Back To The Future

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

In medieval times, the Almoner was the church officer in charge of distributing money to the deserving poor. The church learned quickly that it couldn’t give money to everyone who held out their hands: there was never enough money to fill all the hands.
And not all hands deserved to be filled. Some were poor through sloth, some through drunkenness, some weren’t poor at all, just looking for a freebie.
The Almoner had to wisely distribute tithes and offerings given to the church to ensure the money went to the poor who deserved the church’s help.
If we replaced the concept of entitlement with the concept of deserving poor, and put the Almanor is in charge of distributing the funding, people would get off welfare, get off charity, get on with their lives, get on the path of work and prosperity and success, setting a role model for their children.
Joe Doakes

At some point, it’ll become inevitable

17 thoughts on “Back To The Future

  1. If we replaced the concept of entitlement with the concept of deserving poor, and put the Almanor is in charge of distributing the funding

    Sorry Joe, with all due respect, this idea wouldn’t survive it’s first encounter with an class action lawyer.

    What you are talking about is discrimination (in the best sense of the word), yet so much of government is built around not being able to discriminate at all.

    We cannot hire the best candidate because someone else might be more ‘deserving” and we certainly cannot base our governance on morals, ethics or common sense because the law has banished those things from consideration.

    But you are right, charity belongs to the churches because they are designed to make decisions on the grounds of morals, ethics and common sense grounds – but there are precious few charities funded by churches left and what few there are, are like Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services, and tend to focus exclusively on pumping immigrants into our social welfare system.

  2. You’re on the right track, Greg, now complete the thought.

    If the existing welfare system can’t be converted from “entitlement” to “deserving” because of lawsuits; and if the few remaining charities pump immigrants into the welfare system because there IS a welfare system; then the only long-term sensible solution is . . . .

  3. Uh, er……,

    his head spins…it’s like the Monty Python question, is she a witch or is she a duck?

    I know, I know, mount a class action lawsuit against churches to force them to treat American citizens and (economic) refugees equally!!!

    That way, Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services will be compelled to treat refugees from Chicago, East Saint Louis and Baltimore as generously as they treat refugees from Somalia.

    Uh, er……, or is that a bad idea?

    On a more serious side, I always thought that government should get out of the housing business and relegate that role to “charitable” trusts by limiting what the trusts can do.

    I mean, hey, Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Tides Foundation……um, er, Clinton Foundation, you’al wanna do something good for humanity, why not “invest” in low income housing?

    They certainly got the money for it, and they got the cash to fix up housing after the tenets steal the sink and crap on the floor. After all, isn’t that what charity is really about……..rather than fighting pipelines?

  4. Marvin Olasky draws a great picture of this in his book The Tragedy of American Compassion. Apparently before government got into the act, charity was indeed led by “Almanors” who did things like “work tests” to make sure they weren’t just funding lazy drunks. Hence, far fewer lazy drunks on the streets.

    Maybe something we should try for the homeless? “We will feed you, but you will take your meds, and you will be working for your upkeep.”

  5. I am old enough to remember things like “skid row” and “bums”.

    Skid row is where mostly older alcoholics hung out because the police chased them out of every other place. The people who lived there were bums. Oddly, most of them worked, and actually worked rather hard at difficult, exhausting, day labor jobs, like field work, ditch digging and maintaining railroad beds. The people who employed them viewed their unreliability as a feature, not a bug. If you suspected a guy wouldn’t show up tomorrow, why not work him into exhaustion today?

    A lot of these guys had tragic depression-era stories and many of those stories were about failure of their own making. My grandfather was such a man and had such a story. The last time, I saw him was when I was a child and my father took me to his flop house to learn who he was and why he was the way he was.

    After that, I also understood my father better.

    Were these guys of charity?

    Sure- and The Union Gospel Mission and Salvation Army provided it, and in the process saved a few lives.

    Now days, the government subsidies alcoholism and subsidies a vast and expensive “recovery” system to combat it.

  6. Close, Greg, but actually I’m proposing that we begin to consider thinking the unthinkable.

    There’s usually more than one way to do something, but which way is the “best” way depends on your time horizon, your stomach and your spine.

    Everybody knows the old saying: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” But what if the man refuses to be taught? What if he demands you give him a fish today, a fish tomorrow, a fish every day? What if he threatens to let his family starve rather than learn to fish, and to blame you when they die? What do you do?

    You do a gut-check to decide whether you’re willing to step over their dead bodies so you can help someone who is willing to be taught. If so, you stiffen your spine and walk away.

