Thatcher on the Good Samaritan

I learned a lot from Robert Sirico’s, Defending the Free Market. He explained how interest rates encourage responsible behavior (i.e., credit card rates should be high, for imagine how much Americans would borrow if these rates were artificially low); how important it is for the poor to retain their dignity by contributing what they can rather than merely receiving a handout; how competition and customers paying the true cost out of pocket (e.g., Health Savings Accounts) is the best way to bring down the cost of health care; and how we best help the poor in developing nations not by giving corrupt governments more money to spend on themselves but by encouraging them to develop an economy that creates jobs.

But the quote that made me laugh and made a great point was a line from Margaret Thatcher. She defended her economic policy by stating that the free market is necessary to create wealth which then can be used to help the poor. So rather than being mean spirited, capitalism is precisely what the poor need. Thatcher noted that “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well” (p 130).

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  1. Thatcher’s comment illustrates the abuse of parables. Good Sam is about ethnic and religious prejudice…not money or even the dude in the ditch. The parable sets in the larger “conflict motif” of the Gospels as the lawyer’s prejudice exposes. Bastian VanElderen has a helpful article on this text.

  2. That’s a fair point. I’m not going to buy her commentary, at any rate. I think her point still stands that we can’t help people, or be a Good Samaritan in the popular use of the term, if we don’t have something to help people with.

    I must admit a hermeneutic of suspicion with your comment, Gary. Is it a coincidence that it’s the banjo player who is calling us to ethnic and religious sensitivity?

  3. Well…since you mentioned the banjo, I am in need of financial assistance and respect. Show me some love! 😉

    Enjoy those faculty meetings.

  4. This is nonsense. This theory has never worked out in practice. Trickle down economics does not work.

  5. So Bill, you are saying that free market economics doesn’t work? Interesting. One of my friends from my Church started a business with his brother a few years ago and has already hired 3 full time workers and 3 part time workers. They hired two young men from our urban ministry that used to be drug dealers before they gave their lives to Christ at a living wage. If they were not paying 50% taxes, including taxing their inventory and taxing the money that they hope to reinvest into their company so that they could expand it and create more jobs, they would have hired another 3-5 workers this past year. So much government intervention in the form of taxes hurts small and medium sized businesses all over the country.

    And even more, the good intentions of government have made things worse for the poor. I’ve seen so many examples of how government help has hurt the poor more (food stamps/bridge cards) rather than helping it as I have lived and ministered among the urban poor for the past 20 years.

  6. Food stamps hurt the poor? Is it better for them to starve?

  7. If food stamps were for short-term situations, I’d be fine with it. I’ve seen too many abuses in my neighborhood to endorse it long-term. If I had a nickel for every time that I’ve been approached to take part in food stamp/bridge card fraud in my ‘hood, I’d be taking my family to Hawaii for an all inclusive vacation. The sad thing is they are doing it for things such as a flat screen TV or the upcoming pair of Lebron James athletic shoes. Too many people live in chronic poverty and so many government programs and even some church and charity programs have unintentionally created dependency so that there is no motivation for some to attempt to overcome poverty. The problem is that the government and even some charities and churches apply relief solutions (handouts) to problems that are mostly rehabilitation or development problems. Even more, these same poverty fighting programs from the government or other groups are so filled with bureaucracy and they do not make developing long-term relationships a priority, which is another reason why they don’t work.

    There is a better way to fight poverty and the answer is not more government distribution. The best way to help pull people out of poverty is through building long-term assets such as helping a person own their own home rather than relying on renting through section 8 housing. Or helping a person start their own business (which our ministry is currently doing), and coming alongside people as they look to finish college/trade school so that they can have a skill that earns them a living wage. By the way, I am not against all government programs. I think that programs such as Head Start and WIC have been proven effective. I am a staunch supporter of public schools and realize that a major social justice issue is the unequal funding between wealthy suburban districts and the poor inner-city districts in my community (although this is hardly the only reason that inner-city public schools fail). Anyway, my point in commenting on this blog was more in support of free-market conditions which has much more potential lifting the poor out of poverty because it does a better job creating wealth rather than government controlled markets. By the way the free market capitalism that I embrace is not one that embraces greed. “Capitalism has not flourished most where there was a spirit of greed. It has flourished most where there was a spirit of stewardship—a sense that we are responsible to make the world a better place.” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/08/15/greed-is-not-good-for-capitalism/

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