Tue 24 Nov 2009
This past Saturday, I had a difficult choice.
I could either participate in “Cranksgiving”, a charitable bicycle race, requiring racers to obtain canned goods on a list fom specific supermarkets, to be used as a charitable donation.
Or I could attend a Secular Humanist discussion.
I chose the former, and was not disappointed.
But I was able to crank my way to Downtown Miami in time to observe the end of the race.
Again, I was not dissappointed. Amoungst the Orange Peels, there hung an air of good feeling, of the cyclists for themselves, each other, and what they had done.
AS I watched the proceedings, I couldn’t help but note how essential to the success of the event was the voluntary participation of each individual.
Ironically, the night before, I had prepared a talk on the ramifications of the failure to prosecute their predecessor’s war crimes on the part of President Obama’s administration.
I still have it in abeyance; no one showed up for the event. But voluntary participation inherently carries that risk.
There is freedom of speech. There is no entitlement to an audience.
But let me not digress.
Cranksgiving was the essence of a free-market transaction.
Charity, by nature, is an individual emotion.
It’s exercise, the exclusive province of individual choice.
The beneficiary does not have acceptance forced upon them by others, and benefits in the relief from their material deprivation.
The benefactors enjoy the satisfaction of helping and relieving the suffering of those who may be less fortunate through pure serendipity.
And therein lies the survival value to the human species of charitableness—the worthy survivor who is merely unlucky is saved from their misfortune.
But only through the cumulative effect of individual choice can charity truly perform it’s function.
It is only and exclusively the cumulative effect of individual decision-making that can produce positive results on orders of magnitude beyond the control of the individual.
All of the strife and discord we experience is the bitter fruit of efforts to enforce positive ends through coercion.
Voluntary cooperation may not always produce a given positive, desirable result.
But we need to stop ignoring the consequences of large-scale, institutionalized, normalized coercion.
And acquire the wisdom to accept that the results of the free market, while perhaps not perfect, only serve to illustrate that utopia is a pernicious illusion.
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