Giving money to charity is a farce.
It makes you feel good, but in the long run, you’re actually a part of the problem that perpetuates the horrors which charity is attempting to alleviate.
It’s horrible to see a child whose life is ruined because of an operation that costs $20.
But in the long term, as Oscar Wilde would have said, if you just operate the the child, then they will live a little bit better but in the same situation which produced them [and their inability to sustain themselves.
It’s much like the ancient proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Unless you change the system which made the man needy for the fish, you’re not really helping them: you’re prolonging their perpetual state of starvation.
Oscar Wilde wrote:
The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism – are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this. The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man’s intelligence; and, as I pointed out some time ago in an article on the function of criticism, it is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought. Accordingly, with admirable, though misdirected intentions, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease.
They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor.
But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good; and at last we have had the spectacle of men who have really studied the problem and know the life – educated men who live in the East End – coming forward and imploring the community to restrain its altruistic impulses of charity, benevolence, and the like. They do so on the ground that such charity degrades and demoralises. They are perfectly right. Charity creates a multitude of sins.
There is also this to be said. It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair.
So it is therefore necessary, to truly help someone or a people, to change the underlying causes of poverty and need. It is not good enough to give people a coin to buy a sandwich if they’re still going to be homeless. It’s not good enough to give them a home, either; if they cannot keep the home paid for, he will be in the streets.
The most effective way to help fight poverty is to be productive and marginally redistributive.
You want to continue the cycle of production by encouraging a reasonable level of wealth but also allow for some reasonable level of redistribution of that wealth in order to aide those who are needy to participate in that cycle of production.
In order to do that, society needs to not only foster business creation, but also foster technological and scientific research so that those businesses have something to sell. Society needs to foster better, more plentiful education from beginning to end so that society has the scientists and engineers to research and design those technologies which future businesses will produce. At the same time, society must allow for an economic and social safety net for those in need of it while encouraging that education so they have the strength of body and mental faculties to be scholastically successful.
Society must not just aide in housing and feeding those in need, but society must also educate those in poverty to become productive workers, scientists, mathematicians, technologists, mathematicians, and designers and that cycle of production continues.
As Wilde wrote, “They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this.”
But he also wrote that people are more readily moved with the heart than with the mind. Charity is a wonderful thing and everyone should be encouraged to give charity to others, but it is not a useful nor effective proxy for social change which is the only way to truly help people in the long-run.
This is why I’m a liberal.