Another reason to prefer voluntary solutions to social problems.

“The more you give the watchmen to do, the more tempting it becomes to corrupt them, and for them to let themselves be corrupted.” from recent Reason article by Tucille: What Do I Know About Corrupt Cops? My Family Owned a Few.”

And I think I’ll tune in for the upcoming Al Jazeera America piece on the militarization of our police in the US.  When I was growing up (in a smaller, relatively peaceful town), I perceived the police as being there to ‘serve and protect.’ But now I’m very aware that they can pretty much find a reason to arrest whomever they want, and they treat every encounter with a ‘citizen’ as a threatening one. Either there’s been a shift in the past 30 years or I’m just older and more cynical and more aware…

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Compassion in the early 1800’s United States – responsibility on both sides

I’m still going on Marvin Olasky’s book and get this – in the early 1800s, compassion and helping others was very much seen as an individual responsibility and everyone’s responsibility! Imagine that.  And those in need also had to take action to help themselves.

“It was important for the better-off to know the poor individually, and to understand their distinct characters.”

It’s worth noting that in these days, communities were smaller, and people KNEW each other.  He also talks about how the sermon at church was the primary means of mass communication, and “the need to offer personal help and hospitality became a frequent subject of sermons” in colonial days.

“Congregationalist and Presbyterian sermons regularly noted that faith without works of compassion was dead. (p.7, Ch 1)”

So it was a societal expectation, back then given that most everyone practiced religion, that you had to help others if you could.

Here’s what he says:

1. If someone got sick or had a tragedy happen to their family, other people in the community would look after them completely. They’d give their time doing chores or cooking meals. They’d take in orphaned children and help women who were widowed.

2. “Decent Living” was a prerequisite to being helped!  This meant that a) you had to be a moral person (not a drunk, abuser, thief, etc.) AND that b) you had to work if you could. If someone was seen as lazy and not willing to help themselves, they wouldn’t keep giving them aid.

“The able-bodied could readily find jobs in a growing agricultural economy; when they chose not to, it was considered perfectly appropriate to pressure them to change their minds.”

Aha. Makes sense. We don’t really differentiate at ALL nowadays between a) people who are poor or struggling due to tragedies or due to being born into bad circumstances and b) people who are poor due to their own inaction and/or consistent bad choices, or due to not wanting to work.

Wow, it’s probably heresy to even write down that the second category exists. Funny isn’t it?

I’ve done a fair amount of self-development courses over my lifetime: did Landmark Education, have been to Byron Katie’s workshops, listened to Anthony Robbins, even in my teens went to SuperCamp down in LA., as my parents wanted to help me see the possibilities for my life…ALL of these different approaches remind you that YOU and no one else is responsible for your life.  You can’t control external circumstances all the time (i.e. whether your husband has a subarachnoid hemorrhage when your son is 11 months old and won’t be able to work for the rest of his life). They tell you to focus on what you CAN do, what you can control -your own goals, motivations, actions, outlook.

So when I see non-profits with a goal ‘to end poverty in the world’…my first thought is always you can’t rid of all poverty!  You can’t stop or prevent the poverty that comes from being able to sit on the couch all day, watching TV or surfing the web and not taking any action.  I could choose to stop going to work, just watch movies and play with my kids all day.  I’d eventually get fired, lose my job…I could make our family poor in about 6 months; probably less, if I bought a lot of stuff online, took out some credit cards…Individual choice of course impacts whether someone is poor or not.

Most of the dialogue around fighting poverty doesn’t ever mention this, does it?  But labeling people as lazy or irresponsible and writing them off is judgmental, self-righteous, and unproductive.  I can imagine that in the 1800’s, you could get labeled as a ‘good-for-nothing’ and then be in big doo doo. We COULD, however, ensure that people are active participants in turning their lives around, that they build a growth/empowered mindset, and that there are consequences for their choices. That sounds like a good idea.

One recent example where the charity organization DOES require people to show individual responsibility:  Homeboy Industries, led by Father Boyle, in Los Angeles.  I’ve read his book, Tattoos on the Heart: the Power of Boundless Compassion.  If former gang members want to turn their lives around, Homeboy Industries requires them to make commitments in exchange.  If they are late or don’t show up to work X times (I can’t remember the exact number) they will be let go. And they have to attend life skills classes too.  Homeboy Industries requires that they are active contributors in turning their situations around. (I think I’ve recalled the details correctly; apologies if it’s not 100 accurate, though.) I was lucky enough to hear Father Boyle talk a few years ago at an IABC Los Angeles event.)Father Boyle is a Jesuit priest, by the way, for those of you who now distrust and dismiss Christianity as a force for good.

