It’s difficult to take anything said or reported by some of the leftist cable news channels seriously, but now and then they deserve a shout-out regarding their most egregious statements. Such is the case with the following story.
On MSNBC, DNC Chairman Tom Perez claimed that the GOP leadership is heartless for its handling of health care and that anyone who wants to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act should spend five hours in an emergency room.
This is such an old and tired socialist fallacy that the famous French economist Frédéric Bastiat replied to it in 1850:
Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.
Why does the left still tout this old socialist falsehood? The reason is probably that they are not very charitable. According to a Chronicle of Philanthropy study, red states give far more to charity than blue states:
In states like Utah and Mississippi, the typical household gives more than 7 percent of its income to charity, while the average household in Massachusetts and three other New England states gives less than 3 percent.
Liberals find themselves in the conundrum that they care about the poor, but not enough to help them with their own money. What this means is that if you find yourself in trouble and need aid, you had better hope a conservative comes by and not a liberal. The liberal might tell you, “Sorry, it’s impossible for me to help you because there is no-one around from which I can take money.”
People tend to model the world on themselves. Thieves think that everyone else is a thief, and heartless people think that everyone else is heartless too. That is why those on the left keep accusing conservatives of being heartless for opposing government programs. As Mike Konczal in the Atlantic claims, charity doesn’t work. Leftists simply cannot fathom that it is possible for someone to be far more generous than they are.
So, what evidence do they cite specifically that charity doesn’t work? It boils down to one thing: in the 19th century before the welfare state, there were still poor people. Charity didn’t solve poverty. End of story, case closed. But that is an unreasonable standard by which to judge charity. In the 19th century, people were poor, not due to lack of a welfare state, but because prior to the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution, poverty was the norm. Almost everyone was poor, due to a lack of technology and industry. Judging poverty in the 19th century without considering the general lack of technological development at the time is grossly unfair. It is like claiming that the modern welfare state is better than the 19th-century laissez-faire politics because we have cars today, and they only had horse and carriage back then.
It’s a miracle that charity existed at all in the 19th century, given how poor most people were at the time. As the middle class expanded due to economic growth, there became fewer and fewer people who needed help, and more and more people able and willing to come to their aid. That’s why before the New Deal welfare state there were myriads of private charity organizations and mutual aid unions in America.
However, charity is a fragile creature that requires freedom to thrive. Force takes away the pleasure of giving. Under the New Deal, when the government raised taxes and took on the responsibility of welfare, charity in America plummeted.
Under force, people do not only become less charitable; they tend to work and care less as well. As former Prime Minister of United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher once noted: “…socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them.” That’s why welfare programs have run into deep trouble everywhere they have been tried.
However, even if conservatives are both charitable and believe that the free market in combination with charity is the best way to organize society, they have still allowed themselves to be branded as heartless and dragged along toward the left with the ever-expanding welfare state. The problem then, it seems, is not that the GOP leadership is heartless, but rather that it is spineless.