I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
-- Ann Rand
After the big bank bail out a few years back I read Atlas Shrugged by Ann Rand. At the time I struggled to understand the balance between charity and individualism. As I read the story I saw the greed, the selfishness, the laziness of the general populace and the government in particular. I cheered as Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden thumbed their nose at the man and fought to maintain their pride and ethics in the face of society that only valued them for the product of their work. The black and white between looters and producers with no gray, however life is nothing but gray with very little that is truly black and white. It is not an easy balance but I think I found it, at least for me.
Let us start at the beginning, what is charity.
The highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ. It is never used to denote alms or deeds of benevolence, although it may be a prompting motive
-- LDS Bible Dictionary
So charity is not really the deed of giving, giving is the side effect of charity. How does this find the balance for me? Well if I have charity, aka love, my giving is not the motivation it is and after thought.
All done? well not quite, there is still the core issue at hand. The government backed societal demand that I must give my production to some one else because they need it or deserve it more than me. That someone else’s need is more important than my hard work. This demand irks me every time I see it. This is no longer charity, the giving is not done out of love but required and forced.
I’d have no desire to penalize a man because he’s worth only fifteen dollars a week. But I’ll be damned if I can see why a man worth forty must be penalized--and penalized in favor of the one who’s less competent
Not everyone’s work has the same value, and not everyone will get from their work what they think it is worth. The great American dream is not that everyone will have equal resources and rewards, it they will have equal opportunity and possibility. There has been no other time in the history of human beings that there has been so many possibilities and opportunities for everyone. No matter their race, gender or creed.
I will admit that in my younger years I was all for taxing the rich to pay for the poor. My hero was Robin Hood. I can understand the allure of being a looter rather than being a producer. Life would sure be a lot easier if someone else was forced to work for me.
I am very thankful though that my parents taught me the value of hard work. That I should rely first on myself, then my family, and then if I must my community. Not that I should expect someone else to live for me, but sometimes help is needed. It should not be demanded, or forced, or expected, but instead be accepted in humility and being ready to turn around and help someone else.
My balance? I do not have to live for, nor tolerate a looter. I should be a producer, and do what I can to help others be a producer. I have charity for my fellow man. This leads me to do good and try to help others. The first priority is my family, then my community, and last human kind in general. I can resist and disagree with society and the government using force to demand charity, for love can not be forced.