?

Log in

No account? Create an account
eyes black and white

Why indiscriminate charity is immoral / De l'immoralité de la charité aveugle

An interesting corollary of the Law of Bitur-Camember is to agree with traditional morality against the goodthinkers who love to moan about poverty and the third-world, when it condemns indiscriminate charity that gives to beggars or the non-deserving poor, and when it encourages charity only when it is conditional, as a sponsorship that comes with strict and paternalistic monitoring.

 

Un corollaire intéressant de la Loi de Bitur-Camember est de donner raison à la morale traditionnelle contre les geignements des bienpensants misérabilistes et tiers-mondistes quand elle condamne la charité aveugle faite aux mendiants ou aux pauvres non-méritant, et n'encourage la charité qu'au conditionnel, sous forme de parrainage accompagné de stricte et paternaliste surveillance.

Any tendency to give without any compensation is a psychological potential for exploitation by predators, a source of para-fiscal illusion to reuse in a modified way the term by Guillaumat. If you give as much (or more) to a young person who spends his time playing as you give to a young person who spends his time studying, if you give as much (or more) to a lazy poor man as you give to a hard working poor man, if you give as much (or more) to a bad boy as you give to an honest man, if you give as much (or more) to a farmer who stupidly mimics the crops of his forefathers as you give to an entrepreneurial farmer who seeks to improve them, then you become by this very fact the target of professional beggars, professional charity middlemen, and all kinds of predators specialized in misplaced good intentions. Your money will not do good. At best it will feed the vices of those who cross your path; at worst it will be captured by unscrupulous people whose business is the institutionalization of poverty and the seduction of idiots with more money than good sense and eager to get rid of it.

The only way to escape the Law of Bitur-Camember as applied to charity, is to never give outside a criterion of established merit. You may indeed usefully sponsor a child through a charitable institution that requires the child's success in his studies, and offers donors a personalized survey of the progress of their ward (my friend Roger works in precisely such an institution). But under no circumstance should you donate to an agency that offers its good services without counterpart to any person having the gall to claim them under the sole title of their being poor or helpless. You may usefully invest in microcredit and lend money toward the development of successful businesses, indeed. But under no circumstance should you donate to "development" projects that claim to be non-profit, or worse, to bureaucratic structures and similar bottomless pits. You may usefully encourage your family, those whom you share genes, your ideas, your values, indeed. But under no circumstance should you give equally to all. Not only you would be a victim, but you would be an evildoer. For you would be involved in spreading evil.

The good intentions do not exempt a donor from being responsible. Any undeserved donation is an evil destruction. Only voluntary exchange of value against value creates. Those who give selflessly to the undeserving poor institute the poverty that they claim to combat. To build wealth, one must not give away money without counterpart, but offer jobs at market prices. (And by market, we mean the free market, that is the black market, not the market that is bled white by the State.) You must not offer scholarships, but invest through loans. You must not create bureaucrats and dependents, but entrepreneurs and partners. If you really want to help the needy, make them deserve each and every cent that they'll get, by their productive contribution, past, present or future. Actually, the merit by which you deem them to be deserving does not have to have a listed price on the market — it is enough that it be of value to you. But be careful to what you ascribe value, for it is that very thing that you'll promote. And a curse be upon you if that thing you promote is sickness, poverty, stupidity, laziness or carelessness, or worse, the misleading of appearances, the unscrupulousness by which some claim that which is due to others, or any other form of wanton immorality!

I know no worse injustice than the giving of the undeserved. — Ayn Rand

NB: originally published in French in February 2006, translated to English in August 2010.

