Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Giving & Capitalism

Last year I wrote about a friend who was trying to raise money for a family member as a great act of charitable service. I thought about the situation and wrote the following:

I’ve been thinking recently about the idea and subsequent practice of giving money as a gift. I also have been thinking a lot about the practice of “raising money” for charity or a “good cause.” I thought I'd take a minute to share some thoughts with the community of producers.

It seems self-evident to me that giving money and raising money can be good practices. Of course both are simply activities or strategies for accomplishing some end. Means to an end can be either good or bad depending on the principle basis of the action. If divorced from the context of principle, means can never justify the ends nor can ends ever justify the means.

In the consumer condition, the world in which we all live (even if we’ve shifted paradigms because the world we live in, among and around has not), ideas of money and wealth are corrupted by the notion of scarcity. It is within this context that the desire to give what is lacking (a good desire and the root of production) is corrupted. The desire is too often divorced from the actual creation of value for another (which is always subjective) and is replaced by the creation of value for self. This of course is fine if it is recognized for what it is, consumption.

Let me illustrate with a mildly fictitious example. My mother has been poor (according to possession of material things) for most of her life. When I became “rich” I wanted to immediately help those close to me. Near the first on my list was my mother. Simply stated, I wanted to use my access to money and material resources to “make her life better.” I wanted to do things in a dramatic way, to “make a paradigm shift possible” for her and to “give her what she wanted”—or at least what she “needed.”

It is obvious, when one considers my intentions rationally and non-emotionally, that my entire context is corrupted by scarcity. If I were to persist in my efforts in the illustration above, I would have only contributed to the destructive nature of the consumer condition (which would have been quite the opposite of what I was intending). The mental paradigm shift experienced constantly by producers is often overpowered by the habits of emotional response to scarcity. It takes time and discipline to overcome these scarcity demons or devils as Les would call them.

Since it is Christmas time, a time full of emotion—generally speaking, I would like to take my fictitious example and do a short analysis to demonstrate just how destructive my subsequent actions could likely have been.

Let’s revisit the illustration point by point. My mother has been poor (according to possession of material things) for most of her life. Why? The physical condition of our life is the consequence of our ideas and actins; in other words, to reference Napoleon Hill, we tend to attract the material equivalent of our habits of thought. In brief, my mother has been materially poor over the course of her life for a reason. The universe is governed by law, and her condition is a result of law, not chance. The fundamental assumption of “do gooders” is that if they can change the current situation by giving their loved ones a chance, things will then change. Of course this is nonsense since gambling (the giving of chances) violates principle. Gambling is based upon a number of false maxims, the first and foremost of which is the idea of something for nothing. The only way I can ever help my mother, in my fictitious example, is to assist her in her own efforts to change her mental context, for that is the cause (creator) of her physical reality.

Now let’s discuss the next point of the illustration. When I became “rich” I wanted to immediately help those close to me. This is a great intent and the true motivation of a producer; it is the desire to create more value than is consumed by self. On a side note, this desire—when viewed from God’s perspective—is impossible because by accomplishing that desire in “this world” we receive more than we ever give; therefore, we will always be “unprofitable servants” (another discussion for another time and place).

Let’s revisit another point. Near the first on my list was my mother. Helping family and friends is among the most noble of desires; however, it is also a trigger to the emotional bad habits we must struggle to escape in order to accomplish our own paradigm shift from consumer to producer. Therefore, acting on such desires requires a double dose of caution and deliberateness to ensure that we are not using our emotional desire as a pretext for excusing our own violation of principle. Violating principle corrupts the context of our giving and becomes a starting point for future excuses for regressing into the mentality of a consumer in scarcity. Consider this as a subtle warning to all of us so-called “do-gooders” in the revolution.

Next point. I wanted to use my access to money and material resources to “make her life better.” There are two problems to grapple with in this statement. First, since it is my want, the value created is actually for me! This is important. Often we want to "do good to others"; and in the process of doing good, we judge what they "should value" rather than what they demonstrate, through their own choice, that they do in fact value. My want in this case would be tyrannical, even if it looks benevolent. Furthermore, it is impossible to "make" anyone's life better. It is only possible to offer value in exchange for value. If the exchange is a "free" exchange, the resulting "better life" will not be made solely by one party of the exchange; rather, it will be the mutual cooperation of all parties involved. Therefore, a more healthy way to conceptualize the desire to "make life better" for loved ones would be to "offer service to make a better life possible." Such offers should be given freely (this means without coercion).

