I recently found myself in a moral dilemma. An old friend of mine, who is rather mentally unstable, found himself in a minor financial crunch of his own making. Though it was not my fault or responsibility by any stretch of the imagination, it did involve me and I could easily alleviate this person’s suffering. To step in and help him would make me feel good about myself (since the person had not asked me to do so and since there has been no pattern of ongoing dependency) but, on the other hand, it would have been much better for that person if he would take responsibility for his own life and solve his own problems.
The trouble is that the individual in question exists within the no man’s land of free-will and fate. He was born to a mother with drug, and alcohol, problems. He suffered an abusive childhood and he is at odds with the society he finds himself in. He is not a criminal and he is pleasant to be around – almost in a childlike way, though he is of normal intelligence.
In the end, I chose to do what made me feel good and I helped him. I told him it was not for him, but for me. A small effort, on my part, had made this unfortunate individual very happy. It was not possible for me to know the limits of his capabilities, if he could have taken this small step on his own and grown up that much more; it is just as likely that he will never grow up. In any event, his physical maladies will kill him before he gets very old.
But the above decision was my own to make. It would have upset me if somebody else had stepped in, taken my money by force and given it to the above individual. This is what government does. The fact that the individual, described above, does not benefit from any government hand-outs made it much easier to help him out of my own free will. It allowed me the satisfaction of having helped somebody less fortunate, so that I could take all the self-righteous glory for myself. Filling out a 1040 tax form just doesn’t hold the same magic for me.