In last Thursday’s posting we viciously attacked rock icon Bono of the Irish group U2, a name that sounds like the Hun invading. We reported that he had mentioned in an interview with somebody-or-other that capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than even the most massive foreign aid. We also squealed on him by noting that he has actually said Good Things about America and Americans. Obviously the man is a complete nutcase.
Let’s consider the implications, however. The problem is that redistributing existing wealth via foreign or any other kind of aid is not any kind of solution, and it’s not going to fix a broken system. It’s an expedient in an emergency. It’s only by chance that redistributing wealth lifts anyone out of poverty. Usually the only people who better their condition in a program of wealth redistribution are those doing the redistributing. After all, they get their cut first “for expenses.”
This, of course, requires a little clarification. Some years ago there was a book by Marvin Kitman titled, George Washington’s Expense Account (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970). Mr. Kitman also wrote The Number One Best Seller (New York: Dial Press, 1966) so that anyone going into a bookstore and asking for “the number one best seller” would receive his book. We’re almost afraid not to mention Mr. Kitman’s other works, but there’re too many of them.
The point is not to diss General Washington, a genuinely great man who, like all of us, had his flaws; some, like being a slave owner, more serious than others. He was not, however, a bad businessman. He agreed to serve as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army without pay . . . if Congress would just pay his expenses. (It would not be allowed today, but this permitted Washington to circumvent the appropriations process when Congress got a little stingy by purchasing needed supplies for his men, like shoes and food, and then vouchering them as “personal expenses.”)
The point is that, had George Washington failed to look after his own interests, served for pay, and picked up his own tab for expenses, he would have gone bankrupt, as many did. Not to mention the fact that quite possibly the troops would have been walking around hungry and barefoot more often than they were.
Today’s welfare bureaucrats also look after themselves first. No harm in that. The difference is that Washington undertook a specific job with a clear beginning and a clear end. He was a planter, and every moment spent away from Mount Vernon was detrimental to his livelihood. The war was a diversion.
Today’s welfare bureaucrats, whether in the governmental public sector or the charitable private sector benefit themselves not by ending poverty, but by prolonging it. Their job is not to do themselves out of employment by ending poverty, but to alleviate poverty to make it sufficiently bearable so that the bureaucrats whose livelihoods and careers depend on “helping the poor” will secure their positions by always having “the poor” to help. It doesn’t pay them to end poverty, where it definitely paid Washington to get the whole business of the Revolution over with.