May. 19, 2014




I recently retired in the desert. The weather is beautiful and worries are few. The city I chose is full of retirees and honestly compassionate citizens. The problem is that everyone wants to be charitable and feel useful as they grow older. A laudable sentiment but perhaps poorly focused.


I used to tell my High School students to never send aid to national disasters until at least six months had passed. In that way they could assess where the aid was truly needed. Having survived six hurricanes I had witnessed truck loads of clothes from all over the country sold as rags because clothes weren’t needed and hundreds of thousands of dollars bled off for non-emergency uses.


Let’s view the situation in my town. I continually hear how we must help the poor starving in our area. There are food drives, Christmas drives, Clothing drives, etc. All admirable attempts to help the underprivledged and tremendous ego boosters for those participating. The question is are they effective?


NOW, please don’t lay the “starving children” plea on me. I firmly believe we should help children who are being mistreated or simply need nutrition. I don’t think we need to feed their parents or give them cell phones.


This town sits all alone in the desert. It isn’t even on any major thoroughfare.  To get here you have to make a major effort.  Yet, if you go up into the washes around the town you see tents and “homeless” people camped out. Now, I ask you, ”Why would a homeless person travel hundreds of miles into a hostile environment when they could stay in a major population center with all the facilities and opportunities?” The answer is one that each of us have know since we were children. IF YOU FEED THE BIRDS-THEY WILL COME.


My point is that we often want so hard to be a contributing force for the advancement of humanity that we become the abettors and actual cause of dependency.  As “hard hearted” as this may seem, we sometimes need to say,"not today".  Instead of fighting to feed and clothe the homeless we should fight to have work programs where they can earn their room and board or find themselves a job. 


I used to tell my economics students that the first rule of an Economist is, ”We don’t care about dead babies.” I then would tell them about the advertisements for starving Somali’s that we saw on TV in the 60’s. Those same types of advertisements are seen today, sometimes with the same pictures. My point to them was that, that baby was already dead, so why not try to FIX THE SYSTEM to prevent more starving children and stop perpetuating the problem by ego enhancing charity.


We are the most charitable nation in the world. That doesn’t mean that all of that charity is well founded and most certainly much of it is actually detrimental to improving societies welfare.