Good Charity, Bad Charity – The Chicken Story and How it Changed My Life

I spent about a year in Hawaii when I was 18/19. Lots of fun times, with a couple life changing experiences mixed in with some time that otherwise went by way too quickly.

One of those I felt like recounting today.

The Chicken Story

In Hawaii, there are chickens everywhere. The locals told me that the English had introduced them when they landed, and because there are no predators, they flourished. Oahu, the big Island, and Kauai (all islands I visited) – there are chickens *everywhere.* The chicken problem is so big that in Oahu, the Honolulu county government offers a handsome salary to anyone who volunteers to round them up and educate those who domesticate them on how to keep their roosters quiet. In 2007, that salary was $40k. In 2008, it was increased to $60k. I’m serious.

It’s not just the government trying to deal with the “chicken problem.” One day I was at a roadside cafe with a friend and noticed a sign that said – “HELP US CATCH THESE CHICKENS. $5 PER HEN, $10 PER ROOSTER.” There were probably 20 hens, and 3 or 4 roosters, in the immediately visible area.

Moments later, a bum walks up to me and asks me, “Hey, man, could you spare some change so I can buy a sandwich?” You can guess how I responded….

“Funniest thing, man, see that sign over there? You can earn over $100 by rounding up these chickens. You’d eat sandwiches for a week off that.”

The man looked at me, dumbfounded and disgusted, and snarled “Well, why don’t you catch them and give them to me then, prick?”

Wow, seriously? The man sits down at a table and waits. A few minutes later, a young couple strolls up, and the man approaches them. Immediately upon being asked, the young man says, “Oh, sure man,” reaches into his pocket, and pulls out a five dollar bill. The bum walks up to the counter, orders his sandwich, and shoots me a nasty grin. The bum gets his sandwich, the cafe still has to deal with the chickens, and the man who gave him the money is now $5 poorer.

I had always been pretty generous up to that point, and would loan (or give) money to, or help out in whatever way I could, just about anyone who asked, regardless of the conditions. That experience changed me – and now, I have no guilt about turning down bums when they ask for money on the street (though it has taken me some time to abstract this logic to the rest of my life, as well). What I realized is that this guy didn’t contribute not because he wasn’t able, but because he felt he didn’t need to. Maybe it was a lack of pride – maybe it was a rationalization that “there will always be a hand out” – either way, there was a big difference between this bum’s beliefs and my own.

Good Charity, Bad Charity

I was raised in a middle class family that taught me the value of hard work. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve worked. Even while bouncing around the globe – I’ve worked hard. Sometimes I’ve needed help, and sometimes I’ve asked for it – but I’ve always tried to repay my debts – though not always as adeptly as I’d wished. Right now, I still have the ability to work and contribute to society, and thus asking for something without giving anything in return – be it government benefits or monies, money from strangers, food, or whatever – is immoral and unjust.

Giving money to the bum in Hawaii was an example of bad charity because the man, still young and strong – could have worked hard and rounded up the chickens around the restaurant – providing a service that would benefit the lives of others in exchange for the compensation he would receive, but instead chose to beg and sneer at those who suggested honest labor. Bad Charity is not just limited to giving money to bums who won’t work – Bad Charity happens at other levels too:

- When a company takes a government bailout after practicing unsound finance for years. Think of how the “financial crisis” was created – by banks making risky loans and then selling off the bad debts labeled as AAA debt. All of us have suffered because the public sector practiced bad charity.
- When a firm or entrepreneur accepts funds from investors or government to create a business they do not have the experience or intent to successfully implement. Solyndra would be a prime example.

I think that’s really where the line gets drawn. When a man has the capability to provide value in exchange for what he needs, yet chooses to take it by force, steal it, or beg for it, he commits one of the greatest sins. He who aids this man also commits a sin, and adds to the suffering of mankind.

Contrast this with some examples of good charity:
- Giving money or aid to poor children who cannot fend for themselves
- Helping an old lady across the street
- Helping the sick and injured
- Giving a job to someone who not only needs the job, but can perform it with excellence
- Preventing a rape, murder or burglary

Even giving money to bums on the street is *not* Bad Charity, given that those who you help are willing to do *something* to earn it:
- Giving to those who are willing to put their lives on the right path (for example, many charities, Christian and otherwise, help support those who are willing to trend upwards)
- The “chess men” who challenge you in a game of intellect
- Musicians and artists who play / create for your spare change

Good Charity reminds us that people can aspire to be better than they are – that men can be good. Bad Charity sets an example for the world and for those who receive it – that it’s OK to take fruits from the labors of others – that it’s OK to take through graft or force what others have sweated for.

The next time you’re tempted to take something you haven’t earned, or give to someone who has the capability to work for it yet chooses not to – remind yourself that your actions add to the net evil of the world.

This entry was posted in Abstract, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>