A common reason, at least among my self-proclaimed liberal friends, for their supporting Democrats and liberals in government is that they think these political groups expend more effort caring for the poor, the “downtrodden”, the people who have slipped through the cracks of our system and who need help more than you or I.
This is a real issue that affects real people and it is good that we expend time and effort both thinking about the poor, and working to alleviate their condition.
However, the poor are better served by Republican and conservative political ideas than by others, and here’s why:
First, we must agree on what is a suitable goal for the majority of charitable programs and acts. Conservatives consider the best default goal of charity programs to be the alleviation of immediate and extreme need and the readying and encouragement of those poor to re-enter the productive and self-sufficient mainstream as contributing members of society. This is based on the idea that people are more than physical bodies with physical needs, but are also, at the very least, minds with mental needs, and, depending on your metaphysical persuasion, spiritual beings with spiritual needs. Feed the body and you have resolved that need for today, feed the mind and soul with accomplishment and self-sufficiency and you have brought a person out from the true pains of poverty.
The default goal, therefore, of charity should be not simply the repeated alleviation of physical need, but it should contain a restorative function as well, encouraging the people taking advantage of the resources to move on to where they themselves are contributing. There are people who are unable to, in any way, contribute. However, these cases are rare, and we are limiting ourselves to talking about the type of charity that is most beneficial to the majority of people. Suffice to say, there should be programs for those completely unable to enter the mainstream. There are hospitals, homes, services, programs, all designed for these people.
To keep all poor in the permanent underclass of poverty and welfare families is to rob them of crucial aspects of their humanity. Unfortunately, the majority of government charity programs, in being designed ostensibly for the poorest and least fortunate, have been designed to discourage the sorts of behaviors and societal structures that we know are most conducive to producing contributing members of society. That a single mother can receive more assistance if she is not supported by a husband, while well intentioned, has certainly done nothing to encourage stable nuclear families in our poorest neighborhoods. That many programs are offered with little or no accountability or verification or auditing means that the efficacy of the programs is not evaluated and thus programs are not adjusted or changed or scrapped and redone when it is necessary to do so.
Finally, what people want and what people need are sometimes not the same. For people who are making their own way, they are free to do as they please, even by engaging in damaging behaviors, within bounds of reason and the law, without infringing on others freedom to do the same. Smoking, gambling, excessive drinking, eating raw dairy (that’s a joke, raw dairy is illegal but it ought not be), watching Glee, reading the Twilight series, and the like. When people are living on other’s charity, their freedoms in this respect are curtailed at the desire and discretion of those whose charity they are living upon. The government has not right telling people what they can and cannot eat, how they should or should not go about seeking employment, and the like, so long as those people are living their lives within the moral law and paying for all their chosen vices themselves. The government, or the charity, has every right to request people conform to their desired standard of behavior if those people wish to receive from their beneficence. A private charity has greater leeway in this than does government though. A private charity can expect some basic moral living or other requirements of lifestyle, while government needs to limit its requirements to the very basic regarding good use of its funds for the purpose of accountability to those who provided the funds, namely, you and I.
But what’s all this got to do with voting Republican? We’re getting to it, we just had to lay a little groundwork to make sure we’re on the same page and talking about the same thing.
First, conservative policies are generally geared towards greater job creation. We’re not talking about seasonal jobs or jobs with the Census Bureau. A healthy business climate is a climate that grows businesses, and growing businesses hire more people. Sure, some people are hired in Bangalore and some in Peru, but there are also more jobs here, where we live and can work. When there are more jobs and more people are needed to fill those jobs, poor people can get those jobs more easily. Liberal policies are generally geared towards the perception of equality, which is more difficult to pin down, except to say that if you see somebody who has more than you and your first thought is that somebody ought to take that from them, you should just keep voting liberal.
Second, conservative policies regarding charity encourage the restorative function. Recently, President Obama used an executive order to gut many of the requirements of the Welfare to Work program enacted by President Clinton and the Republican Congress lead by Newt Gingrich. By allowing states to not have to try so hard to get people back into the workforce when they are drawing welfare checks and are able-bodied by removing the deadline requirements, the program has been effectively gutted. Now, people on welfare are allowed to remain wallowing in their poverty and welfare-fueled subsistence without the states administering that welfare being requires to verify the recipients are seeking employment or engaging in training. Conservatives support Welfare to Work requirements because they recognize first the need of every human to be productive, both for their mental, emotional, and spiritual health, and for the need for the government charity to be carried out in a effective and efficient manner.
Third, conservative policies regarding care for the poor seek to build up the poor into becoming something besides poor. A primary goal of every conservative person is to see others taking responsibility for their own lives. When everybody is taking responsibility for their own lives, less is required of society, government, and other potentially powerful entities we humans must deal with. A government that less is required of is a government that will have to shrink. And people who are not is need of a strong government are people who are more capable in and of themselves. This is a chicken or the egg sort of point. We conservatives like small government and we recognize a certain sort of general population is required to make that possible, and we like a responsible and self-capable general population and recognize that will result in a necessarily smaller government. Not quite a paradox, but the two are intrinsically linked. So because of this desire for people’s generally greater capability, we want to see the poor growing up out of their poverty, mostly by their own strength, but assisted as necessary by those who are strong themselves. In the same way a butterfly hatching from it’s chrysalis must be left to struggle on it’s own if it is to have any chance of developing the strength necessary to survive, people who have done most of the work necessary to lift themselves beyond where they were and into new horizons of ability are blessed both by the new horizons and by the strength to handle that horizon. This idea of earned capability was championed by the ex-slave Booker T. Washington, who argued, against the darling of social studies W. E. B. DuBois, that the best way to open the roads out of slavery the widest is to remove every hinderance possible, so that it is only the capability of the person themselves that will limit ow far they go. Which brings us to the final point.
Conservatives believe the best sort of government charity is where the government gives, and then gets out of the way. First, the hard part: this getting out of the way means you are giving people the freedom to fail again, to fail completely and totally. The other side of this coin is that without the freedom to fail, you also do not really have the freedom to succeed. Conservatives believe in minimal regulation, only that which is necessary to prevent the most egregious abuses and damage. Conservatives believe in the right to work, which means workers should have freedom to form a union if they please, but are not required to do so in order to gain employment in the field of their choice. Conservatives believe in cutting out corruption at any and all levels, as it unbalances the fields of law, access to services, and business opportunity, and it puts needless restrictions and higher costs on people affected by it. A person who is poor but wishes not to be is better served by a soup kitchen and an open and thriving field of employment than by a Link card and greedy and corrupt politicians in some of the biggest metropolises in American, which, ironically, are run primarily by Democrat-controlled political machines.