Like Onto Gods

No, this is not a post about Solyndra.  Nor is it a post about General Motors.  It’s not even, in fact, a post about federal monetary policy.

It is a post about something rather deeper than that.

I’m still working on Noah’s Boy – in the time it would take me to finish, I failed to reckon with a prickly young male in pain, who would need to be not just helped when he won’t ask for help, but cajoled so he doesn’t get too depressed.  Not complaining.  It’s not onerous duty.  It’s just taking time, which means I’m later than I expected.  (To be honest, and not to blame the boy for everything, I also am not up to expected strength and after what should be a mild amount of work, fall in these death-sleeps. ) But I’m not sick anymore, and the kid is recovering, and writing is actually going well, even if the book has taken some very odd turns, which I refuse to talk about.  You’ll see.

Anyway, as always when I’m deep in writing, I can’t stand to read anything new and therefore I read an awful lot of old stuff or stuff I’ve read a million times before.  This is convenient, because I leave books scattered all over, and can pick one up and randomly read three pages, without having to read the whole book at a sitting.  Right now, it’s Agatha Christie.

While cooking dinner yesterday, I was re-re-re-reading They Do It With Mirrors.

If you haven’t read the book, you should, because if you do read it, you’ll see why so many “liberals” hate Christie.  They do it with mirrors, by its very premise and several, matter of fact, old-grandmotherly, but completely accurate insights, pokes a thumb in the eye of a lot of the left’s premises.  It starts by telling us there are fashions in philanthropy and how, after World War II the whole fashion in philanthropy was the reforming of criminals, particularly young criminals.

Later on in the novel, Miss Marple delivers herself of a curious, open observation on the insanity of devoting vast resources to this endeavor.

Without giving away too much of the setup, the whole novel takes place in an old mansion which has been converted into a sort of institute to help young men who have had run ins with the law.  The place is full of psychologists, psychiatrists and educators.  It is also, in the way of the best Christie novels, full of an odd extended family, the result of the main female character’s (Miss Marple’s old friend Carrie Louise) four marriages.

One of the members of the family is a granddaughter, half Italian and temperamental (one of the delights of reading Christie is seeing how the British, mid-century, viewed several other people in the rest of Europe, and how different that is from the way I grew up viewing them as Portuguese.  The way British view Italians is more like the way Portuguese view Brazilians: uncontrolled, sexy, fiery.)  She has spent WWII in the states, and there married an American.  Now she and her American husband are living in this crazy mansion-institute, where the family is devoted to rehabilitating criminal juveniles.

Someone – I don’t remember who – tells Miss Marple that the young American can’t understand what they’re doing, because Americans worship success and can-do attitude.

Miss Marple then delivers herself of a little peroration about “Whether we worship failure” and goes on to note that while rehabilitating young criminals is in fact – probably – a noble cause, shouldn’t some resources be given to the people who do in fact make good?  She mentions men and women who come from bad backgrounds, overcome everything to live decent lives, and yet no one is rushing to give them an education or help them find work.  Or even, young men and women of good families, who didn’t do anything wrong, and who would love a little help and never get it, because all the help is going to those who have failed and fallen.

I just know someone in comments is going to bring in the parable of the prodigal son, and the whole thing about there being more rejoicing in heaven for a lost sheep recovered than for a hundred righteous ones.  We’ll get to that.  For now, let’s simply contemplate the fact, that nowadays America resembles more the England Christie was letting Miss Marple unload on “we are in love with failure.”

Part of this, as Beth noted in the comments yesterday, is that all of us have, at some point, experienced being an underdog.  But this is only a partial explanation.  Most of us have also experience doing everything right and only needing a little – a very little help – to get to our goals… and not getting it.  Because we were battling, we were on our own, and therefore it was believed we didn’t need help.

It is one thing when – in my opinion – resources are misallocated to make profoundly handicapped children SEEM to perform normally (don’t throw things at me, okay?  Mainstreaming has its pros, as it has its cons, and it varies with the degree of the handicap.  However, one of my best friends when the kids were in elementary school was the grandmother (and guardian) of a profoundly handicapped young man.  The system was failing her kid as badly as it was failing mine – the difference being it was spending a fortune to fail him.  They had two aids who went with him through the entire day and did the work for him.  No, I know that’s not what is supposed to happen, but the young man had an IQ of 48.  It might have been possible to teach him basic literacy – I really don’t know.  I know a profoundly handicapped girl in my elementary left 4th grade literate and numerate – but not at the same pace as the other kids, not in the same classes, and not with the same materials.  Since the school insisted on “mainstreaming” him, it took two aids: One to keep him quiet and one to do the actual work he was supposed to do.  In third grade my friend got him transferred to a school where, instead, he had an “aid” or instructor, but she was TEACHING him, at his own pace.) while no resources are available for “above average” children because “they already have an advantage.”

There are several debatables in the case of children, giftedness and advantages, and we could argue all of them forever.

But it is something completely different when there is a degree of volition involved in the failure: when the people for whom resources are being diverted, for whom every door is being open, for whom every effort must be made are those who have, to use a Victorian phrase, blotted their copybook pretty badly. People who have chosen to do that which they knew to be wrong.  People who have demonstrated, at the very least, an ability to squander resources and opportunities.

And yet, it is these people we are taught to help.

We have turned the Victorian morality on its head.  Now the “deserving poor” are those who have been brought to their straits by addiction, by uncontrolled sexual behavior, by their own choice – in the end.  Yes, I know that a lot of the homeless on our streets are untreated mental patients, and that is our shame and our failure as a culture.  Yes, it is true a lot of those treat their problems with addictive substances.  But in the end, if you suggest giving them help conditional to their being treated, the same people who say we must help them will howl and say that no, help should be unconditional and only in the form of handouts – so that you are subsidizing both the addictions and the mental illness.

I think the mechanism that has brought us here is double.  Part of it is a genuine reluctance to “judge” – which can be in some ways admirable.  Most of us who have any empathy at all know that “there for the grace of G-d” and to an extent that’s a good thing.  We can see the factors that led someone astray: untreated mental illness, addition, horrible family background.  We can see, as it were, the whole person through the broken one.

This is admirable… to an extent.  And I’m not saying no efforts should be made to save the ones who fall and who genuinely want to be helped up again.

