Monday, May 11, 2009


I came back to America to finish my BA, back in the '80s after what turned out to be the end of my marriage. After six months I had to go back. My young son, you see. Six months away was long enough. Any more would have been too much. Well, airfare to Oz was well over a thousand dollars. Don't remember how much exactly. And someone said, "That's a lot of money" -- the implication being that it would be a waste. I was in my mid-twenties, and I said the wisest thing I'd ever said up to that point in my life. "What's money for?"

Money is for increasing the amount of happiness in the world. It's a tool for doing good.

Someone said that he didn't really know the philosophy of libertarianism. Well, I was a registered libertarian all through the '80s. "It's enlightened self-interest," I said. "Liberals think people are good. Libertarians think people are rational. Alas." Neither is the case. I couldn't continue as libertarian -- not that I ever really was one -- because it was just too irresponsible. The self-interest part is easy, but the other? -- not so much. Liberals end up using force to coerce goodness; because force is antithetical to their theory, they don't know how to use it wisely. Communism in action. Great sounding theories, aren't they. Alas, reality is so harsh with theories.

So how will good ever be done in the world, if mankind is neither good nor rational? There is no process, of goodness. It's almost arbitrary -- by which I mean that it requires wisdom. Anyone who's read through many of these pages will have heard already some of my thinking about wisdom. Sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes it is no. Answer a fool according to his folly, and answer not a fool according to his folly. Some children need gentleness, and some need firmness. Wisdom discerns. How can we do good in the world? One act at a time.

That's why government entitlements are poisonous. Hardly anyone is "entitled" to hardly anything. Clean air, I think. Um. Just laws. That's about it. Everything else is earned. Government welfare? Sounds so, uh, charitable. But without any accountability in terms of responsible conduct, all it does is subsidize antisocial behavior. It used to be that churches and private charities addressed the needs of the indigent and of those who had been overwhelmed by tragedy. They allotted their limited funds according to merit. The result was that the deserving poor were helped, and wastrels were left to beg in the gutter. Now we cannot even conceive of using a term like "deserving poor." How heartless. Marvin Olasky documented this thoroughly in his superb The Tragedy of American Compassion. You can buy it for a penny on Amazon. Buy me one too, will you? I haven't seen my copy since 1996. And speaking of which, why haven't you sent me anything? I'm registered with Amazon, you know. Sometimes I feel so unappreciated. So ignored.


My point? Personal generosity is a virtue. Impersonal generosity is a bureaucracy. Money is for increasing happiness. If it doesn't bring happiness, it hasn't been spent properly. Spend it on yourself, past a certain point, and it's no longer about happiness, but about money. Use it where it's needed, and deserts blossom.

That thousand dollars I spent on airfare? Yes, it was for me. But it was for my son. That's what money is for.



Will C. said...

"And speaking of which, why haven't you sent me anything? I'm registered with Amazon, you know. Sometimes I feel so unappreciated. So ignored."

I told you I'd send you my DVD but I haven't received an email fromest thou and there were like idunno, 5,961 Jack H.'s in Cali. , and all of them were brooding blonde dudes that do bjj. SOoo...1 DVD/5,961 = ? Not gun doit (GHWB).

It late as you can tell buy my abstract silliness.

Jack H said...

When I said that thing about sending me something, I was really talking to the chicks. How embarrassing for you.

And "blond" isn't the relevant characteristic. Plug "gorgeous" into your search engine. I'm the only one who comes up, if you set the parameters high enough.