Thoughts? What other orgs are out there where they have recipients actively participate?  Habitat for Humanity, certainly.

Compassion and the Private Sector

Compassion & the Free Market

Proposal for creating/sparking a non-profit grassroots organization promoting the private sector as the best arena for solving social problems.

Goal:

 

Create and grow a new branch of the free-market movement that explores, showcases and celebrates private sector ideas and solutions for social problems and the ways in which people and organizations voluntarily demonstrate compassion, create community, and help others constantly.  Change perspectives on compassion and the free market – to be measured by counting participants, followers, and people who respond to outreach efforts (measure likes, audience, reach, shares, donations, press, interviews). Aim for 50,000 year one.

 

Background:

 

Government is widely and mistakenly seen as a benevolent provider of compassion and also as the only means in which to help those in need. The paradigm that “government is good and the free market is bad” is widespread and damaging.

Viable solutions and tangible results are overlooked, and often wither and die despite being valuable to society. There is a lack of awareness that the private sector encompasses individuals, non-profits, for-profits, and social enterprises, all of which regularly contribute resources towards solving and reducing social problems. This lack of understanding results in many people endangering the innovation, freedom and creativity needed to address social problems. Codification in a government function dooms us to a slow rate of change, de-humanization of charity, waste, and the same types of failure that existing in the free market, only longer lasting and more damaging. (cite Mark Pennington)

To date, ”pro-market” organizations and people have battled to communicate the message that the free market provides more well-being to everyone and is the best structure to ensure all citizens prosper. Many organizations are advocating a reduction in the functions handled by government and its growing presence in all aspects of life.

However, their standard arguments do not penetrate most people’s minds, as they fail to get past the  belief that somehow government is the only conduit for ‘good intentions.’ Benevolent intent behind new bills and pieces of legislation trumps reason every time, (cite Arthur Brooks). They tend to focus on government’s inefficiency, its coercive nature, discussing whether a particular bill will actually do what it is intended to do, etc. Alternatively, they will approve of people’s freedom to shape their own destinies on an individual level and leave it at that. They rarely showcase or promote free market alternatives to a particular issue in question, but instead reject government as a solution and leave the alternative at ‘the free market will sort it out.’

 

“Economic freedom produces unimaginable material prosperity, but it’s also the only economic form that encourages individuals to freely pursue their destinies, develop the character of self-responsibility, and strengthen communities.”

— Congressman Paul Ryan

“Only free enterprise encourages and allows each of us to define our destiny and earn our success.  Only free enterprise encourages true fairness based on merit and opportunity. And free enterprise is the only system that can lift up the vulnerable and those who have fallen on hard times by the millions—by rewarding entrepreneurship and encouraging charity.”

 

—  Arthur Brooks

I believe that most of us who live beyond survival mode, those with enough resources for food, shelter, and basic security, are compassionate by nature to others. Both Paul Ryan and Arthur Brooks above mention community and helping others, but don’t go so far as to contrast what is seen in the voluntary part of society to that which is legislated or run by government.

 

I believe human beings have a moral and instinctive desire to help our fellow man. Fellow man may mean family, colleagues, peers, the local community, people in other countries. But in any case, evidence is widespread that human beings who prosper at some level voluntarily do contribute to their wider community. Very few of us are true individualists, able and willing to live entirely for our own benefit. These examples, existing all around us are the area that requires study, encouragement, publicity, and attribution to individuals acting freely, ergo as part of what we call the free market.

 

Supporting community, charity, compassion and helping others is something that lives and breathes and thrives in the free market in millions of ways every day. The free market means the part of our society where individuals voluntarily create and exchange.

 

Examples of Free Market solutions to explore, showcase and celebrate as part of private sector:

–       Toms Shoes – social enterprise that has embedded into its for profit company a core goal of helping poor children around the world in a practical way – providing shoes. Voluntary exchange, voluntarily created organization. Buying a pair of their shoes is also a contribution.

–       Beito – From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State – historical analysis of how some current social need functions of government (i.e. unemployment benefits) were handled successfully by the private sector.

–       Churches, Synagogues, Elks, Kiwanis, Rotary, Girl Scouts, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, corporations (Starbucks gave $250,000 to Oklahoma tornado relief last month), religious organizations…

–       Non-profits such as Care International, Oxfam, Catholic Relief Services –offering  microloans through village savings groups (Mutual Aid societies of modern day? ) that create sustainable cycle and fund more loans (social enterprise)

 

ACTIVITIES:

  1. Spark conversation, dialogue, and discussion on the ways individuals and groups of individuals (through non-profits, social enterprise, for profits) are helping to address social problems and have alternatives to government codified programs.
  2. Create and disseminate materials and a structure for others interested in this topic to use to start discussion groups, meet ups, grassroots organizations, pages.
  3. Create a way for people to contribute content, stories and examples of free market compassion that can be shared and explored as examples of innovation and results.
  4. Create and expand this premise into a body of work that can be published on this topic – Compassion and the Free Market
  5. Tap into grassroots for engaging, innovative content – video, audio, humor – crowdsource effectively messages that will resonate with people.

 

Required

  1. I am looking for people interested in working on a team to develop and expand this premise and also look for and possibly counter objections. Also looking to determine the best for-profit parallel organization to create a sustainable income stream beyond donations
  2. I need a research assistant who can verify sources, examples, stories and ensure our work has integrity and doesn’t become simply another blind belief system.
  3. $200,000 – funds for 12 months for initial research, outreach, organization. 2 people…

 

 

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”
― Horace Mann

 

“Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.”
~Hubert Humphrey

 

“Why are the Agreeable Anti-Market?”  – Bryan Caplan blog post http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2009/07/why_are_the_agr.html

 

Humans – naturally happier when they help others?

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/were-only-human/real-good-for-free-the-paradox-of-leisure-time.html#comment-7003

 

Helping those in Need – Arthur Brooks

http://arthurbrooks.aei.org/learn/earned-success/

 

Liberals and Markets – Bryan Caplan

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2010/03/liberals_and_ma.html

 

“Homeless to Harvard” – a community came together to provide for a high school student, outside of government. Example of human nature and compassion

http://www.cato.org/blog/homeless-harvard

 

Portrait of a Modern Feminist: Amity Shlaes – historical analysis of Calvin Coolidge as president and prosperity from reducing government

http://iwf.org/modern-feminist/2790812/Portrait-of-a-Modern-Feminist:-Amity-Shlaes

 

THE COSTS OF PUBLIC INCOME REDISTRIBUTION

AND PRIVATE CHARITY

http://mises.org/journals/jls/21_2/21_2_1.pdf

Let’s Create Salt Ration Cards While We’re at it…Why Stop at Production?

I read this morning about the recommendation to further regulate/limit salt in the food industry as well as the proposed New York ban on salt in restaurants (!).

Let’s create a salt ration card system while we’re at it. If you want to save people from themselves, don’t be shy about it, for heaven’s sake.

I think that the salt ban doesn’t go far enough, frankly. Us poor, poor folk making bad choices need to be saved from ourselves. Here are some ideas on great ways to make people choose carrots and edamame over french fries and hot dogs.

1. Salt and Sugar ration cards – each household only gets so many units. Grocery stores and restaurants have to register units consumed, and once they’re gone, you are not allowed to buy any more food that contains salt for that week.

2. Regulate all recipes put out in cookbooks, cooking magazines, TV shows and online – make sure they pass FDA standards for healthy eating before we can see them or use them. Let’s keep the dangerous information out of the hands of the masses who can’t handle it.

SERIOUSLY: The last time I checked, no one was holding me at gunpoint, forcing me to buy salty processed foods or forcing me to eat out and choose onion rings rather than a side salad.  Are we going to stop holding individuals to account for their own free choice behaviors entirely? It’s getting insane.

Regulation is not necessary, regulation is harmful, regulation is too costly to implement.

Healthy eating is a powerful trend right now that’s gaining momentum – can you deny it?

  1. Jamie Oliver (in the UK) and the Biggest Loser have done more to change perspectives and individual actions than any government program.
  2. 15 years ago, organic/healthfoodsections in grocery stores hardly existed.
  3. Local Farmers Markets did not exist (now we have four or five during the week)
  4. Chain restaurant menus – they mark healthy options on the menu. They have 500-calorie options!
  5. Frozen yogurt didn’t exist. Egg substitute didn’t exist. Edamame probably existed, but no one in the US knew about it. Heirloom tomatoes were unknown. Egg white omelets were never on a menu. Veggie omelets-no cheese, for that matter, were never on a menu.
  6. The only apples you could buy were granny smith, golden delicious or those mealy red ones…
  7. We can all identify heart-attack-on-a-plate. We know that greasy, salty food is bad for us and that if we actually ate one of those meals Paula Dean cooks on her t.v. show we’d gain 5 lbs overnight.
  8. Gourmet cooking mags now actually have a healthy eating section with healthy recipes (at least they’re trying)

Why won’t we trust PRIVATE individuals, non-profits, for-profits, and media to help fulfill the demand for healthier choices?

What healthy trends have you noticed over the past couple of decades ? Add to my list!