Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Failure among the Faithful

I'm just not cool with the government insisting that an excessively large and growing share of the output of the motivated and responsible achievers ought to be diverted to the unmotivated and irresponsible. -- A Christian’s posting to Facebook.

It does not matter who wrote the above. The sentiment is common, particularly and sadly among politically conservative Christians.

The argument is that any tax on corporations and persons of wealth to fund programs to help the poor, sick, and elderly is immoral. When the government uses its power of taxation for any other than military appropriations, it is an act of theft. The rich are rich because they are “motivated and responsible achievers.” The poor are poor because they are “unmotivated and irresponsible.”

This argument is straight out of Ayn Rand’s essay “Collectivized Ethics” from the book, The Virtue of Selfishness. “Only individual men have the right to decide when or whether they wish to help others,” Rand pontificates, “society – as an organized political system – has no rights in the matter at all.”

Rand offers no supporting evidence for her assertion. There is not any. The progress of Western civilization itself is the refutation of Rand’s thesis. More on that another time.

I have no reason to believe that the Christian who made the above post to Facebook has read Rand. However, as I posted on 23 October 2010, Randism has poisoned our political discourse (See “The Threat").

Take for example the untenable distinction of the rich as the “motivated and responsible achievers” from the poor who are “unmotivated and irresponsible.” There is no empirical evidence for this. In fact, it runs the other way. Most rich individuals in the United States acquired their wealth the old-fashioned way – they picked rich parents. The poor, conversely, are to be faulted for not choosing parents of ample means.

It is, however, of little concern that our Christian has imbibed a bit of Randism or does not know the social science that refutes his simplistic distinction between rich and poor.

What is disturbing is that the Faith has little or nothing to do with the political thought of too many conservative Christians. Instead of the compassion of Christ, we have the cruelty of Randism. Instead of concern for the weakest in our country, there is a perverse concern for the supposed imperiled rights of the most powerful.

I do not doubt that most conservative Christians believe this is a fallen world, corrupted by the sin of our first parents. Nevertheless, they also seem to think that, miraculously, justice has been preserved in the distribution of wealth in this country. They seem to think our Lord was issuing a command when He said, “The poor will always be with you.”