 

Toute propension à donner en dehors de toute compensation est un potentiel psychologique à l'exploitation par des prédateurs, une source d'illusion para-fiscale pour reprendre en le modifiant le terme de Guillaumat. Si vous donnez à un jeune qui s'amuse autant voire plus qu'à un jeune qui étudie, à un pauvre paresseux autant voire plus qu'à un pauvre travailleur, à un mauvais garçon autant voire plus qu'à un honnête homme, à un agriculteur reprenant stupidement les cultures de ses parents autant voire plus qu'à un agriculteur entreprenant cherchant à les améliorer, alors vous devenez ipso facto la cible des mendiants professionnels, des intermédiaires en charité professionnels, et autres prédateurs de bons sentiments égarés. Votre argent n'ira pas faire du bien. Au mieux il ira alimenter les vices de ceux qui croisent votre chemin; au pire il sera capté par des gens sans scrupules dont le business est l'institutionalisation de la pauvreté et la séduction des imbéciles ayant plus d'argent que de bon sens et pressés de s'en débarrasser.

La seule façon d'échapper à la Loi de Bitur-Camember appliquée à la charité, c'est de ne jamais donner en dehors d'un critère de mérite établi. Parrainez un enfant via une institution charitable qui exige de l'enfant un succès à ses études, et offre aux donateurs un suivi personnalisé des progrès de leur pupille, oui (mon ami Roger travaille justement dans une telle institution). Mais ne donnez surtout pas à un organisme qui offre ses soins sans contre-partie à toute personne ayant l'impudeur de les réclamer au seul titre d'être pauvre ou impotent. Investissez dans des microcrédits qui ne prêtent qu'au développement d'affaires qui marchent, oui. Mais ne donnez surtout pas à des projets de développement qui se réclament sans but lucratif, voire pire, dans des constructions bureaucratiques et autres tonneaux des danaïdes. Favorisez votre famille, ceux dont vous partagez les gènes, les idées, les valeurs, oui. Mais ne donnez pas indifféremment à tous. Non seulement vous seriez une victime; mais vous seriez un malfaisant. Car vous participeriez de la propagation du mal.

Les bons sentiments ne dispensent pas un donateur de sa responsabilité. Tout don non mérité est une destruction malfaisante. Seul l'échange volontaire de valeur contre valeur est créateur. Ceux qui donnent sans compter à des pauvres non méritant instituent la pauvreté qu'ils prétendent combattre. Pour construire la richesse, il faut non pas donner pour rien, mais faire travailler au prix du marché. (Le marché libre, le marché noir, pas celui saigné à blanc par l'État.) Non pas offrir des bourses, mais investir via des prêts. Non pas créer des bureaucrates et des dépendants, mais des entrepreneurs et des partenaires. Si vous voulez vraiment aider des indigents, faites-leur mériter, par leur apport productif passé présent ou futur, chaque centime qu'ils recevront. À vrai dire, le mérite que vous devez leur trouver n'a pas besoin d'être coté sur le marché — il lui suffit d'avoir de la valeur à vos yeux. Mais prenez bien garde à ce à quoi vous accordez de la valeur, car c'est cette chose que vous promouvrez. Et maudit soyez-vous si cette chose, c'est la maladie, la pauvreté, la stupidité, la paresse ou l'insouciance, voire pire les apparences trompeuses, l'absence de scrupule à réclamer l'indû ou toute autre forme d'immoralité préméditée!

je ne connais pas de pire injustice que de donner ce qui n'est pas mérité. — Ayn Rand

NB: une version antérieure de ce texte a aussi été publiée sur la Page Libérale.

Comments

(Anonymous)

Le relativiste moral féroce qui passe de temps en temps est de retour.

Je crois déceler une petite contradiction (mais vous allez certainement me détromper :-)) dans votre pensée.

Vous affirmez que «Mais ne donnez pas indifféremment à tous. Non seulement vous seriez une victime; mais vous seriez un criminel. Car vous participeriez de la propagation du mal.» Je lis par ailleurs -mais oui je suis allé fouiller votre site pour trouver une citation précise (c'est dans votre essai sur les «Mythes et Sophismes des Ennemis de la Liberté») « Les libéraux refusent de juger les actes en fonction de leur efficacité, qui est subjective: tel est le rôle de la morale, (...) Le libéralisme se contente de juger les actes en fonction de la justice, du respect des droits individuels, droits qui sont tous des droits de propriété.»

