so hollow, and think I am now better able to articulate it.

Jesus said the greatet two commands are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself. You are convinced we should get the government to force this second command on people via social policy. Yet you simultaniously resist anyone allowing the government to push for the first. In effect, you are just the same as someone who would advocate prayer and worship in public schools, but then disallow community fundraisers. You adamently strive for government implementation of one of Jesus commands while fighting against the other.

In my view, our govenment should either do both, or neither. Don't even cite separation of church of state, becuase what you are doing goes against it full bore. You are trying to get the government to implement Jesus' commands via the backdoor, without mentioning his name. Why not pick one of Jesus' other commands? You might say the ends justify the means. So be it, then why not push for prayer in school, because after all, many people might come to Christ, and wouldn't the end justify the means there too?

Again, our government should do both, or neither. I would go along with nationalized health care if we simultaneously allowed parent's tax dollars to send their kids to Chirstian schools, if they so choose instead of public. Let's either start making policies in accordance with Jesus' desires, or let's not.

But let's not instruct the governemnet to do part of what he preached, and then pretend that we believe in separation of church and state.

Dan S said...

Well Bob, you certainly get points for effort on this one, wrongheaded though it may be.

First, you know that no one can mandate love, either for God or for people. Government mandated prayer doesn’t make people love God more. It’s an attempt to put government power behind a religion. If I wanted people to love God more, I’d let them pray to God however they want. Hey, guess what? The government already allows that.

What government can mandate is a reduction of suffering, or a more equitable distribution of resources. It doesn’t require taxpayers to love others, but it does require them to be responsible to their fellow humans. It doesn’t really matter why you believe this is a good thing, be it belief in Jesus, Allah, Buddha or secular humanism. I may want to do it because Jesus said to love others, but that’s irrelevant from a social policy point of good.

Secondly, if you really believe in this line of thinking, then you should be honor bound going forward to advocate for national healthcare, or forgo your support for school prayer. I assume you are not going to stop supporting school prayer, so … welcome to national healthcare advocacy!

Thirdly, your approach reveals that you do have faith that government can do more to help people than individual citizens can. Otherwise, you wouldn’t admit that we can love our neighbors by paying taxes.

Robert Sievers said...

Dan, personally I don't believe nationalized health care would reduce suffering, but you do, and it was was your assumptions I was using to illustrate the point. But that isn't really the issue.

You said "It doesn’t really matter why you believe this is a good thing, be it belief in Jesus, Allah, Buddha or secular humanism

So tell me, in your view, how does God view right behavior for the wrong motive?

Dan S said...

Come on Bob - do you really think it is bad motivation for someone to feed the hungry because the Koran said they should? Do you really think God cares?

How small is your god?

Robert Sievers said...

What I think doesn't matter. What God thinks does. If your definition of "small" is that God wants our motivations to be right as well as our actions, then its no wonder we disagree.

The Pharisees believed the same as you. They felt that it doesn't matter what our beliefs are, as long as we do these right things.

Dan S said...

What I think doesn't matter

But of course it does. You think that God thinks like you do, so what you think ends up being pretty important.

And for the record, yes, of course, motivation matters. What I'm objecting to is your claim that a Muslim being motivated to do good via the Koran is bad motivation. He or she is just trying to do God's will as they understand it, like you are.

Of course, motivation isn't the only thing that matters. Sometimes, people misunderstand God's will and end up being terrorists (either of large buildings or abortion clinics or they invade other countries). I don't know what God will do with those people.

Robert Sievers said...

So, in other words, two wrongs make a right? If a person follows a book not from God (the Qur'an), and he feeds the poor out of duty rather than compassion, you think that person will be seen as acceptable in the eyes of God?

Please tell me you don't really mean what it looks like you said.

Dan S said...

Again, Bob, A for effort on twisting words to mean things they don't.

I didn't say anything about feeding people out of either duty or compassion. I talked about people wanting to do good things because of their understanding of God's will. You apparently see this as bad motivation if the person happens to not be a Christian.

Fingtree said...

Pretzel logic. Twisted is an understatement.