To Have the Compassion of an Ogre

At least when it comes to using government as a weapon of compassion, I have the compassion of the ogre. I will explain below why I think government cannot and should not be in the business of compassion.

The force of government has caused many people to show less compassion to their fellow men. On the other hand, some of the best things happen when government is not compassionate. In such circumstances, individuals personally begin to display more compassion. One such instance of this happened recently in Utah when the governor asked the legislature to convene a special session in order to (among other things) provide special monies to pay for dental care for the disabled. If they didn't fund the governor's compassion project, it would make the legislators look even more heartless in a year where the budget surplus was projected to be at least $150 million. In spite of these political odds, the legislature did not grant the $2 million that 40,000 members of the disabled community required to receive adequate dental care.

Perhaps not surprisingly, especially for the very charitable state of Utah, private donors came up with the money that had been requested. I applaud in this case the correct exercise of compassion.

Government is in the business of compassion, but it was not designed to be so. Good government is limited to providing for the general welfare, because a populace that is afforded peace and tranquility by its government is apt to be more compassionate than government could ever come close to being. Forced compassion by government is an abdication of its primary responsibility to provide peace and tranquility.

When government works toward the special welfare (that is, toward issues that benefit a small group of people at the expense of society at large), even when it is something as apparently appropriate as providing dental care to the disabled, not only does the moral authority of government break down, but so do the morals of society as well.

Government compassion is frequently misplaced. Even worse, it is woefully inefficient, and not just because government employees are paid to administer government compassion distribution projects. An excellent example is a comparison of the responses from private groups and individuals following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, versus the response from government. Individuals and groups responded with alacrity and compassion, while government responded with lethargy.

I believe in compassion. I attempt to be compassionate in my personal life, though I may not always succeed. But when government usurps from society the responsibility to be compassionate, then before long neither society nor government have any compassion left.

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