Donc supposons -et ce n'est pas si loin de mon attitude réelle découlant de mon nihilisme social- que je souhaite promouvoir la paresse ou l'insouciance, en utilisant pour ce les ressources monétaires en ma propriété. Je suis surpris que vous me qualifiez de «criminel» - je croyais avoir compris que pour vous le «criminel» était seulement celui qui faisait violence à autrui, ou lui dérobait sa propriété, et que vous estimiez que les externalités négatives possibles de mon attitude irresponsable ne regardaient que moi.

Abus du mot "criminel", effectivement

Effectivement, j'ai abusé du mot criminel, que je réserve normalement au domaine du droit, alors qu'il s'agit ici de morale. Le mot que j'avais utilitsé initialement était malfaisant, mais j'ai mis criminel à la place parce qu'il me semblait que cela sonnait mieux. J'aurais dû en rester à ma première impression.

Notons que pour le libéral, la morale existe et est très importante -- ce qui est une raison de plus de ne pas la mettre en les mains de l'État. Les socialistes, qui promeuvent le MAL par les moyens du CRIME, sont parmi les pires ordures à la surface de la terre.

Re: Abus du mot "criminel", effectivement

PS: j'ai remplacé "criminel" par "malfaisant" dans le texte. Merci pour votre correction.

(Anonymous)

La Charité

Il est bien évident que j'adhère à votre analyse que je viens de "faire avancer" sur le forum de l'intranet de Démocratie Libérale.

Il y a dans ce parti une véritable volonté de faire bouger la société française dans le sens du libéralisme beaucoup plus que la volonté de trouver une place dans le "concert" du pouvoir. C'est pourquoi je pense que tous les libéraux et surtout tous ceux qui sont capables de mieux faire passer les idées libérales dans la société, comme vous pouvez le faire, doivent soutenir et adhérer à ce parti.

Quel enrichissement pour tous ses membres actuels et ceux qui vont venir que d'avoir dans leurs débats d'idées ceux qui ont plus que d'autres réfléchi à toutes les questions. C'est à mon avis un facteur clé de succès pour leur réussite.

D'après vous les libéraux n'auraient rien à faire en politique ? Je l'ai trop entendu de la part de ceux qui depuis plus de 50 ans veulent s'approprier l'orthodoxie libérale. Celà me fait un peu penser au "grand manitou de la pseudo-droite" qui se voulait être le "candidat naturel de la droite" afin de pouvoir mener sans contradictions une politique démagogique de ... gauche.

http://liberalisateur.blogspot.com
I'm recommended that book on the topic: "The Tragedy of American Compassion" by Marvin Olasky http://www.amazon.com/Tragedy-American-Compassion-Marvin-Olasky/dp/089526725X
I’m not even sure objective morality exists, but I would like to ask some questions about your post, because it bewilders me about a question that’s very important to me. Perhaps I’m not even sure of the ideas I write below.

I don’t understand economics, and I don’t understand why the voluntary giving of the undeserved would be an injustice or destruction, or exactly what harm/evil it would cause to give to anyone in need. (If I literally gave equally to everyone in need, then each person would only get a uselessly tiny amount from me, and I don’t remember anyone suggesting that I do this.) Are you worried that “people will […] take the trouble of becoming poor and endure the hardness of remaining poor” on purpose just so someone might give them some money, or just that people might lie about their circumstances if their claims are not checked? And/or are you worried that the act of asking for help takes significant time and energy, and that people in need could choose to use this time and energy more usefully? (It seems to me that a request wouldn’t have to take more than minutes.)

