G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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I’ve been pushing hard on the argument that the communication feedback loop between the haves and the have-nots is broken and that the government is the big, giant wi-fi dead zone. The discussion has been centered around Murray’s book which I will continue to chew down to the nub. Murray wrote:
High social capital may have other disadvantages. One point of view (which I do not share) argues that the hallmark of high social capital – neighbors helping neighbors cope with their problems – is inferior to a system that meets human needs through government programs, because only the government can provide help without the moral judgmentalism associated with charity.
And that’s why, if we embrace non-judgmentalism as a virtue, the government is the first-best choice for the Have-nots. Parents-as-peers are a closely related phenomenon. The government is an amoral Cyclops with blinders. They ask no questions which requires that you, charity case, won’t have to suffer the indignity of telling any lies. Murray’s point – which he has made forever and which Tocqueville elucidated as well – squares up with Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Charity. People with a right-leaning political orientation or a constrained social vision see the power behind the wisdom of the ancients, so Maimonides’ list should be respected. Here is the most desirable and noble level of charity:
The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others . . .
The next seven levels, in descending order:
Laying this out across levels provides a better mental image of the exchange. The highest levels allow for dignity of both parties. The lower levels are blind to questions of dignity, yet we are supposed to hold dignity as a high ideal for the poor. In between, it’s about either the donor or the impoverished trying to hide their shame. For instance, donating in such a way that the recipient of charity knows who gifted them while the donor is unaware of the recipient (the 5th level) is done in order to preserve the dignity of the recipient. But by thinking in these terms – that the impoverished requires cover from this shame – shame is placed upon the act. The donor shields his eyes from the shame of the recipient which just makes things worse.
The last level – which is carried out by central government – plays Christ to both parties. It is the great Middle Man. It imbibes the hostility of unwilling donors (who feel robbed) and assuages the shame instinct of the recipients. It attempts to attenuate the instincts of the donor and the recipient which provides a tension for both sides. An unwilling donor has to rationalize his donation as a duty. The recipient has to rationalize what should be humility and comes to think that they are due whatever handout he received.
At best, the government merely assumes that self-dignity will exist in such a state. But that ignores that self-dignity is an emergent property. At worst, the government essentially tries to create self-dignity out of thin air which is a tactic they use in other realms.
Mencius Moldbug, from whom I learned of Maimondes’ levels of charity, wrote:
Or not. The low-browed man of 70 (and remember – for every 130, there is a 70) may still require special supervision. Besides a job, he needs a patron. Productivity he has, but direction and discipline he still requires. His patron may be a charity, or a profitable corporation, or even – gasp – an individual.
In the last case, of course, we have reinvented slavery. Gasp! Since the bond of natural familial kindness is not present in the case of an unrelated ward, the King keeps a close watch on this relationship to protect human dignity. Nonetheless, his wards are farmed out – it is always better to be a private ward than the ward of the State. Bureaucratic slavery is slavery at its worst. Adult foster care, as perhaps we will call it, is a far more human and dignified relationship.
No point in me following up Moldbug.