Freedom of Choice; A Conservative’s Perspective on Philanthropy

Ever heard the term ‘greedy rich people?’ I have never understood why we are supposed to shame people for wanting to enjoy what they have earned.

Phrases like this are society’s way of pressuring others to perform charitable acts and donations, but liberals and conservatives have vastly different means of applying this pressure.

I should first dispel the popular notion that conservatives are heartless. On the contrary, I am both an extremely compassionate person and conservative, but I am fervently against any wealth redistribution laws that are supposed to be “for the good of society.”

The first reason is best explained by Benjamin Franklin when he said,

“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

Help those to help themselves. Of course, many liberals share this view of charity, but what then separates liberals and conservatives, is choice.

Progressive taxation was designed to force income redistribution with what I hope was with good intentions (though I have heard others make arguments for more evil, manipulative purposes, but those need not be explored to understand the conservative counterargument).

Justice Louis Brandeis, though a progressive in many ways once said,

“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

Calling progressive taxation a threat to liberty might seem like a stretch, but forcing anything is a threat to freedom. Money is earned through your time, labor and life. When you take from someone who has not volunteered their wealth, you are stealing not just their money, but the time, labor and life that they spent to earn that money. Ever heard the phrase “taxation is theft?” Now you know where it comes from.

The French economist Frédéric Bastiat expanded this concept saying,

“When plunder has become a way of life for a group of people living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it, and a moral code that glorifies it.”

Perhaps you are like me and you have a great deal of compassion for others. Every time I see someone struggling, I want to help them because I would want someone to do the same for me. While you may be able to help others sometimes, that may not always be the case. Through bad choices or bad fate, our ability to exercise charity fluctuates.

As a conservative, I prioritize helping my family above people I don’t know. When you barely have enough to help those you want to help, how do you think I will feel towards the beneficiaries of forced ‘good’ government policy? Forcing anything is not only unethical but will only result in bitterness and hate from what would have otherwise been good intentions.

Moreover, there are several examples which show the inefficiency and waste of government spending. I would much rather donate to nonprofit companies who perform much more efficiently and transparently than any government organization.

The key to the entire process is choice. While your heart may be in the right place, we must understand that good actions cannot be forced, or we shall suffer the loss of our original good intentions and freedom.


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