But the other mechanism is people’s wish to feel good.  If you’re doing good to feel good about yourself, then the more undeserving the subject, the better you feel about yourself.  Look, how little they did to deserve this.  Why, hot d*mn anyone else would demand at least a gesture on the part of the recipient of charity, some show that he’s ready to turn his life around, but not you.  Oh, no.  You’re so good that you will give all to the least deserving.  Now, that’s some treasure in heaven you’re accumulating, right?

Look, I’ll be entirely blunt.  If you are a celebrity with more money than brains and you want to squander your money that way, it’s your business.  It’s stupid, but it gets you what you feel you need: more reasons to admire yourself.  This type of charity might, in the end, be just another way to reinforce your narcissism.  And that’s fine.

In my charity I am almost painfully careful to make sure I “first do no harm” – but that’s something else, it’s my choice and besides, I don’t have millions to squander, so it makes no difference.

BUT – and this is a very important but – when it becomes a matter of public policy, THEN as a taxpayer  I’m being forced to support failure over success; I’m being forced to reward dysfunction over trying.  I’m being forced in fact to subsidize people doing wrong on purpose, in order to be “deserving poor” under the new rules.

And when an entire culture becomes this way, to the point I’ve had to explain to more than one beginning writer that no, just having a character abused doesn’t make that character VIRTUOUS, on the contrary, most people who are abused for no reason get pretty upset and can act out; when I have to explain that if they want to show the character is great and worth it, they have to show more than his being pummeled by fate (even Harry Potter has his magic.  And talks to snakes) we are on very dangerous and shaky ground.

The prodigal son repented and came back – and didn’t expect anything, but to be allowed to be a workman on his father’s farm (and did not get another share of the inheritance he’d squandered) and there might be rejoicing in heaven for a sinner who repents, but there is no rejoicing in heaven for a shepherd who spends his time feeding the one sheep who keeps running away, even while the other sheep get eaten by wolves.

And besides, those are sacred matters.  The parables are about one’s relationship with G-d, who – presumably – can see into human hearts.

We humans, on the other hand, can only look into records.

And while the theory that failures always happen because someone had factors leading to it; and the theory that criminals are more sinned against than sinning, are very reassuring – they lead us to believe our own failures are excusable – reality tends not to be as pliable.

All of us if we think for ten minutes can name friends who had EVERYTHING against them and yet made good.  All of us, if we think for ten minutes, can name friends who had every advantage and yet made nothing of them.

To say that poverty leads to crime is to insult every poor person in the world.  Our prisons are full of people who grew up with every material comfort, even if they might have been theoretically “underprivileged” (And how is that for a mealy mouthed term?  Is there a “right” amount of privileged?  And who decides?  Doesn’t it assume that wealth is privilege, handed to people by some authority and responding to some measurement, rather than something they earn themselves?)

So, where does this nonsense come from?  Other than bureaucrats wanting to feel really virtuous with taxpayers’ money?  And us having evolved a centralized system that gives them a lot of money to feel powerful with?

Well, it comes from bureaucrats wanting to feel really virtuous with taxpayers’ money.  Also from the fact that the … shall we say less deserving sectors of society know very well how to work that need for bureaucrats to feel powerful.  They’re much better at this than the poor but honest (or the rich but honest.  Or the middle class but honest.)  After all, pretending to be something or other is better than working.

Then there is the fact that if you give money to deserving poor, if you give them chances and a legup, they will make something of themselves, and they will no longer need the great and generous bureaucrat.

It comes from charity from a centralized source and not at the local level, where people are known and where it is known whether the money handed on is going to be squandered on drink or worse, instead of on baby formula.

How did we get here – to where it is considered a legitimate function of the federal government, or even the state government to determine who should get help?  And how much help they should get?

No human society that has any resources at all has ever chosen to let their weak drop through the cracks completely (no, look, even hominid bands were shown to care for the sick and weak.) It is true that families, villages, even states, can decide someone isn’t worthy of help for stupid reasons.  We’re all humans.  We all have blind spots.

But moving it one level above doesn’t get rid of the biases, or the blind spots.  All it does is make it bigger and less controllable.  In the end, faceless charity dispensed by people who don’t know the object of their kindness always turns into the same sort of charity performed by celebrities on the faceless “undeserving.”

The more underserving they are, the greater and more glorious the donor can feel.  And the state worker can think he’s overcoming local prejudice, and federal do-gooders assume only they can see impartially, like G-d.  They will help these supposed “undeserving” and show the greatness of their mercy.

But they are not G-d.  They are fallible humans, using all the resources of society to purchase failure in order to make themselves feel better.  Of course what you purchase, you get more of.

That which you ignore and punish — striving, behaving well, trying to be good — you get less of.

It’s a suicidal hobby for a civilization.

87 thoughts on “Like Onto Gods

  1. This same principle plays out in American foreign policy, where pursuing our national interests (e.g., not allowing powers openly hostile to us develop a monopoly over a vital resource, such as oil) are prima facie suspect and tainted, while engaging in gratuitous acts which destabilize continents (such as helping remove Ghadaffy from power in Libya, which prompted his now unemployed Taureg mercenaries to drive off in the heavy weapons and return home to Mali — see: is somehow noble. Under the new charitable rubric, self-interest is presumptively self-serving

    The fact that our “charitable” efforts enable and encourage self-destructive behaviour was pointed out more than twenty years ago in widely-ridiculed remarks by Vice-President Dan Quayle, observing that TV celebrities having children without the presence of fathers de-stigmatized the act and encouraged young women without the support systems of wealthy actresses to follow that lead. Yet there is more than ample sociological evidence of the destructiveness to society resulting from fatherless children and unwed mothers.

    Years ago a girl getting pregnant in High School was a personal disaster, carrying heavy burdens of shame, humiliation and social ostracism. It was a tragedy for the girl thus affected — and yet, it was beneficial to the larger society as a strong deterrent for other girls to fall victim to the same error. It gave them a powerful argument against a boyfriend’s pressure for intimacy that was physical before it was emotional. This sympathy for “victims” of malbehaviiour is a form of moral preening, claiming high-minded moral superiority by the mere “virtue” of refusing to see the big picture and accept hard choices.

    It is self-interest (the pleasures of an illusion of moral superiority) at a discount (the freedom to avoid actual difficult choices) masquerading as virtue.

    1. One also notes that it does not come naturally to people to sympathize with people who lie down in the gutter and refuse to stand up. This means they will also have someone to feel superior to.