    If not – if you’re willing to let the man hold his children hostage to coerce your future generosity – then you forget about teaching others and spend the rest of your life as his servant, catching fish and delivering them to him. And then to his children, because they grew up viewing you as their servant and will play the same hostage game, and to their children, who want free medical care and free college in addition to their free fish.

    The Almoner’s job was the worst job in the parish because he had to be tough enough to step over the bodies of starving children of the undeserving poor in order to make the point that the Church only helped the deserving poor. Other families needed to see that, to get the message.

    We no longer distinguish deserving poor from undeserving poor. Our society has grown soft. It was nice while it lasted. Look at the demands of Democrat candidates. Look at the condition of the inner cities. Can the nation afford to continue as we have? Or do we need to restore the Office of Almoner, for the long-term survival of our nation?

    Should we begin to think the unthinkable?

  7. JD it’ll never happen as much as I personally want it to, the Democratic party would lose 30-40% of its base if that happened, at least.

  8. POD: It will happen, eventually. Every empire collapses. Every government falls. Every socialist regime runs out of Other People’s Money. And when it does, Venezuela. I’m wondering whether it might be possible for the United States avert a collapse by accepting a cutback?

    What would it take for the voters to demand an end to welfare for the undeserving poor? A mind-shift about what is not only possible, but desirable. And what would produce such a massive mind-shift? An economic crisis? A military crisis? A generational debt crisis? Could we begin talking about it now, to make the mind-shift more palatable later?

    Abortion didn’t become socially acceptable overnight, society had to be softened up first. Gay marriage, the same. How would we go about conditioning people to think that welfare was shameful and self-reliance was preferable?

  9. Or do we need to restore the Office of Almoner, for the long-term survival of our nation?

    The trouble with the Almoner was that he was human and by nature, subject to corruption, bias and cruelty.

    “Hey honey, you want a hand out? Send your daughter over tonight.”

    “We don’t serve Irish, Italians, Blacks, Jews or Chinks.”

    “Yeah, I know the treaty said you get food this spring, but maybe you should try eating grass.”

    “Whaddya mean, where did I get the cash for my new house, new horse and new threads?”

    Combating these ills brought about the notion of entitlements. It was an easy, bureaucratic way of getting around discrimination – both the useful kind and the unethical kind.

    It is kinda like how civil service was set up to get around Tammany Hall. No one suspected the swamp though.

    Like I love to say, a vice is nothing more than a virtue taken too far. Charity is a virtue, but taken too far….

  10. JD, you have a lot more faith in humanity and even the long term survival of America than I do.

    “When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.”
    Benjamin Franklin

  11. Just thought I would pass this along.

    Another reflection on the odd concept that citizens are entitled to things, even the things they pay taxes for.

    I was five years old the first time I walked into the late and lamented O’Gara’s with my old man and few of his friends. They were there to petition a councilman to get some road repair done.

    The conversation went something like this.

    “So you boys want me to get something done for you?”


    “Answer me this, what have you ever done for me?”


    “I mean, yeah, it’s my job to get done what you want me to do and I am willing to do it, but you see, every day, boys like you come in here asking for me to do something and gosh, there are just so many hours in the day.”


    “Catch my drift?”


    “Go talk to Loyd there. He will set you up with my campaign.”

    Things like that no longer happen in Saint Paul.

    Honest, they don’t.

  12. I agree with Greg that humans are fallible and institutions are corruptible. I’ve only ever heard of one solution to both problems – kill them all and let God sort them out. I’d prefer to leave that as a last resort.

    We’re not talking about the difference between a Good system and a Bad system, we’re talking about the difference between a Bad system (charity for the deserving poor only) and a Worse system (entitlements for all). Surely it’s better for society to take a small step in the right direction, rather than wait for it all to collapse?

  13. kill them all and let God sort them out. I’d prefer to leave that as a last resort.

    That was one of the best lines in the Simpsons ever.

  14. Regarding the “bad actors” who do exist in private charity, no doubt, but keep in mind that the Baptist charity leader who insists on the daughter of those he’s going to help still has to “compete” with the Catholics, Presbyterians, Jews, and the like. Government, by its sheer scale, has more of a monopoly. So those being helped can simply avoid the bad actors if it’s private, at least to a degree.

  15. Government, by its sheer scale, has more of a monopoly

    Government also has the exclusive right to extract money from you at gunpoint. No private organization (for-profit or non-profit) can do that. Being from the government means never having to say you’re sorry.

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