Charity, Caricatures, and Capitalism

voluntary charity

If you were to say the word “libertarian” to a progressive leftist, or an SJW… let’s just say the image that will come to their minds will not resemble Captain America. It’ll probably look more like Darth Vader… on steroids… but with a darker sense of humor.

How do I know this? Well, judging from the usual reaction to libertarianism and libertarians, I’d say whatever they’re seeing in their heads has got to be frightening.

Libertarians are often caricatured as heartless robots, lacking feeling and compassion; as chilly as the cool intellectualism that drives their evil agendas. They’re the greedy capitalists, sitting there rubbing their hands, just chomping at the bit to profit off some poor, unsuspecting soul. If they were given half a chance, they’d probably happily steal candy from a baby. They would then sell it for less than their competitors (until they’ve driven all of them — including Willy Wonka — out of business), and then drive the price up to an exorbitant sum while decreasing their employees’ wages day by day. Libertarians care nothing for the plight of others, and are happy to let the world perish while they sit calmly in their studies, reading Ayn Rand and listening to reports from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity — or making snarky memes for Being Libertarian.

That’s the caricature for many on the left; but over the last few days we’ve seen the reality. We watched a fund-raising campaign unfold, in which libertarians played a large part in helping to meet the financial needs of a fellow human being.

Yes, we’re against government welfare programs, but that’s because we believe that human beings helping their fellow human beings — without a gun to their head or the keys to a cage being rattled in their ear — is the way to go. Charity that is not the product of theft, or voluntaryism, is what we just saw it in practice. These are the true principles of libertarianism in practice,  and I would venture to guess that those who donated to this cause are not new to the idea of charity. I highly doubt this was the “first time ever” that they dug into their pockets and gave some of their hard-earned dollars to someone in need.

You know, Jefferson had some things to say about voluntaryism, or rather, of the dangers when it does not exist. In his day, he wasn’t dealing so much with the ideology of socialists and SJWs; instead, he was faced with the then-prevalent idea that the church should be financially supported by the state. Patrick Henry, who had cried, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” perhaps didn’t see his own inconsistency when he proposed a bill which would enabled churches to be supported by a mandatory state tax. On the relationship of church and state, he was still somewhat “old school,” having progressed to the point that he didn’t believe the various denominations should be permitted to persecute one another, but he still thought the state should support the church, to a degree.

Fortunately, his bill lost to Jefferson’s “Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom,” which the Virginia legislature adopted in 1786. In this document (drafted by Jefferson and later revised by Madison), Jefferson argued that “God Himself” did not spread Christianity through coercion. He called mandatory tithing against the giver’s will “sinful and tyrannical.”  He even went as far as to say that forcing a man to pay even a pastor of his own choice was a deprivation of the liberty of giving his contributions to the said minister, and that any kind of coercion would be detrimental to the cause of religion, not helpful. He argued that it would kill true Christian zeal and piety, and it would lead the recipient of mandatory funding to be morally lax and lazy.

Because of this, the church doesn’t expect the state to support them through a mandatory tax today.  However, many in the 21st century expect the state to support the poor and needy through welfare programs. They expect to provide free food, free education, and free healthcare for everyone who “needs” it; but how are these massive welfare programs (which cost billions upon billions of dollars every year) supposed to be funded? Out of the pockets of ordinary citizens — through coercion, threats of imprisonment, and fines.

For those who see nothing wrong with this picture, maybe Jefferson has some wisdom to impart: coerced “giving” will end up being detrimental to the very cause for which it is collected. This type of mandatory behavior replaces voluntaryism and good will with coercion and threats. It completely isolates the “giver” from the one in need, in effect, creating walls of resentment. It often breeds dependence and entitlement on the part of the recipient (who then comes to view the government as the great god from whom all blessings flow) and it puts an arrow through the very heart of charity and compassion. In the words of Jefferson, it is “sinful and tyrannical,” a cruel deprivation of the great joy of voluntary giving.

In the end, it also just doesn’t work from either a practical or an economic standpoint.

So let’s get out there and prove the libertarian capitalist caricature wrong. Let’s voluntarily live out that beautiful principle that Jesus Christ gave us when he said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

It’s time to eliminate the middle man – aka Uncle Sam!

* Tabitha Alloway is an electrician who lives in Kansas with her husband Cliff. She spends her time reading, writing, and raising/homeschooling two future libertarians.

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