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Authentic Charity vs. Evil of the Dole

The United States’ federal government social welfare programs were either begun during the Franklin Roosevelt administration of the 1930s or can trace their lineage to that era. However, even as he was constructing our modern welfare state, President Roosevelt acknowledged the dangers of such a system.

During his annual address to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said the following,

“The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America.”

Tony Fischer Photography / Foter / CC BY

After more than seven decades of continuous U.S. government welfare expansion, history has confirmed FDR’s concerns. Poverty has become generational, as growing up in homes that are dependent upon government relief programs influences children to use those same programs as adults. Ironically, this generational increase in relief-program dependency is then used as proof we need more and larger relief programs. But research shows that these programs don’t provide the safety net that advocates claim, but rather act more like a ceiling preventing people from climbing out of poverty.

And climbing out of poverty should be the goal of charity care. Charity should provide for immediate needs and offer a helping hand out of poverty. For too long - really, since the days of FDR - our societal response to poverty has simply been more expansive federal programs. We now know they do not work as intended and, tragically, they are likely making things worse. A different response is required.

Authentic charity care provides both immediate assistance and a helping hand. It also betters society as a whole, because it’s people directly helping people. As we are authentically charitable, we see need and want at the ground level and are filled with the compassion that compels us to give of our time and resources. Through authentic charity, both giver and receiver are uplifted.

Dig Deeper:

Speech: FDR’s Annual Message to Congress, 1935

Article: What children learn from welfare: stay on welfare

Policy Brief: Caring for Our Neighbors in Need and Strengthening Community in Utah

Video: Bono: Only Capitalism Can End Poverty

Policy Brief: Intergenerational Poverty in Utah

Blog Post: Intergenerational poverty, taxation and the Scrooge response

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