I’m sure several of you have seen the above quote from Penn Jillette before, as it’s been making the rounds. Before I say anything further, I want to make it clear that, by and large, I agree with the general sentiment provided here. If compassion is your concern, forcing people to help others does not display this quality in any way. Also, anyone who portrays themselves as open hearted when crusading for this type of government generated aid while refusing to help people they come across every day is a douchebag. I’m on board there.
But that is also the point where I jump the train.
My first issue is with the idea presented here lies in equating making people pay for something via taxes with robbing them at gunpoint . This is what we, in the business of words, refer to as hyperbole designed to get attention. I have never seen, nor heard of a situation where someone was shot for refusing to pay their taxes. Yes, you may go to jail (though the process for reaching that point is a bit drawn out even for the likes of Al Capone), but you will not get shot. There is a difference and I’m a bit sick of anti-tax polemics using such extreme language.
Next up is the term compassionate, which is fundamentally selfish in this case. It is related to how you feel about yourself or how others view you. It has nothing to do with actually helping anyone. I am not in any way concerned with feeling compassionate or helping someone else to achieve that inward state of bliss. I don't care about getting "moral credit". I would much rather get shit done.
That distinction is a bit of a nit-pick, but it’s an important one because of the next flaw I see: the idea of only helping people within your reach. Yes, if there is someone right next to you that needs help which you are able to provide, then I highly suggest doing so. The problem is that not everyone that needs assistance is within your immediate vicinity and that buffer of space tends to make even the cuddliest of us rather selfish and short sighted. To a certain extent, we can’t help not being able to intrinsically see those outside our particular monkeyspheres as non-entities with no importance or value. That is where we get people demanding that all jobs stay within our specific country or county, even though most of us would readily admit that factory workers in China deserve the ability to feed themselves and their families just as much as we do.
That is where force comes in. Most of us (notice I am including myself in this group) have to forced or coerced to help others even in the most basic of ways that assist ourselves as much as other people. This is because most of us are selfish and lazy. It isn’t nice to hear, but it’s true. Sometimes, when the need is high enough, it is necessary and justifiable to force people.
Of course, force is not compassionate, it is the opposite of compassionate. Also, the use of it must be husbanded with great care or people will get justifiably pissed off. However, when it comes to maintaining the lives and livelihoods of human beings, I’m okay with not being compassionate.