I especially don’t understand the part “You may usefully encourage your family, those whom you share genes, your ideas, your values, indeed. But under no circumstance should you give equally to all.” and “Actually, the merit by which you deem them to be deserving does not have to have a listed price on the market — it is enough that it be of value to you.”
I don’t want anyone at all to be poor, so if someone doesn’t want to be poor, then he already shares one of my values. (Do any two people share all their values?) If help is (possibly) available to those who ask, then I want to encourage people to ask rather than suffer in silence, without hope. The fulfillment of people’s wishes for health, survival, relief of suffering etc. is valuable to me (more than many things I could buy in a store). An appeal on behalf of ill children explicitly said: “Let’s make a deal: you give 1% of your taxes, and we’ll get well!” 8-) (It might not be that simple in practice, I just meant to show how others’ health can be seen as a value.)

Does any of your post apply to non-monetary help? Specifically, what do you think of life-saving stem-cell donations to anonymous recipients, or efforts to find a compatible donor for a specific person one doesn’t necessarily agree with? Actually, it’s in everyone’s interest for there to be many people in the donor register.

By the way, I’d also see problems with a system where everything, including the fulfillment of physical needs and perhaps even mere survival, has to be earned and can be lost.

Deserving

Dear Julia,
thank you for asking very important questions indeed.

First, we have to understand what "deserve" mean. It means that the person in question did create, does create or will create something of value; a value according to whoever emits the judgement of "deserving", within the limits of his or her imperfect knowledge and expectations.

Let's take an extreme example. You have enough money to fund a scholarship and want to help a ghetto kid. Two candidates apply. One of them is a violent good-for-nothing without scruples, who's going to waste whatever resource you spend on him on whores, alcohol, flashy clothes, bullying his neighbors, and stealing stuff from a richer school, maybe raping a few rich bitches. The other one is honest and hard working and has potential for doing great studies, but is limited in his studies by how good a school his family can afford. Whose tuition are you going to fund? In one case, you will have bought yourself some whoring, drinking, flashing, bullying, stealing and raping. In the other case, you will have bought yourself a kid becoming a doctor and benefiting the world much more than the same kid becoming a mere manager in burger flipping joint. I contend that the first choice is objectively evil, and the second choice objectively good.

Resources are not infinite. Every time you pour resources into some destination, you are denying the same resources to all the other competing destinations. Any time you are giving resources to a relatively less deserving poor, you are denying the same resources to a relatively more deserving poor. Your same forty thousand dollar could pay the tuition of a lazy kid in the US, or of one hard-working kid in the US. Or of ten lazy or hard-working kids in India.

Now, if you give as soon as you hear "poor kids in India" without checking that it actually helps such kids and deserving ones, it could be wasted entirely on pseudo-charities whereby crooks flash the words "poor kids in India" to fund their own vices and/or viciously incompetent subsidizing of undeserving kids. Whatever criteria you use to give your money, some people will try to fake it to get the money. If you're not discriminating in your means as well as in goals, you'll only end up subsidizing those crooks who fake needs without scruple. And of course, the best way to lie is to believe your own lie, so most professional parasites will be completely sincere when they claim that they are in extreme need.

Giving without discrimination is worse than not giving, because it actively feeds the crooks. Even worse than that: when parasitism is rewarded more so than honest work, some people at the margin will follow the incentive and become parasites, who would otherwise have been honest workers. They will fall into the easiness of mooching their life, and lose all respect for themselves, whereas they could otherwise have been honest workers. By rewarding parasitism, you not only reward existing parasites, you turn honest people into parasites. And that's an unforgivable sin.

Judgment

If you possess a talent to determine "in minutes" who best to give money to, I encourage you to found a charity and/or a charity notation agency, for you have the power to do tremendous good in this world. Indeed, many people, including I, would give much more, if they knew for sure their money would be used for the actual greatest benefit or a good approximation thereof, according to whichever values they care for.

