I’ve been struggling to understand the viewpoint that the poor are somehow to blame for their circumstances. This view was summed up very well in this article by National Review writer David French:
It is simply a fact that oursocial problems are increasingly connected to the depravity of the poor. If an American works hard, completes their education, gets married, and stays married, then they will rarely — very rarely — be poor. At the same time, poverty is the handmaiden of illegitimacy, divorce, ignorance, and addiction. As we have poured money into welfare, we’ve done nothing to address the behaviors that lead to poverty while doing all we can to make that poverty more comfortable and sustainable.
This view of the poor is very disturbing to me. My Christian faith tells me to watch out for my poor neighbors. While my faith doesn’t necessarily advocate a certain policy or dictate specific legislation, it certainly doesn’t suggest that helping the poor simply makes poverty more “comfortable,” or that we are somehow justified in placing the blame for our social problems at their feet.
Matthew Ygelsias captures what French seems to be missing:
Poor people have, typically, made some mistakes in life and it’s often the case that had they lived lives free of error, they wouldn’t be poor. But it’s not like middle class people are living mistake-free lives.The difference is that middle class people have lives that give them a fair margin for error, whereas people who start out in bad circumstances can be crippled by a bit of misfortune, impulsiveness, or bad decision-making.
I think this is a very smart way of looking at society. Sure, if people never made mistakes there would be fewer who are poor (I would argue that simply always making good decisions doesn’t necessarily guarantee financial stability, but that’s a question for another post). But, people make mistakes. That’s part of being human. And arranging society in such a way that everyone (not just the rich) gets cut some slack when they drop the ball or make a horrible decision just seems to be moral thing to do.
Ode to the Patriot Act.