The Danger of Institutionalized, Political “Compassion”

I have another excerpt from Dr. Ben Carson’s book America the Beautiful to share today. As an African-American man who grew up in the Civil Rights Era and struggled to become a respected professional in his field, Carson has had a front-row seat to both racial bigotry in America and to the great strides made in the fight against it. As such, he has some interesting insights into the current socio-economic mess that many Black Americans (and others) find themselves in and he pulls no punches in assigning (at least partial) blame. In the chapter titled “A Nation Divided”, Carson bemoans what he sees as a “kind of smothering political ‘compassion’ that skewed the mindset of large segments of our nation’s populace after the gains of the civil rights movement”. But, first, he tells a little of his journey from loyal “Jimmy Carter Democrat” to conservative Independent.

huge crowd of civil rights marchers“I was starting to sympathize with people who advocated for personal responsibility and self-reliance, since those were the traits largely responsible for my success in medical school.

By the time I began training as a neurosurgical resident at Johns Hopkins, I began paying attention to politics again and was particularly intrigued by the optimistic speeches of Jimmy Carter versus the non-nonsense, very practical — although sometimes harsh — speeches of Ronald Reagan. Although Reagan’s logical approach to many of our social and international problems appealed to me, he was a Republican. Because of my bias in favor of the Democratic Party, I figured Reagan must, by definition, be greedy, selfish, and callous toward the poor.

As I got to know more Republicans and conservatives, however, I came to realize that many of my political beliefs were based on nothing other than propaganda, and that there were just as many decent Republicans as there were decent Democrats. I found that it was the Republicans who were responsible for the abolition of slavery and for the passage of the Civil Rights Act. I also began to realize that it was not political biases that were largely responsible for the plight of African-Americans in our nation, but rather racist attitudes. After the many gains realized through the civil rights movement, racist people from both parties adopted a paternalistic attitude toward African-Americans and enacted federal and state programs designed to take care of people who couldn’t take care of themselves — people who were ignorant, stupid, or just plain lazy. In the process of being “do-gooders,” both Republicans and Democrats removed much of the drive and determination from innumerable African-Americans, who found it easier to accept government charity than continue on a path of hard work and self-reliance. Once people learn that their irresponsible behavior, such as having babies that they cannot care for, results in larger paychecks from the government, those lifestyle choices have negative implications for the entire nation for generations to come. Any attempt to withdraw government charity is seen as a heartless attack upon the most vulnerable members of our society. Most of the national media had aligned themselves with those involved in the civil rights struggle, which was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, most of the media also failed to recognize the long-term harm caused by those with good intentions who were robbing poor families of the incentive to obtain the American dream through their own efforts….

…[I]t is quite easy to become accustomed to an easier way of life, and after a while to believe that one has a right to that easier way of life.”

Even if we assume the purest of motives at the beginning, government-instituted do-gooderism is never truly successful and tends to have unintended, negative consequences. Notice that it is & was politicians from both major parties that created the policies and programs that enabled and encouraged a sense of entitlement to develop. (However, it seems to me that those of a liberal/progressive bent are the stronger, more consistent proponents of such things.) But, the people who were “helped” by these programs are at least as much to blame, if not moreso, because they are the ones who continue to make the irresponsible decisions and remain satisfied(?) with accepting government handouts. NO ONE should remain dependent on government! “The Man” might have helped put you or get you where you are, but you don’t have to stay there. Not in this country. Dr. Ben Carson is living proof!

I don’t know what Dr. Carson’s future holds (obviously), but I hope his achievements and public-speaking continue to provide him a platform and a certain amount of respect, such that those in the above-described mindset will take seriously what he has to say and move toward a mindset of true freedom & self-reliance and toward “obtain[ing] the American dream through their own efforts.”

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