Do home windows with metal grilles, doors with triple locks, and signs that advertise security systems suggest a societal commitment to the sanctity of private property and the immorality of theft? No, wrote Howard Ahmanson Wednesday at his BlueKennel blog: Those show that some people nearby have little respect for the property of others.
Ahmanson quoted Vishal Mangalwadi making a parallel point: When a Muslim woman wears a burqa, does that represent a cultural commitment to chastity? More likely, as Mangalwadi argues, it’s a defense against the lack of a cultural commitment to both chastity and a woman’s right to say no.
Then Ahmanson made a profound point: “I will go one step further. It is often declared that certain societies like Canada and Sweden, because they have more generous welfare states than the United States, are more caring and compassionate societies. … I would argue that large welfare states are not a reflection of the compassion of a society, but a provision for the lack of compassion of a society.” He added, “It is a bit idealistic to think that private charity can meet all the welfare needs in most societies, but it should at least flourish alongside its public counterpart. Because it is usually religious, it is bound to have different assumptions, and may well be more effective on some fronts, such as ‘rehab’ in particular.”
That’s true. Compassion means “suffering with,” becoming personally involved in the needs of the poor. A welfare state is a way to hand that task to professionals so most of us never have to be compassionate. Similarly, Social Security and Medicare are useful for those who would otherwise be alone and penniless, but they are also a way to pack Grandma off to Florida and let her cry in front of strangers. School breakfasts and lunches are good for those kids who would otherwise go hungry, but for many partaking families they are a way to shift parental responsibility to others.