Russell and Duenes

The Sequester, Entitlements, and “The Least of These”

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esolenWhen someone close to me once asked why I was generally opposed to our current welfare state, I told him it had little, if anything, to do with “taking my tax money.” If the government could take my tax money, give it to others as welfare payments and programs, and produce virtuous and thriving people, I’d gladly hand over the money. The problem with the welfare state has never finally been the money, but the effect the money has on human flourishing in every area of life, from spirituality, to the economy, to sexuality, to marriage, to parenting, to cities, to prisons, to community life, to human relationships in general. The issue has never been: “The welfare state hasn’t hurt your pocketbook, so it shouldn’t be a problem for you.” Rather, the issue is: What does it mean to love my neighbor as myself, and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you? The issue is: What do justice, mercy and the love of God require? For far too many U.S. citizens, good intentions and feeling like we’re “doing something” are quite good enough.

Touchstone contributor, Anthony Esolen, provides a more articulate and pointed answer to the question, “what’s wrong with the welfare state?” than I could have given to my interlocutor, and you can read the whole thing in his brief piece over at The Public Discourse, entitled “The Least of These.” The power of Esolen’s piece is in its presentation as if out of the mouth of the young urban male toward whom our current government entitlement policies are aimed. Esolen writes:

One group [i.e., the government] profits, in power, from the profligacy of the other, which it “rewards” with money confiscated from the general public. They thus gain millions of publicly funded jobs to manage the people whom their policies have corrupted, and they move far away from those people, assuaging their consciences by voting correctly and holding correct opinions. Their hands do not get dirty. What, on the dreadful day of doom, will that boy in Philadelphia say to the rich who have ignored him, or worse, who have profited by his confusion?

In Esolen’s telling, the young male recounts to the government what he truly needed, and what he got instead. Esolen thus lays bare the crucial human issues bound up in our welfare state, and as such, his thoughts deserve serious consideration. To that end, I could not recommend a more succinct and penetrating account than Esolen’s.



Written by Michael Duenes

February 22, 2013 at 9:49 am

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