Gault's Gulch

January 15, 2010

Not Yours to Give…

Filed under: Politics — John Gault @ 12:50 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

It is high time that people realize that acts of evil most often come clothed in the robe of good intentions.   The devastation that has been wreaked upon the people of Haiti over the last few days is terrible beyond all words.  Those people need help–and lots of it.  Any decent human being should feel sympathy toward their plight and, I would argue, an urge to assist them in the same way that we would want assistance if it had happened to us.  With that being said, we also have to realize that instances of misfortune and even tragedy are not a free pass for our government to abandon the principles upon which it was founded.

President Obama has pledged $100 million to help the people of Haiti.  Who could possibly be against such a good-hearted gesture?  Me.  And you–if you believe in the tennets of the Constitution and the freedom which  our nation is supposed to stand for.  Foreign aid–whether it be to Haiti for earthquake relief or to Israel for defense or to Ethiopia for famine relief–is forced charity.  The money the government “pledges” comes from the tax dollars of every single American.  It is donated without our consent or our input.  It is allocated without the slightest consideration for the values or preferences of those whose pocket it has come from.  Simply put, we should be telling our legislators and our President that the money is Not Yours to Give.

I capitalized those words because they comprise the title of an excellent story about Davy Crockett during his days in Congress.  The story is a bit too lengthy for reproduction here, so I will simply include this link.

In short, the story simply teaches the lesson that charity is a personal choice.  It should come from the hearts and minds of those individuals who truly care enough about a cause to open their wallets and purses to do something about it.  I urge every American to give–and give deeply–to those causes which stir in them a passion to help.  Surely, Haiti qualifies.  Then again, maybe it doesn’t.  You should, however, have the freedom to make that decision for yourself.



  1. Hi Gault, just to say thanks for dropping that last comment off over at the urbanpastor. drop me a line if you want to chat more via email.

    Comment by Lauri — January 21, 2010 @ 9:46 am | Reply

  2. I occasionally have conversations with one of my work colleagues along these lines. He’s not a hardliner, but has suggested that, instead of trying to “fix the world”, maybe the US should focus on fixing its own problems (e.g., charity starts at home). I suspect, however, that many of the same people who hold to such a position had less than pleasant things to say about the French when France threatened to block the US sponsored UN resolution on Iraq in 2003. There are definitely times when the US has expected others to step up to the plate.

    If the US wants to wield world influence – whether it be for altruistic or selfish reasons – I would suggest that there is a price to pay. For a situation like Haiti, if support is to be effective and timely, there must be an up-front commitment to pay the bills; waiting for money to trickle in from donations may work in some scenarios, but such an approach would effectively condemn large numbers of people to death in Haiti (which probably wouldn’t bother some people). $100M may sound like a lot, but look at it from this perspective: if you divide the DOD budget for 2010 (approx $700B) by the number of hours in a year, the donation to Haiti would keep the US military operating for about an hour and a half. If you look at it from a per-capita or GDP basis, I suspect that there are other nations contributing much more than the US (although I admit that I haven’t checked the numbers).

    I do have sympathy, however, for the concerns that many people have that aid money for Haiti may not all be productively spent.

    Comment by Warren — January 30, 2010 @ 10:41 pm | Reply

  3. A balanced (I think) Canadian perspective:

    P.S. I hope you aren’t regretting inviting me to drop by your blog. 😉

    Comment by Warren — February 1, 2010 @ 10:51 am | Reply

  4. I can’t help but put in a little plug for Canada:

    Although Americans are generally considered more generous givers (we’re a welfare state remember), here’s a case where individuals have been very generous and the government contribution has dramatically outstripped that of the US – on a per capita basis. I don’t think Canadians in general have any heartburn with what the federal government is doing.

    Comment by Warren — February 8, 2010 @ 10:28 pm | Reply

  5. John, I couldn’t agree more. Great blog, btw. Good to see a fellow patriot atheist fighting the good fight.

    Comment by godlessmonster — March 10, 2010 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

  6. Dropping by late, and you have an interesting take on this. However, I would reason that a government is elected to represent the people, and that one should choose a representative whom you can trust to act in a way you’d approve of in a situation where a quick decision is vital. I’m sure there are many other situations in which decisions are made on spending of taxpayers’ money which are either not practical to hold a referendum over or possible to foresee in the election process, so that it’s not possible for the candidate to be upfront on how he/she would decide in this issue.

    Related only in terms of the countries involved, I think you might also be interested in this blog post:

    Comment by Anida Adler — April 18, 2010 @ 3:49 am | Reply

    • Anida,

      Thanks for the comment–and I agree with the substance of what you’re saying. I think, however, that you are making a mistake that is very common in today’s political environment. You are thinking that legislators can’t possibly consult us every time they want to spend our tax dollars, so we have to trust them to spend it wisely. The problem is that you have framed the issue with the presumption that the legislators have any right to spend ANY of our tax money on discretionary spending. I say that they do not. The Constitution is very clear about what the government can spend our money on. I think that your philosophy of electing those who most closely represent our ideals is perfectly valid when it comes to spending on these specific things. I would never want a referendum or even a poll if the government was debating how to spend my tax money on military defense or the construction of national infrastructure. Other than those few things that the Constitution gives them the right to spend on, however, there should be no need for referendum either–because the answer is ALWAYS “no”. No to foreign aid. No to public entitlement programs. No to ANYTHING that is not specifically permitted by the Constitutional powers of Congress. All other spending should be left to the states or the people–and that includes charity, which should ALWAYS be private.

      Comment by John Gault — April 19, 2010 @ 8:03 am | Reply

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