As to which values one encourages — what's the difficulty in understanding that value is subjective, and that each may have different tastes? Maybe you'd rather help people from whichever genetic (or non-genetic) group you identify with (or don't), that you feel is deserving more than it's getting, or to which you feel some abstract debt. Maybe you think that research in AI, cancer, senescence, or space conquest, is what has the greatest neglected marginal chance of helping the world. Maybe you feel that educating certain people about mathematics, economics, biology, religion, law or politics, is what is most conducive to improving general welfare. Or maybe you feel that inventing or spreading a better mousetrap, a method greater orgasms, or more inspiring music, is where you can best further the future of mankind. Whatever. To each his own. These are all a priori honest goals the actual honest pursuit of which indeed makes the world a better place.

However, if the predictable consequence of your "charitable" work is more dependency and parasitism in first-world ghettos, more booze and whores for the smoothest-talking crooks around the block, fatter bank accounts for domestic or foreign peddlers of pseudo-charity, more organizations that turn palestinian kids into terrorists, more religious fanaticism, hate and violence around the world, I say you're sick and evil. Consequences matter, intentions don't. Yet giving resources to people based on an arbitrary statistical "poverty line", based on who comes to claim it, based on who has the more charismatic ads on TV, based on who political propagandists say is oppressed, based on ideologies that place struggle not cooperation at the center of their model of society, has those predictable dreadful effects. And yes, my arguments explicitly cover non-monetary help.

Regarding stem-cell donations to anonymous recipient, I think it's a great idea: people who can be cured by stem-cell donations are mostly random, and so are most likely honest people (if most people were dishonest, civilization would never have been possible); and they are most unlikely to fake it. Incidentally, if laws against selling organs were repealed, there would probably be more donations and more people being saved, as the donors would be compensated. Why not give a poor ghetto kid a chance, if his donation could help another person in need?

Conversely, if you give shelter to criminals in flight who beg you, that you usually deny to other people in need, your non-monetary help is still subsidizing crime and punishing honesty.

Finally, you shouldn't be afraid of judging or being judged for deserving. Everyone is judged all the time by everyone else. It's much better when there are millions of potential charitable donors aware of their personal responsibility, and you just have to convince one of them that you're the best needy person she can help, than when there is only one central bureaucracy of irresponsible paper-pushers, and you have to compete with millions of fakers and pullers to fulfill the absurd arbitrary criteria according to which help is given to "needy" people. As for fear of loss, well, loss happens. Once again, after losing one time, your odds for a second chance are better in a society where millions of people understand that they are responsible for voluntary charity, rather than where the same millions trust a bureaucracy to do it all for them.

PS: When a kid, I used to love the series "Les Mondes Engloutis" from which your icon is taken, for its atmosphere, despite the slow story pace and dreadful animation.

Dear François-René,
thank you for your detailed reply. For now, I’d like to address only a few points.

I didn’t mean that a donor can make a decision in minutes. I meant that for a person wanting help, the process of making a request to an acquaintance or writing a forum post asking for help might not have to take more than a few minutes. I was thinking of simple requests with short explanations, not of very detailed descriptions of their situation.
I don’t know what to think about James Shikwati’s opinions, but I hope the problems with aid that he talks about do not arise in cases where someone personally asks for help.
I probably can’t learn to know strangers closely and use “strict and paternalistic monitoring” when helping them, whether or not I want to. I think I can rarely be 100% sure that the money I might give would reach its intended purpose, but I don’t know if that should prevent me from giving at all.

Do you think it is generally all right to help random people who “are most unlikely to fake” their need for help; for example, when they are in emergencies? Do you think that it’s all right to provide any stranger with necessities?

I do have difficulty understanding what “value is subjective” means in a context that also includes objective good and objective evil. Do you mean that some values are subjective and some are objective? And/or that choice among objective values is a matter of taste? And/or that people (who believe in the existence of objective morality) have different opinions of what objective morality contains, “within the limits of [their] imperfect knowledge”? Do you think that helping the world, improving general welfare, and furthering the future of mankind are objectively desirable goals and people should focus on them? Even if other goals might bring them or someone else more personal benefit?
Also, doesn’t helping the world include helping people who don’t deserve it? Sorry, I still don’t understand why that in itself would be “an evil destruction”.
What if someone doesn’t know exactly what/whom he sees as the best, only what/whom he sees as “good enough”?

