Beyond Apologies, Myth #8: Be generous—to the rich

by Debra Efroymson

Some of us have met that guy who is always pushing the rest of us to be more generous. He’s the one who says that everyone in the group should cut back on their personal expenses so that they can save money to donate to a worthy cause. People go around the circle: “OK, I won’t go out to eat this month.” “OK, I won’t buy the new outfit I’ve been craving.” “OK, I’ll walk to work instead of taking the bus. What about you?” And he looks surprised: “Me? Why should this apply to me??”

That is precisely the way that conservatives behave when it comes to their talk of inefficient governments and the need to shrink them. They complain about governments wasting money on all kinds of programs (and of course governments do waste money on various things—usually become some corporation has lobbied them to). What they particularly dislike is any form of assistance to the poor or government action to protect health or the environment or ensure decent working conditions. But when it comes to government subsidies to huge corporations, that’s just fine and dandy.

Who is going to speak out on behalf of the rights of nature? Or employees’ rights to a safe workplace and living wage? Or the need to protect people from harmful products that cause a range of diseases? A thriving society is one in which civil society reminds government of its responsibilities, and government acts to curtail the harmful actions of giant corporations. We don’t get such a society by wishing for it; we have to be active citizens, working to strengthen government protections for all those in need. We cannot be taken in by that sweet-talking fellow who feels that everyone else should sacrifice while he prospers.

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