      1. Reminding me of the lyrics to one of my favorite Irish comic recitations. The version I know (ex-Clancy Brothers):

        Twas at the pig fair last November,
        A day I well remember,
        I was walking up and down in drunken pride,
        When my feet began to stutter,
        And I lay down in the gutter,
        And a pig came up and lay down by my side.

        As I lay there in the gutter,
        Thinking thoughts I could not utter,
        I thought I heard a passing lady say,
        “You can tell a man who boozes
        By the comp’ny that he chooses.”
        And at that, the pig got up and walked away.

        Variants: (halfway down)

    2. “(such as helping remove Ghadaffy from power in Libya, which prompted his now unemployed Taureg mercenaries to drive off in the heavy weapons and return home to Mali ”

      That is the most logical reason I’ve heard yet for us to help France in Mali.

  2. There’s also the little matter that they have positive incentives to keep the needy needy: give them enough to live but not to thrive, because that would mean they were no longer there to be exploited to make the do-gooders feel better about themselves.

  3. It’s a hobby that Ayn Rand describes at massive length in Atlas Shrugged, especially in the story of the destruction of the Twentieth Century Motor Company in chapter 10 of part 2, but also in the whole story of the torment of Hank Rearden.

    Rand attributes it not merely to political, but to ethical sentiment: the theory of altruism. This is widely misunderstood, because the usage of “altruism” has shifted away from the technical philosophical definition that Rand was using to mean things like generosity, benevolence, and compassion. But the man who coined the word, Auguste Comte (a big influence on continental philosophy in his time), was much more specific: altruism means being concerned exclusively with the well-being of other people, in complete indifference to your own well-being and anything that affects it. I edited a scholarly biography of Comte a couple of years ago, and I was especially struck by his comment that Jesus was not a good ethical model, because he said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”—which was saying that it was acceptable to love youself (indeed, it took your love for yourself as the standard by which love for others was measured), and Comte regarded love for yourself as ethically repugnant and thought it should be completely stamped out.

    That theory doesn’t directly inspire much American thinking. But its close cousin, utilitarianism, as worked out largely by John Stuart Mill (who was a big admirer of Comte), is quite mainstream. Utilitarianism says that you should act for the good of everyone as a whole, with your own good included as a proportionate share—a 1/7,000,000,000 share, which is hard to distinguish from Comte’s 0 share except mathematically. That mode of thinking goes directly against American values, as expressed for example by James Madison in Federalist #10, where he warned that “a faction that is a majority” is likely to seek its own benefit at the expense of the good of the whole society or the rights of individuals; such actions are not merely tolerable but often obligatory by utilitarian standards. Rand might have made herself better understood had she argued against utilitarian ethics; altruism in the original sense is so little known in the United States that most people have no idea that it ever meant anything other than “good will to men” (which in fact Rand praises).

    1. I definitely disagree with you about Madison. A governmental check and balance is not the same as a moral check and balance. Utilitarianism is a proper way for any individual to act. Most of us are not exceptional enough that our own interests are that much different from the rest of society. Advocating for ourselves is advocating on behalf of our peers.

      The Founders however had no illusions about Democracy or the level of politician it attracts. They believed that representatives would be small-minded men looking after their own constituency to further their own careers and not caring (or even intellectually sufficient or informed to care) about the nation. You then have 2 choices. A monarch entrusted with the knowledge he is responsible for the overall good (which they originally hoped King George III was but did not turn out to be) or to provide a mechanism whereby the citizenry could check themselves. They provided the latter.

      Most of the so-called charity we are speaking about is really a spoils system among advocacy groups and political grifters. The common man gets screwed a lot. Then again that is one reason why property owners were the original voters. If the producers are to be taxed they need to maintain what they can produce. It is the healthy society that helps people to become producers. On the other hand even a capitalist society made up of large corporations loses that. If you are a corporate employee you may be quite productive but not a producer. The taxes paid by corporations, to the government are so big and so out of control of individuals it is easy for the system to get skewed. Good students are being ignored because we are not worried about their personal futures, we are worried about how they fit in big important society. As long as they seem okay we assume they’ll settle in until we have our current dissolution of the economy and the ability of the little guy to survive and thrive matters.

      The government loves to tell us subsidies mean a lot and accomplish a lot whether to businesses (the other crappy, skewed charity) or to individuals. It is really not so. They have unintended consequences. Chevy runs deep, but stupidity runs deeper.

      1. Fighting for your own rights and progress usually provides side benefits for society and similar other people — but not always. And that’s not why you fight for yourself; you fight for yourself because you respect yourself at least as much as you respect other people.

        Meanwhile, it is a definite benefit for society that you do fight for yourself, because one single civilization or government or organization doesn’t have time to fight for every single bad thing that happens to millions and billions of people. Subsidiarity and MYOB makes the administrative load a lot lighter and a lot more efficient.

        1. Its the opposite side of the same coin. I am totally out for myself but the state can only recognize me as a legal abstraction which is known as a citizen.

          What I am actually saying is even if you believe in individual freedom it still will be inside of some kind of framework and that framework only have value if there is wide common interests across populations.

          Libertarians love limited government but I doubt they would love MYOB when it comes to things protected by patent, copyright, trademark, etc. I am not very familiar with Ayn Rand but I am wondering how she stands on such things. Are patents necessary or just government intrusion and if necessary how should they be enforced? Pretty necessary info for the engineering geniuses she writes about.

          1. Oh, phui. Yeah, we would love if they let patent, copyright and trademark go if they also left us alone on other things. In that I’m QUITE libertarian. Patents are by and large government intrusion, and at this point they are also retarding progress. Copyright is supposed to be for maybe thirty years, i.e. to allow me to make a living. (My kids can make their own money.) Now thanks to the Mouse it’s also a labyrinth of nonsense.

            Would I like the lack of copyright? Not particularly. But there was no copyright in Shakespeare’s day and he did okay. Some fans would wish to support me, and I could start some sort of subscription system. (I should anyway.)

            I’m a minarchist, not an anarchist. A lot of us libertarians and Libertarians are. This is why we don’t call ourselves anarchists.

            This means I BELIEVE there is SOME place for the government. Whether that place means enforcing intellectual property laws or not, is something else. It is of course far more convenient to ME to have them enforced, but I’ll point out the government is FAR less than desirable at this (as they are far less than desirable or efficient at most things.) Let me see, right now it is enforcing my (ex) publishers’ copyright on my works, even though that is in violation of the contract, until such a time as the publishers choose to give it back, which could well be never. (No, you don’t understand, the copyright laws depend on litigation for enforcement, and the publishers have lawyers on staff!) It’s also threatening to curtail everyone’s freedom of speech in service of the copyright of people who have been dead half a century and more. It’s also preventing tech innovation because needed pieces are held as “patent” by people who filed REALLY BROAD PATENTS. Then there’s trademark. What was the stupid word some company trademarked?

            Look, Raymond, no offense, but if you’re going to argue for necessary functions of government, I’d stick with common defense and enforcement of contracts (maybe) and LEAVE COPYRIGHT, TRADEMARK and PATENT law alone. They are an example of what the government does VERY BADLY INDEED.

            1. I am totally against trademarks (especially trademarking phrases and words). We ran into that recently in particular “for the cure.” Susan G. Komen is suing every organization that uses the phrase even the ones who used it long before the organization trademarked it (or say they did– who knows). So you can’t say “for the cure” for any disease– which is why trademarking is STUPID.

            2. I’m not arguing for governments or trademarks. I was arguing that the Founding Fathers were not ignorant of or wholly against utilitarianism (human nature being pretty much fixed ideas are always out there just the names and popularity of them change) but that the constraints against the majority was not because of a mistaken sense of altruism but as a protection against individual rights that could easily be curtailed if someone was in the minority. My point is that MYOB is great unless you don’t have the power to enforce your rights or have recourse to a power that can.

              I believe that because even a clear majority must be limited the idea that government can be a force for social engineering is more, not less preposterous. Liberals don’t like limited government for that very reason. A stubborn majority or minority is a brake against their own idea of progress which is based on philosophies or logic, ideas which originate from individuals but enslave societies. I would much rather have a limited government, which recognizes itself as a source of some sort of power but also understands itself as a framework and not an entity. We are all on the same page but getting there through different directions.

              Just knowing that Ayn Rand had no use for religion makes her suspect to me even though I am not familiar with much of her writigs. Make man the total object and eventually you will arrive at everyone is equal but some are more equal than others.

            3. Gonna have to disagree to some extent here. YES, copyright, trademark, and patent law need to be straightened out, but there is a legitimate purpose for them, and if not made law, how would intellectual property be protected? If there were no definition in law, how could one get recompense from someone who had used such property without permission?

              With copyright, it’s now a different world than it was 100 years ago, because of the internet and Point-of-Purchase purchasing, but what if someone just takes your work, renames characters (only), and sells it as their own (I’m assuming that a PR campaign would be effective against them if they didn’t at least do that)?

              On patents, however, it’s a different story. Without patents, nearly everyone who creates something new is forced to deal with a corporation large enough to produce that thing at the lowest cost possible, because otherwise, said corporation will copy anything they see any profit in and produce it for lower cost, undercutting the creator. And the companies, knowing this, would offer payments ridiculously low for new items.

              Again, it needs to be fixed, because some of the things that have been allowed to be granted patents and trademarks are reprehensible, but not done away with completely.

                1. I read that before, and what I said stands. It needs to be fixed. People who understand the concepts need to be the ones reviewing them, and overly-broad claims need to be not only rejected, but some form of penalty applied, such as perhaps preventing the organization or person from applying for such for a period of time.

                  But if we say that these laws should be scrapped, we’re reacting the same way as the people who say immigration law should be scrapped because it’s currently a mess. In fact, I would say that may even be the intention of the people responsible for allowing these abuses to happen.

                    1. Maybe…but you are still dealing with legal fictions throughout your life and not just trademarks, copyright, etc. Think of the difference and interconnectedness of real property and real estate. You have the right of quiet enjoyment but very often that will be government enforcement of your rights (prevention of trespassing, vandalism or even access to roadways, protection of your property lines even your view of the landscape, etc.) People without rights spend much less time in court than people who do.

                    2. that supposed right “view of the landscape” was brought to our State by the Californians– there is no real or implied right to landscape– I find that pretty funny–

                      For the rest, we started to having problems with property rights and other stuff of that nature when zoning rights got into fashion.

                      Something we have forgotten in our rush to be civilized– the government has NO ability unless the right rests in the citizens. So if the government can enforce my property boundaries, then I have the right to enforce my property boundaries and so forth. Unfortunately the understanding of “natural rights” of the citizen has been lost by our citizens. The Constitution was not supposed to put boundaries on the Federal government, but not ON THE CITIZENS. All of the citizens rights were not put in the Constitution because if you read the “natural rights” argument, our rights are given to us by our Creator. Government is not supposed to deny or curtail those rights.

                      Sadly– another thing not taught in civic classes or history classes.

                    3. SH*T I put that backwards. The Constitution was supposed to put boundaries on the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT and NOT THE CITIZENS. Please forgive me. I got dyslexic there.

                    4. “You have the right of quiet enjoyment but very often that will be government enforcement of your rights (prevention of trespassing, vandalism or even access to roadways, protection of your property lines even your view of the landscape, etc.)”

                      There is a lot to disagree with in that statement. 1. If the government didn’t prevent ME from enforcing my rights to prevention of trespassing and vandalism, I wouldn’t NEED the government to enforce it. 2. Protection of my property lines, ditto. 3. Right to a view? Why should YOU be able to tell me I can’t build a shop tall enough to park an RV in, or plant trees that will grow over 30′ tall, on MY PROPERTY, because it will impede YOUR view! Or why should you be able to tell me that the six wrecked cars I have for parts on MY property are an eyesore and YOU don’t like looking at them when you drive down the road, so I can’t have them! Basically what it boils down to is you think you and your property are speshul, and my property and I aren’t, so you should be able to tell me what to do with my property. (no I don’t have a bunch of wrecked cars on my property, but I keep threatening to haul some in whenever somebody brings up the eyesore arguement)

            4. Sarah, one of the best stories about Trademark (possibly apocryphal) concerned a lady in England who opened her own shop and named it after herself: McDonald’s.

              Within days, vultures from the Golden Arches descended on her and demanded that she stop using the name because they had Trademarked it first. It made the papers and the internet.

              Next thing Ronald knew, a henchman arrived at headquarters in full regalia from the McDonald of McDonald, with a message: “No, laddie, WE owned it first, and if you don’t drop this, YOU’LL be paying US for using our name from the time you opened your doors.”

              Ronald was impressed by the calmly reasoned argument and dropped the litigation post-haste.

              1. The best story of this type:

                Letter to Warner Brothers: A Night in Casablanca

                Groucho Marx
                Abstract: While preparing to film a movie entitled A Night in Casablanca, the Marx brothers received a letter from Warner Bros. threatening legal action if they did not change the film’s title. Warner Bros. deemed the film’s title too similar to their own Casablanca, released almost five years earlier in 1942, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In response Groucho Marx dispatched the following letter to the studio’s legal department:

                Dear Warner Brothers,
                Apparently there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own. For example, up to the time that we contemplated making this picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers. However, it was only a few days after our announcement appeared that we received your long, ominous legal document warning us not to use the name Casablanca.


                I just don’t understand your attitude. Even if you plan on releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

                You claim that you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without permission. What about “Warner Brothers”? Do you own that too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about the name Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers when Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor’s eye, and even before there had been other brothers—the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazov; Dan Brothers, an outfielder with Detroit; and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (This was originally “Brothers, Can You Spare a Dime?” but this was spreading a dime pretty thin, so they threw out one brother, gave all the money to the other one, and whittled it down to “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”)

                Now Jack, how about you? Do you maintain that yours is an original name? Well it’s not. It was used long before you were born. Offhand, I can think of two Jacks—Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and Jack the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day
                [MORE: ]

                1. In fairness to pettifogging shysters, this type of over-reaction is largely required by a legal regime that demands aggressive protection of trademark lest it go the way of Aspirin (N.B. – Xerox is not a verb, it is a brand name.)

                  This is the basis of the old Saturday Night Live gag (in their Belushi/Ackroyd Greek diner skits) “No Coke, Pepsi” — Coca Cola Corp, having to aggressively defend their trademark to prevent its becoming a generic term for all colas, was issuing “Cease & Desist” orders requiring vendors to disclaim selling Coke unless they actually served Coke.

          2. Actually, Raymond, most of the libertarian types I know are with me on getting patent, trademark and copyright laws cleaned up because as they stand now they’re nothing but corporate welfare of the most insidious sort.

            How so? Instead of serving their original purpose – allowing the creator a limited period of exclusivity to recoup costs and some profit but ultimately short enough that the items the creator generates become public domain to encourage further creation. Instead the creators are having to license their creation to corporate interests in order to get anything from it, and those corporate interests are bribing… ahem… lobbying government bodies to maintain eternal monopoly control over the creation.

            If you wanted to argue for government intervention you picked one of the worst possible areas to choose from.

            1. One of these things is not like the others.

              Trademark is consumer protection — nothing more than seeing to it that what is sold is what is claims to be.

          3. You can find out what Rand thought about patents and copyrights by her discussion of them in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Brief excerpts are included in the Ayn Rand Lexicon, available online. (Rand joked when the project was first proposed that “People will be able to look up ‘breakfast’ and learn that I don’t advocate eating babies for breakfast!”)

            In brief, Rand was in favor of limited government, and not of anarchism, like the many other libertarians Sarah refers to (in fact, Rand rejected the name “libertarian,” partly because there were anarchists among libertarians); more specifically, she was in favor of the Constitution (though she thought it flawed in some ways—particularly the scope of the Interstate Commerce Clause), and seems to have accepted the Constitution’s treatment of intellectual property. She didn’t have a massive blueprint of changes in American law that she wanted to work for, such as might go into a party platform. She was mainly focused on the broad ideas of individual rights, constitutional government, and capitalism (by which she meant “free market capitalism”), and on the philosophical framework within which they made sense—which is why she was writing about altruism: She thought that a philosophy where you had no moral right to pursue your own happiness could not possibly offer support for individual freedom.

          4. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

            Emphasis added.

            Individual freedom, the enjoyment of those rights, is the explicit justification for government. When a government becomes destructive of individual freedom it voids its justification. The ONLY legitimate basis for denying an individual’s rights is as penalty for violation of the rights of others (when you fail to respect another’s right, you void the obligation for your rights to be respected.)

            N.B. – an earlier draft recognized a right to property in place of pursuit of happiness. Patents, copyrights and trademarks are property, albeit intangible.

            1. …an earlier draft recognized a right to property in place of pursuit of happiness.

              And that “…among these are Life, Liberty and Property” wording tripped the slaveholding vs. non-slaveholding states tripwire, and opening that can of worms threatening the unity of effort needed at that point, so Jefferson, Franklin & Co. changed it to “…pursuit of Happiness” in the final signed version.

              There’s probably a lesson there about leaving sleeping cans of worms lie, but since the kicking the can down the road re slavery in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and again a few years later in drafting and ratifying the Constitution deferred that fight until it could be really vastly deadly, I’m not sure what that actual worm can lesson is.

                  1. I actually have no problem with the idea of the federal government acting as arbiter between the several states on trade affairs. It was one of the weaknesses of the AoC, and needed addressing. Of course it’s a duty that has long since been perverted beyond recognition, and the current interpretation is an abomination.

                    1. Sarah, IIRC the Commerce Clause (at the time it was written) was clearly written and *understood* to mean one thing. IE trade between the states. IMO it isn’t the fault of the writers of the Commerce Clause that it got “lawyered”.

                    2. Not 100 percent sure on that, Drak. Older son has been reading a lot on the constitutional conventions and what various people wrote about various clauses, and he says some of the people who wanted it in CLEARLY hoped it would be “distorted” to create a quasi-monarchic central government. Now, I’m going on his word, but the kid is pretty good on such stuff.

                    3. The fact that some of those supporting the clause does not mean that the majority of the Convention did, nor that Supine Court Justices were reasonable in so interpreting the clause.

                      Might be it was an instance of “I’ll speak with the printer about it later.”

                    4. I suspect that very few of the Founders anticipated C.J. John Marshall’s carving out large roles for the Court via the Commerce Clause and other interpretations (see Madison v. Marbury, Gibbons V. Ogden, Barron v. Baltimore, and especially McCullough v. Maryland [implied powers doctrine].)

    2. ” Utilitarianism says that you should act for the good of everyone as a whole, with your own good included as a proportionate share—a 1/7,000,000,000 share, which is hard to distinguish from Comte’s 0 share except mathematically”

      Well, that’s one sort of utilitarianism that makes grave errors in the equating and summing of everyone’s utility function, as if they can treat that as a collective object.

