Thursday, November 13, 2008

Government Redistribution Does Not Make You Generous

In theists or atheists better people? In the U.S., studies have shown theists to be far more generous and happier people than atheists. However, in this review of Society Without God, the reviewer notes that the author says that Danes and Swedes are for the most part atheists, and that they are in fact very generous people. His evidence?

"They have a famously expansive welfare and health care service. They have a strong commitment to social equality. And—even without belief in a God looming over them—they murder and rape one another significantly less frequently than Americans do."

Well, if letting someone rob you without complaint so that they can give your money to others is generosity, then call me against generosity. An extensive welfare and socialized medicine are not indicators of generosity. They are indicators of a government run by people who are not personally generous, but want to force others to be. The net effect is a decrease in actual generosity. To put it another way: you are not morally culpable when you are forced to do something. Nor are you moral if you are forced to do good. Virtue is freely made. Thus, an expansive welfare and health care service is no indication of virtue at all. At best it is a relinquishing of virtue.

I have no idea what is meant here by "social equality," but if it means an egalitarian world view, then it is deeply unjust, as people are not in fact the same, and when we try to treat unequal things equally, we get injustice. "One law for the lion and the lamb is tyranny." _William Blake.

The only point he may have is the statement about murder and rape. However, we must not make the mistake of equating positive correlation with causation. There may be any number of causes of a higher rape and murder rate in the U.S. than in Denmark and Sweden that have nothing to do with religion -- or lack of religion -- per se. Of course, if most Swedes and Danes are at the Egalitarian level, that would also explain well the low levels of murder and rape, which are not commonly found among those with an Egalitarianist psychology in the U.S., either. The presence of a higher percentage of people in the U.S. with an Egoist psychology well into adulthood may go farther in explaining the higher levels of rape and murder, though. I suspect that Authoritative and Classical Liberal psychologies don't exactly rape and murder much, either (and when they do, it's because of a strong, negative Egoist psychology still at work in them), so the fact that pure Egalitarians are also atheists doesn't necessarily support the thesis entirely. There are atheists at all levels.

The rest of the review, though, it quite interesting and thought-provoking. His point about moral communities having a strong locally social component is dead-on, and the quote he gives from Robert Putnam that "voluntary association with other people is integral to a fulfilled and productive existence—it makes us "smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy"" is also an important point. Please note the term "voluntary." When government takes money and property from you through taxation and confiscation, there's nothing voluntary about it. Government thus prevents us from living "a fulfilled and productive existence" and prevents us from becoming "smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy". Government is preventing us from governing well? Yes. And when that happens, it's time for a real change. Governmen
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