By Mary Alexandra Pooler
Thursday Review Contributing Editor
My 17 year old brother made an important declaration recently. He decided that he doesn't believe charity helps anyone, and he doesn't see how his contribution could possibly help any cause.
Back in my college town of Tallahassee, our priest gave many homilies discussing the importance of tithing, imploring students that if they all donated just $5 a week, what a difference it could make for the church. Despite this, I almost never put money in the basket, and neither did my peers, even though we were adults in the Church and most of us had an income, albeit a small one.
I've certainly changed my tune since then, and even though I'm currently unemployed, I've been tapping into my graduation money to ensure that $5 a week goes into the basket at church. I've also donated to a few other charities that, although aren't the Church, are closely aligned with my Catholic beliefs. But the lack of charity shown by me and my peers during college, as well as my brother now, got me thinking about the causes of such apathy.
In an interview with reason.tv, Judge Andrew Napolitano, a former FOX News commentator and a professed libertarian, proclaimed that taxation is theft. He says "Jefferson argued, and I believe, that the only moral, valid, lawful exchange of property is one that is truly voluntary." Even though our tax money may be going to help those who are less fortunate, the fact is that our monetary contribution is not voluntary. Instead we are forced to set aside our money in a way that seems Machiavellian; that is, "the end justifies the means." It's okay for the government to take money away from people who have earned it because it's going to help others. But such acts do not constitute as true charity.
The word charity comes from the latin word "caritas." Caritas is considered the greatest form of love that a person can experience. This form of love has no boundaries or limits, and does not expect reward in return. In some cases, charity involves great self-sacrifice and even suffering. So to suggest that the system of government taxation in which citizens, as a form of regular forced protocol, send their money to Washington so that the government can help other people for us, is charitable is a complete fallacy. In fact, it is a desecration to everything charity stands for. My grandfather, a strong liberal, says often that he doesn't mind giving money in taxes if it goes to help people. But in the end, it doesn't matter whether he minds or not. He has to give taxes because it's the law. It's not his choice. It's not his personal sacrifice.
A study published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy revealed that the top five states that donated to charity leaned Republican while the bottom five states leaned Democrat. Some would argue that these Democratic states give less to charity because their philosophy is that they're partaking in charity through government taxes, while the other states are partaking in charity through their churches. However, the least charitable state, New Hampshire, does not have a sales tax and they do not tax an individual's income. Utah, the most charitable state, has a 5% flat income tax rate and 4.7% sales tax. Even putting aside these facts, both states still pay taxes, but in the end, states like Utah go above and beyond. Not only are they partaking in the same "charity" that Democrats believe in, they're donating to religious organizations on top of that.
Allowing the government to perform all our "charity" removes us from the act of love itself, and when we don't accustom ourselves to selfless giving, then we forget to make it a part of our daily lives. People like my brother feel that our acts cannot possibly solve the problems of this world because our world has taught us that someone else will take care of those problems for us: the government. Which is why we drive past people stranded on the side of the road, and never seem to have even a dime on us when someone needs some change. It's why I couldn't even put $5 in the basket at church. However, when everyone thinks this way, nothing gets accomplished. For all their talk of helping the poor and serving people, our government is teaching the people of this country that they don't need to do anything. They are teaching people that they cannot help people on their own. They are teaching them that they are incapable of making their own sacrifices voluntarily. When we lose grasp of our ability to give, love loses all meaning. When everyone adopts this attitude, they lose sight of the fact that simple acts of kindness are as consequential as contributions made by the largest charities in the world. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, "We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love."