Beinstein column: Our charity is needed, not government’s help
The fiction of the government solving all of our problems has been affirmed over and over. The only real hope lies when we look into our own hearts for hope and salvation.
The child born with a father in jail or a drug-addicted mother — those scars are carried for a lifetime and prohibit many of our neighbors from ever really functioning. It is only when we reach out individually and try to personally give a helping hand to each person down on their luck that we can really lift the hopes and aspirations of those left behind. It won’t ever really come from government; it’ll only come from us.
Now what does this mean practically? It means an entire reimagination of the relationship between the government and its people. To a limited extent, and certainly at a local level, government can create certain programs that yield fruit in terms of solving society’s ills.
But on balance, more money needs to remain in the private economy. Why? First and foremost, for those able to stay on their feet, the free market has done an unprecedented amount in terms of lifting people not just in America but all around the world out of poverty.
Secondly, nonprofits are increasingly being run like businesses. Very many wealthy philanthropists are heartbroken over homelessness, child abuse, alcoholism and all the rest. But if they, or anyone for that matter, are going to write a substantial check, they want a return on their investment. What are the most efficient ways to generate a return on social capital? Donors have a right to see and demand results, which isn’t always the case when government runs something.
And thirdly, doing something by a person’s own free will, instead of by government force, helps us all feel connected to our brethren. Good-hearted people in our communities, not distant bureaucrats, are the real heroes.
Scripture, I believe, also points us in this direction. There is much in the Bible about helping the poor, but nothing about forced redistributive schemes. One of the most famous sayings found in the New Testament is, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Those entrepreneurs who create the best products at the cheapest price should get rewarded for their innovation, risk-taking and hard work. And yet, at the same time, Scripture also reminds us that those who are blessed have a duty to give back. As was said many years ago, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Our most successful business types have, to a certain extent, acted upon this principle. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, the Walton family, etc., have all donated to causes they believe in. Creating an even more charitable society will require a constant reminder to those who have been blessed just how blessed they have been. Bill Gates, for example, was raised by a successful corporate attorney, Warren Buffet by a congressman and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, by a hard-working engineer at ExxonMobil.
As said earlier, those who do really struggle to function usually were not born with good role models around them. And with failing schools all over, especially in low-income neighborhoods, often, sadly, there was no mentor or local hero to act as a substitute. In a compassionate society, we should all act as one family.
Related to charity is broadening our concept of charity. Often, our most successful entrepreneurs tend to live in big metropolitan areas. And yet those same people are most likely to give to charity in those areas. The problem is getting that help to people everywhere — from the Western Slope to the Dakotas to the South.
An older person in Grand Junction would love a technology center with ample resources to help navigate today’s society. Somebody in rural North Dakota out of work and struggling with alcoholism would sure appreciate more resources for a nearby rehab center. A child in Arkansas with parents struggling with opioids would love more structure and opportunity after school. In short, the anger at “global elites” will evaporate if their fruits are shared in areas where investors are not always so quick to invest.
In the early 20th century, during the age of rugged capitalism, Teddy Roosevelt came along to help bridge the gap between the industrial giants and the people. Today, by practicing a more humane form of capitalism coupled with a surge in charity and compassion, we can prove the virtues of living in a free and open society. Let us then strive to show what man can do when touched by the better angels of his nature.
Alex Beinstein of Carbondale was a Republican primary congressional candidate in 2016 challenging incumbent Scott Tipton. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent.