All Commentary
Saturday, December 1, 1990

Perspective: Bad Charity Drives Out Good


In early America, some poverty (brought about by calamity such as fire and earthquake, or by crippling accident or early death) was seen as the result of God’s Providence. Some was the result of business failure, not always the entrepreneur’s fault. Much, however, was seen as serf-created through drunkenness, laziness, or other sinful behavior. The need to determine and administer the exact type of aid required in each case placed significant demands not only on the poor, but also on the more fortunate, who were expected to give of their time as well as their treasure. It is estimated that over half of New York’s wealthiest one percent donated part of their leisure time to helping the poor or the sick prior to the Civil War, a pattern found in other large cities.

Particularly significant are the changes caused by the economic and social conditions that developed toward the end of the century. When communities were generally small, personal involvement was easy; but large-scale urbanization brought economic segregation. The better-off could ride to work on broad avenues instead of walking through a variety of wards, and many churches followed their wealthier members uptown or out of town. The more fortunate would be less likely to face need directly . . . .

Some charitable groups became “simply relief Societies.” Able-bodied individuals who did not wish to work learned to go from agency to agency; and some were said to receive aid from many different groups, their income related to the number of tears shed and false stories told. In a parallel to Gresham’s Law, bad charity was able to drive out good.

—Marvin N. Olasky

writing in the July 1990 issue of

Alternatives in Philanthropy.

Voices from the Black Community

By cunning propaganda, and for obvious reasons, our leaders have turned politics into a religion among blacks. Masters at standing truth on its head, they’ve sold us the bill of goods that politics brings prosperity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Politics translates into economic benefits for those few who are elected to office, not for the masses who vote for them.

Economist Thomas Sowell has shown repeatedly, in his comprehensive works on ethnic groups, that it is those groups that studiously avoid political involvement that achieve prosperity and rise to the top. It’s only after achieving affluence that other groups turn their attention to politics. Success in politics has never been necessary for economic advancement, nor has it ever been translated into upward mobility.

Other groups know enough to distrust the fickleness of political trends. They figure out early that the political pendulum swings back and forth, according to ever-changing public opinion, and that government policies are necessarily tied to trends that cannot be depended upon in the long run. Today, the pendulum swings left, tomorrow to the fight.

Yet, here we are expending vast resources and precious energies on one election after another, trying to keep the pendulum from swinging one way or another way, instead of taking our cue from other groups and concentrating our efforts on economic enterprise. Last year, both The New York Ames and Wall Street Journal reported on what everybody already knows, that America’s Korean immigrants behave like all groups before them. They literally take care of business and pay no attention to the political high jinks going on around them. How many Korean mayors can you count?

—Elizabeth Wright,

Editor writing in the Winter 1990 issue of

Issues and Views, an open forum on

issues affecting the black community.

The majority of black youth and young adults are not the street brawling ignoramuses seen on the front pages of newspapers and on the evening news . . . . The majority of us are decent people who deserve a better image than the one we’re being given by the violent few among us. But we have to disassociate ourselves from these people, and remain firm in our moral and ethical codes of behavior that prohibit us from acting out our anger in violent ways, no matter how justified.

Despite our past problems with police and other officials, we have to support efforts to prosecute the small number of criminals who commit violent acts against other blacks in our communities and who, by their actions, show contempt for the law. Those of us who believe in obeying laws against the destruction of property, assault of other human beings, and other unnecessary acts of crime and violence outnumber those who don’t, and it% time, past time, that we stop aiding and abetting these criminals with our silence, or by coming to their defense . . . .

—from an editorial in the December 5,1989,

Toledo Journal, quoted in the Winter 1990

issue of Issues and Views.

Freeman Columns Pass the 1,200 Mark

What do the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Indianapolis Star, Orange County Register, Tampa Tribune, Allentown Morning Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Camden Courier-Post, Sacramento Union, New York City Tribune, Diario La Hora (Guatemala), La Prensa (Argentina), El Diario de Caracas (Venezuela), Libre Empresa (Bolivia), Ultima Horn (Dominican Republic), Diario Xala-pa (Mexico), and La Prensa (Honduras) have in common? They are among the more than 200 newspapers in the U.S. and Latin America that have carried Freeman articles, specially prepared and sent out from FEE several times a month for the past four years. FEE’s op-ed program has now received more than 1,200 tearsheets, with new newspapers being added to the list every month. If you see a Freeman article in your local paper, we would very much appreciate it if you would send us a copy.