Thomas Jefferson by White House Collection
Thomas Jefferson White House Collection Wikipedia
A Burden to the Poor
By Richard Girard
" And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; 'Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.' And Jesus said unto him, 'This day is salvation come to this house, for so much as he also is a son of Abraham.'"
The Gospel According to St. Luke; 19:8-9, King James Bible ; The only instance in the Four Gospels where Jesus of Nazareth praises a wealthy man for how he uses his wealth.
" To suppose such a thing possible as a society, in which men, who are able and willing to work, cannot support their families, and ought, with a great part of the women, to be compelled to lead a life of celibacy, for fear of having children to be starved; to suppose such a thing possible is monstrous."
William Cobbett (1762--1835), English journalist, reformer. "To Parson Malthus," in Political Register (London, May 8, 1819; reprinted in The Opinions of William Cobbett, chapter 9, edited by G. D. H. and Margaret Cole, 1944).
" Poverty in itself does not make men into a rabble; a rabble is created only when there is joined to poverty a disposition of mind, an inner indignation against the rich, against society, against the government."
Georg W. F. Hegel (1770--1831), German philosopher. The Philosophy of Right, "The State," Addition 149 (1821; translated 1942).
I was talking with my uncle the other day, and I mentioned to him my November 15, 2012 OpEdNews article "Marxism for Fun and Profit." I had originally written the article for and given it to my niece (his grandniece) for her twenty-first birthday, to help her with a sociology class in college. (The work I put in was worth my effort: the information from my article helped her pull her grade up from a "C" to a very strong "B." All humility aside, it was probably one of the more useful gifts a twenty-one year old college student has ever received from an uncle that did not involve large sums of cash or a set of keys.)
The uncle I was telling this to is politically very far to the right. Not a Nazi, but a one-time John Bircher who bought into many of that reactionary group's beliefs about Communism and one world government. I told him that I had found my study of Karl Marx over the last four years to be interesting, especially Marx's predictions concerning the destructiveness to society of laissez-faire capitalism. My uncle opined that Marx's theories had a fault that was impossible to surmount: Marx never took into account that man is motivated solely by selfishness. I pointed out to him that this is not true. For example, I said look at all of the volunteers at the World Trade Center after September 11th. He then corrected himself and said that in matters of economics, men are motivated solely by selfishness. I decided to not press the matter further (he will be eighty-three at the end of January and had a serious coronary a few years back), so I had a bit more chit chat with him and said goodbye.
Selfishness as the primary motivating factor of humanity has been the starting point for the conservative view of why we humans do things for centuries. I believe that selfishness is the sole motivating factor for those human beings whose psyches are damaged, underdeveloped, or who are mentally ill. I believe that those who attempt to put forth such a viewpoint are invariably trying to justify their own misanthropic ideology and actions to the larger world.
My uncle was partially correct in his observation about Karl Marx and his economic philosophy. Marx never fully understood what motivates the healthy members of the human race to strive for and achieve great things. It is not a desire for wealth, per se, that drives us to excellence, although wealth is a part of the equation. It is our desire for recognition, by both our peers and others in our lives. A mentally healthy individual seeks recognition that is proportional to our achievements, not some grandiose vision of ourselves. This in turn drives us to work harder, and improve our existing skills, to achieve additional recognition. Bottom line, what we most desire for our hard work is fairness, both in terms of recognition by our contemporaries and monetary compensation for the work we perform; wealth is only its monetary expression.
Many conservatives seem to think the answer to poverty is for everyone to start their own business. They do not understand that not all of us are suited temperamentally to successfully run our own business. This is not a fault, any more than not being temperamentally suited to being a teacher, a physician, a legislator, a soldier, or a priest is a fault. It is the diversity of humanity that makes us strong as a species, and permits innovation from unexpected sources.
As I stated in my January 3, 2013 OpEdNews article "Human State," human beings are the animal that chooses, and it is in the limiting of those choices, without just cause, that tyranny is created, and our basic human rights are most immediately and directly threatened. It is our duty to participate in our government and its functions, to help guide our elected officials in their duty to serve the public. Because ultimately, to quote President Theodore Roosevelt, "The government is us; we are the government, you and I." (Speech, September 9, 1902, Asheville, North Carolina.)