Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"I am for doing good to the poor ..."

I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. ~ Benjamin Franklin
I love the quote, above, that I found at Joel John Roberts's excellent LA's Homeless Blog. But I don't like it in the way it can be commonly, easily interpreted.

WDBO, an Orlando, FL, radio station, used the quote and Fox News's uber-conservative Glenn Beck's reaction to it – "I love this quote: 'We should make the poor uncomfortable and kick them out of poverty.' I love that!" – and then gave readers at its website this skewed poll with three possible answers:
How should we handle the homeless sleeping in our parks?
  • Make it uncomfortable, move them along
  • Let them be, hand out pillows
  • I don't care
  • Arrrrrrrrgh! Beck and WDBO and those who took the poll [82% of whom voted for the "Make it uncomfortable" for the homeless option] all looked at the Franklin quote as a licence to hate.

    I read the Franklin quote differently. Franklin is wanting to do what's best for the poor and is focused on "leading or driving them" out of poverty (or homelessness). Franklin favors a "whatever best works" solution, including those things that might be counterintuitive to an industy [i.e., the homeless-help industry] that gets blinded by its own feel-good catering and enabling and 'parenting' of the poor.

    Franklin isn't intending to "kick" the poor. Another quote of Franklin is this [from Poor Richard's Almanak, 1749]: "Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it, is."

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