What about emphasizing personal responsibility when helping the poor?

Giving his opinion of the discussion at Nathan Calquhoun’s blog, Dan posting at the City of God also came down against the Olympics, though not as hard as some others.  He agrees that it is also just a party for the rich, but the insufferable thing is that we taxpayers have to pay for the Games, and then told we have to like the games:

What is really oppressive about the Olympics is how we are all supposed to like it. I mean rich people also have private playgrounds in places like Macao or Monaco but we aren’t all expected to embrace these playgrounds like we are the Olympics. It would be nice if some Olympics organizers would just own up sometime and say “look, we’re bringing in a bunch of amateur athletes because they’ll act as free entertainment for celebrities and captains of industry, by the way, your taxes pay for this so we’ll let you watch at home too.”

I wrote the following comment:


Would you say that the sin of the Olympics’ rich and powerful is one of omission, of ignorance, or of willful disregard? I am trying to see how the new Pharisees conceive of sin. I guess that the most important thing is that the chief sinners are the wealthy and powerful, because they like to have their exclusive parties (like smoking stogies and drinking champagne and beer on the rink after winning the gold medal?).

I don’t see how any of this protesting helps. To me it appears as heavily motivated by the politics of envy. As my friend explained to me this morning, the real problem is that the money spent on the Olympics should have been spent to help the poor, provide housing, lasting jobs, etc. This strikes me as envy. One begrudges how the funding is spent. George Will recently said at CPAC that envy is the one deadly sin of the seven from which the sinner does not receive even momentary pleasure.

Finally, I suggest the politics of envy does nothing to help the poor because it places the responsibility for their situation on others. Walter Williams has explained the formula for avoiding poverty as such:

Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science. First, graduate from high school. Second, get married before you have children, and stay married. Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. And, finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior.

Williams’ formula emphasizes personal responsibility. It seems to me that having the Olympics or not having them will neither help nor hurt Vancouver’s poor. Spending the money on the poor instead of on a big international circus will not help the poor. For the problem of the poverty will not be solved by throwing money at it. Liberal democracies have been throwing money at poverty for decades now, and the problem has not gone away or even become less. Many, myself included, believe that welfare has only exasperated the problem.

We live in Canada, not Haiti or sub-Saharan Africa where there is little hope of escaping endemic poverty. Many millions of poor have come to North America, including my own forebears (on both sides of my family), and have enjoyed the freedom to make a very nice life here. They were not, for the most part, oppressed nor discriminated against because of their poverty but allowed to work, to study, and to realize their potential.

Source, Walter Williams’ article:

One thought on “What about emphasizing personal responsibility when helping the poor?

  1. Pingback: What is envy? « The Righteous Investor

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