Ryan Chartrand

Writing the other day on how poverty afflicts America, Collin Edwards expressed an opinion that joins the flow of mainstream thought without a ripple. His insistence that poverty is a burden upon everyone is a point which has been and will continue to be a major talking point among presidential candidates of both parties. While this article critiques the opinion of a single author, it is intended to critique the mass of uncritical thought that presently plagues the populace. And because Mr. Edwards presents such a conventional, unquestioned model of reasoning, he shall be the unfortunate vehicle for a much-needed critique.

Mr. Edwards begins benignly enough, reflecting upon the condition of his troubled heart when he observes or reads about poverty. However, he quickly shifts from sharing his own private sentiment to advising what “we” as Americans ought to do. Why is it that people like Mr. Edwards, Obama, Hillary Clinton or McCain always perceive themselves in the lofty position of advising what “we” ought to think or do?

I have no problem with Mr. Edwards and his ilk if they stopped at this point, but they nearly always go a step further. Their reasoning proceeds thusly: the problem of poverty is proposed, its pitiable direness expounded, our moral duties elucidated, and then, as startlingly as the first dawn and just as illuminating, the solution arises!

Then, slowly, Mr. Edwards holds his readers in painful suspense. It is a heart-wrenching scene as Mr. Edwards cries out to the dark, pitiless heavens: “But what can I do?” You see, Mr. Edwards feels helpless against the problem of poverty. He is just one individual. Oh universe, how cruel! But Mr. Edwards comforts himself with the knowledge that he merely asked the wrong question. It is not “What can I do?” but rather, “What can we do as a nation?”

Alone we are weak, but as a nation we are strong, it is said. The nation is strong, so it can and must provide for the weak. But is this really the optimal solution? What does the government provide that it has not coercively extracted prior? Do you foolishly deny that taxes are coerced from taxpayers, and from these funds, from which the politicians have taken their cut and their friends’ cut, the poor are relieved? We might stop here and admit that it would hardly matter if the poor were adequately supported by means of taxation. Taxation is still coercive, an act of aggression against rightful property, and therefore wrong. But if I stopped there, some might be tempted to take a cheap shot and say I’m simply obsessed with money. Hardly. I am simply willing to point out the extreme idiocy and contrariness in maintaining the possibility of achieving a moral good (helping the poor) through an immoral means (legalized plunder, or taxation, if you prefer). Is it not folly to attempt to solve one moral problem with the addition of another?

How tragically pathetic is the idealist of today who puts his faith in government! His understanding of poverty is so shallow that he thinks throwing more money at the problem will solve it. His will is so weak that instead of doing anything useful, he is forever exhausting his breath exhorting others to do the job. He first attempts to convince “the nation” that it should give more money to the poor only to realize that this is a difficult task and so he resorts to calling upon the government to force his fellow citizens into his charitable scheme.

If these are the bumbling saviors of the poor, I pity the poor indeed. If among you there are any truly desirous of relieving poverty, I encourage you to become unflinchingly charitable with your own money. I warn that you shall find the task so much harder than simply giving away others’ money that you might even quit. But at least you shall have learned something in the process and perhaps will not be such an intolerable bore to the rest of society.

But if you will not choose this route and insist upon government intervention and government funds to solve the problem, I wish you the most abysmal failure.

Jeremy Hicks is a political science senior, the president of the Libertarian Club and a guest columnist for the Mustang Daily.

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