Some people believe it is morally right—perhaps even obligatory?—to let everyone access necessities. (Perhaps even someone who believes it’s possible for people to deserve death might believe it’s impossible to be 100% sure a given person deserves death, and so might want to keep everyone alive just in case?)
I’m not nearly as afraid of judgment in general as of judgment that affects access to necessities. I’d also like to ask you what you think of the idea of unconditional basic income.

Do you think that (permanently) living from voluntary gifts is in itself bad? If so, why?

Do I understand right that “if you give shelter to criminals in flight who beg you, that you usually deny to other people in need,” is not an example of indiscriminate charity?

Thanks in advance,
Julia
Dear Julia,

this is a strange conversation we are having. Strange but fun.

It is certainly not bad to ask for help or give help, only to be a parasite or feed them. And it is not bad to take chances, as long as it is done according to a strategy that has positive expected value, rather than negative. Certainty is not a standard I hold anyone to. But expectation of positive outcome is.

Yes, it is alright to help people who are not faking, especially so in case of emergencies, especially so when the emergency is due to an incident on which they had little control (accident, aggression, sudden illness, etc.). These are cases where help is most likely to do good... and also most likely to be paid back, or forward. Beware however of self-inflicted emergencies: people who build in floodable zones then get flooded, women who stay with an abusive husband, or worse have plenty of kids with as many successive abusive boyfriends, people who repeatedly refuse to get a job or acquire marketable skills, people who insist in living in a place where they are persecuted, etc.

As for subjectivity vs objectivity. What people value depend on their subjective judgment. Yet there are also some truths including moral truths that do not depend on subjectivity. You may or may not prefer chocolate ice cream to passion fruit sorbet, but in either case, thou shalt not commit murder, robbery, rape, etc.

Your question about "helping the world" is a bit abstract, and so can only get a general answer. Yes a lot of us hope to have a sizable positive impact on the world, and that's a laudable ambition. But the devil is in the detail. Not all large impacts are positive; declared intents do not imply actual consequences; changes that happen to incidentally help bad people as well as good people are not the same as changes that specifically empower bad people to the detriment of better people — and the latter constitutes destruction.

Some people believe something. Other people believe the opposite. At least one of the two groups is full of shit. And when the stakes include large scale violence to enforce on policy against the other group, the consequences can be serious. So please base your beliefs on more than blind faith when start advocating for one side or the other; learn the basics and evaluate the consequences of your choices.

Remember than resources don't fall from the sky. "What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving." The transfer can happen via voluntary transactions, or via violence. Giving justifications to violence and its institutionalization is unlikely to have endearing long term results. Yet that is exactly what calls to government action amount to: giving violence a good name.

Permanently living from voluntary gifts is bad indeed — but obviously if other people do it voluntarily, they believe this bad was counter-balanced by some good you did earlier or might do in the future. Hopefully, that is not based on deception. If the gifts were not even voluntary, then that is clearly parasitism.

Giving to parasites is a sin. Whatever resources you give to parasites are resources you necessarily deny to more deserving people. If your discrimination is helping the former because they know how to make themselves more visible to you, then your lack of conscious discrimination is in practice a discrimination in favor of some particularly devious kind of parasites.

This does not look very "evil" to me:

http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/?cid=gf_fb_ll0_012106/

Re: This does not look very "evil" to me:

It doesn't look indiscriminate to me, either, though it does fail to discriminate between government "help" and private "help" (that it is) when defending foreign aid from criticism.

In particular, Gates tries to assess objective criteria of "being in need" and help those people. It doesn't give to whoever has the loudest mouth at claiming subsidies.

So, it's not the best thing ever, but not the worst, ever, and far above most people claiming for forced or voluntary subsidies.
eyes black and white

October 2017

S M T W T F S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com