      There are other ways to apply utilitarianism that are closer to making economic and practical sense. First, you need to recognize that everyone has their own “utility function” – their own set of things that they are solving for in the world, states that they prefer over others. They don’t match, can’t really be compared at all to begin with (since they are just functions stating State A > State C > State B > … etc), certainly not by claiming that “person’s A B and C want something that you are trying to avoid, their wants outweigh yours”

      Game theory and economic reasoning derive from this sort of utilitarianism. In fact, one of the things you understand, once you grok the central principle of game theory – that what people want are not necessarily aligned, and are sometimes fundamentally opposed by nothing more malevolent than circumstance – that in some screwed up situations (situations you would do well to avoid if at all possible), conflict really is inevitable – you can see why the posers of the trolley/lifeboat problems are full of shit.

      Anyway, economic/game theory can tell you that “if you want X, and you suspect others want Y, this is how you can go about getting it”. It doesn’t tell you what you *should* want, in your heart of hearts, but then I’m suspicious of most philosophies that do.

      1. The use of the utility concept in economics is somewhat different from the philosophy of utilitarianism as put forth by Bentham and the Mills. To start with, economic theory is value-free: It does not tell you what is ethically right. Utilitarian ethics is not value-free.

  4. Another post that excited comments before I was even finished reading it. You’re good at that, you are. And before I take off on my own rant, let me observe that Rand may not have been entirely wrong to castigate all so-called “altruism” as fundamentally equal, even though I think she (maybe deliberately) mistook the meaning of the word.

    I must disagree that the word “underprivileged” is mealy-mouthed. It’s very sharp-mouthed (or whatever the antonym is to mealymouthed). It’s wicked. It assumes that you CAN be of benefit to the (undifferentiated in deserts) poor by tearing down the (ill-defined) rich. That “privilege” is somehow always unearned and that privilege and wealth are somehow either equivalent or identical. It’s founded in a lie that’s INTENDED to be invidious.

    And… Whence cometh it? Surely not from some hapless bureaucrat honestly trying to deliver a day’s work for an honest dollar. That’s to confuse the tool with the hand that wields it. No. It come from wicked and destructive people who cannot create and seek therefore to vandalize.

    Does it go to far to say it comes from evil roots? Is it necessary to believe in the devil to understand that there is a force in the affairs of man which does devil’s work? Is that too primitive and unsophisticated?


  5. All of us if we think for ten minutes can name friends who had EVERYTHING against them and yet made good.

    I get your point, but certainly not all of us. I guess I’ve had a privileged enough background that I’ve never known anybody, friend or otherwise, who had even most things against them, much less everything. I live in the United States in the 21st century. Not all that many people here and now have EVERYTHING against them.

    1. Okay, then you don’t socialize very widely. No matter how “well off” your family, there are any number of people who were abused, had health problems hampering them, etc, and yet made good. Even in the US in the 21st century it’s d*mn hard to find someone who DOESN’T have significant factors against him, of the sort that are used to excuse other people’s downfall.

      And if you live in the 21st century you knew many people who lived in the middle 20th. It might shock you to know that while the US was undoubtedly doing the best that’s possible on Earth (still is, to some extent) prosperity and opportunity were neither universal nor universal among the supposed privileged race/class/gender, even.

      All I have to say is you’re either very young, or your acquaintance is VERY narrow or — more likely — you’re not thinking in terms of the factors that are used to excuse failure and crime, which clearly is what I meant in that case.

      1. I think bretwallach was trying to express that, merely by being in the United States in this era ANYBODY has something going FOR them. Unlike, say, your average Angolan, Libyan, Egyptian, Chinese, North Korean etc.

        As Rush Limbaugh was excoriated for suggesting, in America the poor enjoy a standard of living that would make them the envy of many a Middle Class European.

        1. Yes, that’s what I was trying to say.

          When I go to Mexico, Tijuana in particular, I see people who really do have EVERYTHING against them. Underfed 6 year olds dressed in rags, begging, who go “home” at night to a cardboard box in the mud. I don’t know how they turn out. I’ve never seen anyone in the United States with that much against them. I’ve certainly never known anybody with anywhere near as much against them.

          1. Some turn out all right. And some end up well off, even by our standards. My mom was not a beggars kid, but her dad was thoroughly shunned/shunned his own family and blew what money there was. She and her four siblings were raised in a three room home (Not three bedroom, three room) with a dirt-floor kitchen, went barefoot year around and quite often hungry. While that wasn’t as bad as it would seem to us now, because the country and time were poorer, yet it was pretty bad even from the perspective of my dad’s middle class family. There was alcoholism and mental illness in the family too. However, she and her two sisters turned out quite alright and “successful” even by American standards. And yes, my acquaintance extends outside the US. BUT I do know people in the US who were nearly that deprived growing up — remember at fifty I know people who grew up MUCH earlier. Not Angola-level deprived, no, but pretty d*mn close.

          2. THIS is why I say that people who say poverty causes crime are insulting every poor person. My mother was dirt poor by anyone’s standards, and heck, my dad was pretty poor by US standards, even for his time. Most of the people I grew up with were beyond dirt poor by US standards. None of them grew up to rob or murder and d*mn few of them broke even stupid, incidental laws. (Other than traffic laws. In Portugal traffic laws are a revenue raising scam. If you’re driving, you HAVE to break them.)

            1. Worse — they are justifying and encouraging criminal acts by the poor.

              Oddly, the people and institutions saying that are the same ones who claim that “behind every great fortune is a great crime” … although, if pushed, I suppose they would concede that it might be the result of a great many petty crimes.

              They will also proudly proclaim that “property is theft.”

              A self-reflective person or organization might see a flaw in their logic.

              1. Worse — they are justifying and encouraging criminal acts by the poor.

                And penalizing those– usually poor– who are the victims of their crimes and dare resist.

                If you want to be depressed, check out the gal in the comments here that’s attacking that mom who was stalked by a burglar when she and her two small children hid while he was breaking in.

                Listen to the folks who are doing call-ins about the thieves in Texas who were shot while attempting to steal a car from someone’s driveway.