Let’s revisit another point. I wanted to do things in a dramatic way to "make a paradigm shift possible" and to "give her what she wanted”--or at least what she “needed." There are a series of problems with this intention. First, it is again my "want" that would be governing; so the result, even if it is successful, would be consumption. Secondly, a paradigm shift would require the other party to freely desire the same change. Additionally, it is the other party who is always the best, most important judge of what and how to obtain what is wanted and needed for themselves. The socialist disagrees and uses arguments that amount to essentially nothing more than, "but I know better what is good for them." Producers, beware of such thoughts.

To summarize the points of my illustration, let me remind all producers that money has no intrinsic value. If giving money as a gift, one should first consider what is the expected utility associated with the gift; in other words, what is it that can be done with the money by the person receiving it. If you want to give money to a family so they can buy siding for their new home, what would you do if they took the money and went to the race track instead? Wouldn't it be evident that the recipients’ value choice, if allowed to freely be exercised, would frustrate the effort of the giver? If that is the case, why not arrange with the service provider, the actual creator of the direct value—the siding man, to have the siding work done? Giving money to the one in need only ensures that a) the receiver will continue to make poor choices with resources since no substantive change in thought has occurred or b) the giver will force the "poor unfortunate party," through coercion of one kind or another, to use the money for that which the giver requires. This is a dangerous and often surprisingly depressive pattern of gift giving.

There is also danger in raising money (freely donated) for charity. It is appropriate to give with strings attached. Some argue it is more virtuous to give with no strings but such action would be deception. The "no strings" mentality is only right if by no strings one means no coercion or deception. Strings - there must be - unless we want to admit it is the giver’s job to grant the wrong doers, the evil doers and the desperate among us the drug of choice to further destroy their lives. Anyone raising money for a cause has an obligation to openly and directly define the strings attached. If not, free exchange is not being advocated and the charitable giving only facilitates the benevolent charity of the kind tyrant. God does not work this way neither should his children.

In a nutshell, money will not solve problems. The only way to truly bless the life of another is to work with them by affecting their life substantively in the Human Life Value category. Beware of the false deception that one can buy happiness, peace and prosperity—or anything else in this world—for money. It is a lie. It is destructive. It can undue your producer paradigm and result in further destruction of the world around you.

When giving a gift, the way to ensure value production is to involve the recipient in a principled path to a new life. This takes patience, meekness and long suffering. I invite you to consider 1 Corinthians 13 where the apostle Paul defines charity. Having charity is not simply giving; charity involves giving in the context of principle. Giving all your goods to feed the poor does not ensure charity. Charity includes realizing none of your goods have any intrinsic value and that real giving is using your goods to incentivize new thoughts, choices and actions. Honest gift giving must be done in a context of respect, love and, most importantly, freedom—the freedom of choice.

The challenge for producers is to learn how to really give—not to avoid giving and not to give mindlessly, but to really give. Real gift giving doesn't "look as nice" in the eyes of the world. Receiving the judgment of the world is its own reward, a reward we consume on our own. To produce, to be true disciples of the Lord and followers of the Eternal laws that govern, we must look forward with real charity and rely upon the judgments of God. God’s judgments are just and true. There is no legitimate way to give money or raise money pretending away any of this context.

I appreciate all the good that producers are doing in the world. It is my constant invitation to others and to my own self that we question our assumptions and ensure that when we "give our lives" we are really giving through free exchange and not as a tyrant demanding the result of virtue because we intended well.

The Lord himself gives the gift of eternal life and the opportunity of exaltation freely to all men; however, He does not try to "make our lives" better. He gently beckons each of us to come unto Him. His constant invitation is powerful to the honest in heart. No matter the pain of rejection, the cost of patience and long suffering he freely chooses to bare, his arms are outstretched still. He waits on those he loves. That we too may wait on those we love and allow them the real blessing of choosing wisely is my sincere desire at this special holiday season and always.

Merry Christmas,

The Free Capitalist

1 comment:

Graphic said...

Hey Rick,

Thanks for posting your essays here on your blog.

I remember reading this essay last year and then read it again this year and it gave me an idea on what to get my brother for Christmas.

My brother is at the point in his life where he wants to make some changes and I wanted to try something different with his gift. His gift was 2 gifts in one as I explained it to him. The first gift was "choice" and I explained to him that certain choices we make will determine how wealthy and successful we will be in life and that God gave us the gift of choice so we could learn from and experience the life we love.

My brother's choice was to choose between two gifts. One gift was in the form of money (gift certificate) and the other was in the form of information (Rich Dad Poor Dad book). I told him he could choose only one gift.

So he looked at both gifts and said "I think I'm going to choose the information gift since it's probably more powerful".

I gave him a hug and wished him a Merry Christmas and said the book would help him out in his journey if he chooses it.

I hope he makes more choices like that because I know it will only lead to his success.

Thanks again for your essays!
Robert