Look, Ma, no Chappaquiddick jokes!

A friend’s comment about the passing of Senator Kennedy:

It takes a certain kind of person who has everything he needs, but is more concerned about helping others get what they need than he is about keeping what is rightfully his. Ted Kennedy was that kind of person.

She’s not very precise about what she admires–does she admire that in his personal life, Ted Kennedy gave his own money away to the needy? Or does she admire that in his political career, Senator Kennedy gave so many tax dollars to the needy? Knowing her, I think it’s less of the former and more of the latter.

Now, I may be putting words in her mouth, but think carefully about charity: it means giving what is rightfully yours to the needy. That’s not what politicians do, because they’re spending other people’s money.

Politicians take money from Person A (taxation) in order to give it to Person B (welfare transfer). Sometimes it’s because the politicians think Person B needs the money more than Person A. Sometimes it’s because Person B promises votes or campaign contributions to the politicians. Either way, if Person A doesn’t pay up, he goes to jail. That’s not admirable on the politicians’ part, and it certainly isn’t charitable. The best we can hope for is that it’s the most efficient way to help Person B, but it probably isn’t that, either.

Ted Kennedy giving away what was rightfully his was admirable. Senator Kennedy giving away what was rightfully somebody else’s was not. Same goes for any politician.

Allow me to beat a dead horse and tinker with her quote a little bit. Suppose my friend had written this (my changes are in italics and boldface):

It takes a certain kind of person who has everything he needs, but is more concerned about helping others get what they need than he is about letting others keep what is rightfully theirs. Ted Kennedy was that kind of person.

I think that’s a more precise statement about his political career. Thoughts?

3 comments

  1. Okay, did I miss something? I thought that part of our tax dollars were to fund social programs that benefit the less fortunate, therefore increasing the standard of living of our society.

    And also, if left to our own devices, I’m pretty sure the human race would divert to survival of the fittest, and eventually we’d wipe ourselves out trying to out-do each other. So requiring taxes and using them to somewhat redistribute wealth is a good thing in that sense, right? It keeps us from being so selfish that we all end up dead.

    I don’t know, I’m probably completely wrong as usual, but at least my football team just totally beat yours. Just sayin’.

    I think a certain Pack is gonna make it to the ‘Bowl this year. WITHOUT Brett Favre. 🙂

    Hope you’re well! I wanna come visit, but school’s keeping me busy. Go figure. All this teaching crap I have to learn, I don’t know how you guys do it.

    Later!

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  2. You wrote: “And also, if left to our own devices, I’m pretty sure the human race would divert to survival of the fittest, and eventually we’d wipe ourselves out trying to out-do each other. So requiring taxes and using them to somewhat redistribute wealth is a good thing in that sense, right? It keeps us from being so selfish that we all end up dead.”

    I’ll limit my rebuttal to this:

    Please explain the improvement in the standard of living, even for the poor, throughout human history PRIOR TO the advent of the welfare state (i.e., the creation of wealth redistribution programs). Also, please explain how we failed to “all end up dead” before there were wealth transfer programs… keeping in mind that the U.S. didn’t have wealth transfer programs aimed at the poor before the 1960s, or aimed at the elderly and/or disabled before the 1930s.

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  3. I would like to say that people were more charitable back then, but I obviously can’t back that up with anything. What I was suggesting is dependent in part on the attitudes of Americans today and the changes in American values. I just think that overall, people are less likely to help out other people today than they used to be. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s the impression I’ve gotten.

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