                1. Star Parker –

                  Parker was born to mostly absent parents and raised in a nonreligious home; she says she was raised “by the secular ‘I’m okay, you’re okay’ doctrine that says people should be allowed to make their own rules and shouldn’t judge other people’s lives.” She lived in Japan for three years and returned to the U.S., moving to East St. Louis, Illinois, at twelve, at which point she says she “just joined right in” with the “anger and tension among blacks” in the area. “I bought into the lie that there was nothing in America for me except institutional racism and glass ceilings that would keep me from getting promoted,” she said. She said that after one arrest for shoplifting, her white high school guidance counselor told her “not to worry about it, because I was a ‘victim of racism, lashing out at society.'” Star Parker: A Star Is Reborn | Kyria After attending church at the behest of her friends, she embraced Christianity and began turning her life around. She enrolled in Woodbury University and graduated with a degree in marketing. She began advocating for conservative social and political causes. She founded CURE in 1995, and took it on full-time after being laid off from her job as a host on Los Angeles radio station KABC after it was purchased by Disney.
                  Parker opposes many public entitlements, claiming that welfare is similar to an invitation to a government plantation, which creates a situation where those who accept the invitation switch mindsets from “How do I take care of myself?” to “What do I have to do to stay on the plantation?”
                  [From Wikipedia]

                  became politically active when her small business was destroyed during the OJ Riots … and her Congressional “Representative” Maxine Waters made excuses for and got grants delivered to the LA Black Panthers, while Parker and her business were just debris to be swept away.

                  She has several books and can be found in the CSPAN video archives as well as on Youtube:

                  1. Sounds a bit like that sports guy who suddenly found out that the EPA can wipe out orchards in Cali by stealing water rights, and then was resistant to the whole “taking other folks’ property for pretty sounding goals” thing.

              2. It is confusing cause and symptom. A great many criminals live in poverty, this DOES NOT mean poverty causes crime, what it does mean is a great many criminals choose to live in poverty, either because they are to lazy to work, or their crimes cause them to be unable to hold a job (ie drug addiction), or they are hiding from the law and so can’t have a job where the law will know where to find them.

            2. My parents grew up in the great depression. My dad? Broken home, check. Highschool dropout, check. Poor? The only meat was the occasional jack rabbit he shot out in the desert (S. Calif.) Any money he won prize fighting went to support the family. But he didn’t drink, or steal. Without WWII and the GI bill would he have gotten to where he is now (retired aerospace engineer) ? I don’t know, but the GI bill is the sort of communal support for /t/h/e/ /p/o/o/r/ people with few monetary resources that targets people who have demonstrated that they will _work_.

        2. I have seriously seen someone defending the notion that he has a right to a government subsidy on the grounds that his child has a right to a middle-class lifestyle (without his having the duty to provide it, to be sure).

  6. Thank you again Sarah for a thought-provoking post. I was nodding my head through it (yes nod ;p ) Anyway, I remember going to college in my early twenties and trying to get a small leg up (a grant or scholarship). I didn’t qualify because my parents made to much money. Since my parents had seven children at home at the time, I couldn’t understand where the disqualification came from?

    I was working two jobs and going to school full time. After three semesters I realized that I couldn’t continue with that workload.

    I did ask why seven children didn’t make the whole thing more reasonable, but the counselor put her nose in the air and told me that they only count the money and not the children. So there I was with a good brain and no way to get that leg up. So yes, I experienced it personally. I went into the Navy —and so forth.

    Another problem– people with my disease spend their life savings and even sell their houses to get treatment for the disease. When they get to the last of their money and health, they will go for medicare and get denied. However, a person who is a drug addict can get “help” by just walking into the office. Altruism is a lie and is hurting the very people that need it. (to make it clearer a person with a problem caused by no fault of their own is denied whereas a person who chooses drugs are accepted. It is mind-boggling to me.)

    One of our WG patients was told by the social services that she was well enough work by answering phones and sitting at a desk. When the patient in question told the woman that she had a compromised immune system, the woman told her that “they had considered it. Now leave.” Our people have to get lawyers for that help.

    The people who have overwhelming odds in the US are those with health problems. (Sarah would know) Plus it will get worse as the Affordable Health Care picks up steam.

    1. … Altruism is a lie …

      The altruist receives the ego satisfaction of believing himself generous and selfless, therefore he is not acting without reward or benefit and is NOT being truly altruistic. That the reward is intangible makes it no less real

      The altruist is oxymoronic.

      1. That depends on whether he would forgo the good deed if he could still get the intangible reward.

        You can tell that liberals are after the reward because they don’t actually care if the deed is good, and indeed actively fight the knowledge of whether it’s good.

        To generalize from there is more than the evidence can bear.

  7. “Now the “deserving poor” are those who have been brought to their straits by addiction, by uncontrolled sexual behavior, by their own choice – in the end.”

    The satellite radio guys have an “Old Time Radio” channel that I listen to almost non-stop. Occasionally they’ll pad out a show that doesn’t fit quite right with some commercials from back-in-the-day. One of them was a PSA for a charity — or maybe entreating people to attend church — and they said it was “to help those who aren’t able to help themselves”. That struck me as odd, for some reason, and it took a while to realize why.

    Today we don’t talk about assistance for “those who aren’t able to help themselves”, but for “the less fortunate”. The former implies that if you CAN help yourself, you should be doing it. The latter implies that it’s pure chance behind your state. Rather like John Edwards and his line about “those who have won life’s lottery”.

  8. Fifteen or so years ago, one of the regional TV stations had the usual November – December piece about the homeless. A group of ministers in the main city down here were spending the night out to “share the experience of homelessness,” yadda, yadda. The TV crew interviewed one of the guys from the shelter and he was very matter-of-fact. “I’m on the streets because I’m an alcoholic. I like it. I’m not going to get off the streets until I dry up and I don’t want to.” Sorry Mr./Mrs./Ms. Jellyby, you ain’t gonna rescue that gent no matter how much money you toss at him.

  9. Another part of where our society has stumbled. We no longer give folks a ‘hand up’. Just handouts.

  10. Please send my get-well wishes and sympathies to # One Son.

    I was trying to think of some catagory of person totally out of liberal sympathy, one that they agree should crawl to the grave without any help whatsoever, and I thought of men with a hopeless amount of child-support owed. Now some of these guys did not father the children they are supposed to support. A few payments behind, and they can receive punishments that actually make it impossible for them to make a living- cancellation of driver’s license and so forth. They include guys who had a fling fifteen years ago, and are suddenly presented a bill for many thousands of dollars a year for each of the fifteen years. Lesbian couple asks for the help of straight male friend to provide them with a child, man does the progressive thing, ten years later he’s told he owes a quarter million dollars or so. I’ve heard of men who live like the hero of “To See the Invisible Man” by Silvberberg, with no human contact at all. And some classes of people with semi-official exemption are allowed to father all they children they can manage to without having to support any of them.

    1. You are correct. But that’s just an inversion of where the pity should be. I have male friends who’ve done prison time because the mothers of their children chose not to work, or not to report income from other sources (boyfriends, relatives) so that the guy was considered sole support and the money he was accessed was impossible for him to pay and still live. It’s also not known by many that the man pays full taxes on the money, including what he pays out in support, while the woman doesn’t even declare it. So, on paper the woman qualifies for ALL SORTS OF SUPPORT ans shows as poverty stricken, and the man can receive nothing even if he is living on practically nothing.

      And then people wonder why men have gone on strike from marriage and family duties.

      Some of us can’t help but wonder if this is the desired result, as it throws all women and children on the mercy of daddy-government. Over time, of course, it destroys everyone. But in the short term? What a source of power.

      1. Yes, I had a friend that was living in a camper on the back of his truck (usually parked in the parking lot of the mill he worked at) because not only was he paying child support for four kids, but was also paying support for their mother. Because she told the judge that he had kept her barefoot and pregnant, and left her at home to take care of the kids, so that when they got a divorce she “was too dumb to work.” The judge agreed with her and ordered Joe to pay support for her, as well as the kids. And yes the fact that she is living with some guy that has a job is not taken into consideration UNLESS they get married.

    2. “I was trying to think of some catagory of person totally out of liberal sympathy, one that they agree should crawl to the grave without any help whatsoever, and I thought of men with a hopeless amount of child-support owed.”

      Hrrm. Let’s see. Conservatives. Atavistic redneck neanderthal (insert epithets and mouth foam). Bitter gun clingers. Business owners. In general, defiant, self-sufficient people who have other things on their mind than obeying or venerating leftists.

      There are all sorts of people they have no sympathy for. Try holding them to one of their principles sometime when it applies to someone suspected of being in one of their trigger-groups. The resulting logical pretzel knots of rationalization are astonishing.

  11. I think the object is to enforce the commandment “Thou shalt not reproduce.” Especially as they are attacking the areas of fathering that by contract and all previous law were exempt: Sperm banks, contracts by which all parties agree that X will father a child for us and will have no other obligations responsibilities or rights. Such as the one signed by Melissa Ethridge, her partner, and the father David Crosby. And as a Byrds fan and admirer of his music since 1965, I thought the instant I heard this, “You want a child fathered by DAVID CROSBY????????!!!!!!!!!!”

    1. If the goal was enforcement of that commandment they wouldn’t be organizing to block “sexbots” (check Instapundit: )

      I think the point they’re making is more along the lines of “We;ve got you by the b@lls” or possibly “Accept it – you’re focked.”

  12. Not much time to fully digest all of the angles on this, I’m trying to chase leads for a new job as best I can (know anyone who needs an editor?). My family is living right now on the kindness of others, freely given, while I do my best to recover from a job loss that I could not prevent. I’m not ashamed to receive the help, and I do and have done my best to help others when I could. That’s how we get along, and I can look any man in the eye and affirm I’ve done my very best for my family. Also, this post dovetails quite nicely with Reynold’s Law: “Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them.”

    1. I thought Reynolds’ Law was “Take care of your crew and shoot from behind cover”? Different Reynolds? 😉

    2. Oyster,
      We’ve all been through times when we needed (all the) kindness we could have. It’s deliberately seeking out hopeless cases and subsidizing THEM preferentially that drives me nuts.

    3. FRO– When I first came down with my illness, we had to stay with family because I had to be watched constantly. I would either die or wander off– take your pick. Anyway, I don’t see your circumstances as a weakness because you are doing your best and working on getting a good job.

  13. Been reading a lot about great battles of the past recently. A military truism I read again and again may be too harsh for all of civilian life, but it has some relevance: “Reinforce success, don’t reinforce failure.” Like Somme, not all the divisions were beaten and massacred, but the generals sent good units after beaten ones, when the divisions that won their objectives and were waiting for reinforcements to enable them to push ahead, and there were a number, were left hanging until the Germans reinforced the beaten units they faced and drove them back to the Allied starting line.

    1. I had been thinking the same scene — except I was remembering it from the source play, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion — which was largely mined for the musical’s book. Start at about the 28″ mark:

      And contemplate the fact that G. B. Shaw was a socialist.

  14. I fully agree that the difference is when the funding is from the government.

    It’s perfectly reasonable for me (or my church, or whatever group) to decide to spend out money helping one particular group, it’s another when the government decides to spend out money to do so.

    For one thing, most privately funded organziations that help groups like this also find ways to help the people who haven’t done things wrong, and just need a bit of help (not always in financial ways)

    This doesn’t neccessarily help people meet their goals (although it sometimes does), but it helps them avoid failures.

    It’s also much more personal, so the person getting the help knows who it is comeing from, and so is far less likely to view the help as a “right” to that help.

  15. Both of my adopted sons had less than average IQ’s. One had a full time aid in high school, the other didn’t.

    The one with the aid is living on my Social Security as a disabled person, as is the woman he lives with. It’s interesting how they cope. Each has some ability the other lacks. In general, they’re making it. We have refused to help them.

    My other son is also living on my Social Security as a disabled person. After we threw him out and put him in jail for violating the restraining order we obtained against him, he lived on the street, and we refused all attempts he made to get us to help. Then he connected with one of the help the helpless organizations. They helped him get clean. As of a few days ago, he’s still doing well. He found someone to love, and they live together.

    So, from my perspective at least, there is some good done by the do gooders. The major caveat is that in order for the good to work, the one being done for has to want to get better. Which generally means they’ve reached the bottom and no longer know how to get up.

    1. It is generally ignored that the story which gave us the phrase “He among you who is without sin, let him first cast a stone upon …” ends in the advice to “go, and sin no more.”

      Aid, unconditional upon a requirement to abandon sin* is enabling, acting the codependent.

      *Sin, in this context, should be interpreted as self-destructive activities and need carry no element of distancing oneself from one’s Creator.

  16. Why am I thinking of a line from (of all things) “Mr. B Natural” (a short once shown on _Mystery Science Theatre 3000_): Character gets all mopey and self-pitying; Mr. B Natural comes back with “Now, now — none of *that*! Now, I’m here to help you — not to help you feel sorry for yourself.”

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