Charity is Nice, But it Won’t End Hunger

by | Dec 18, 2013

Production is what makes all consumption, including charity, possible.

I keep hearing this holiday season about charity campaigns to “end hunger in America.”

Let’s be real. You don’t end hunger via charity. Charity programs, when they function properly, bring relief. They don’t end the problem. Relief is not the same as elimination.

If it’s hunger you wish to end, in America or anywhere else, then what you need are the triumph of reason, freedom and capitalism.

I say freedom and capitalism because without these things, there’s no incentive or self-responsibility required on the part of would-be producers and innovators to bring desperately needed food (and other goods) to market. Also, without freedom and capitalism, there are no jobs, people have no income, and the companies producing food and goods have no way to survive and make a profit.

I say “reason” because without the exercise of human thought, there will be no innovation, no concept of how to bring goods to market, and no rational people to work in the marketplace to ensure these goods are made available.

A lot more is required for ending hunger than simply providing relief. I’m not against providing relief. Charity is fine. You’re entitled to live your life, without feeling guilty, whether you give to charity or not. But charity is a perfectly fine enterprise. Don’t for a single second confuse charity with actual production. Production is what makes all consumption, including charity, possible.

I recognize that many indulge in the misunderstanding or fantasy that poverty can “somehow” be eliminated with good will and generosity alone. Such a view is implied in all socialist impulses to use the force of government to “end hunger now” or, more broadly, “end injustice now” (as if the human requirement to eat in order to survive were somehow a form of injustice).

But it doesn’t work that way. Not in theory; not in practice. The only way to provide relief to the hungry suffering—of whom there are many, many more outside of America than in America—is to have a productive system of capitalism (or at least semi-capitalism) in place to provide it.

People almost universally condemn profit and self-interest, including free enterprise, as the root of all evil. The Pope, the President, your local clergyman; they all rail against material production and self-interest.

I don’t understand. You might say, “Caring about the suffering is the central purpose of life, and the highest moral standard.” I don’t agree, but you might claim it, as most people do. But relief of the suffering requires that someone, somewhere, at some time works hard, produces, behavess/thinks self-responsibly in the name of self-preservation. (Try producing anything without self-interest, and you’ll see why I insist it’s part of the equation.) You must have material progress in order to get the materials needed to the suffering masses. So why do we morally condemn the very thing required to do what we claim is the central purpose of life, i.e., relieve suffering?

The Pope, the President and their often reluctant subjects, the masses, claim to agree that self-interested, material production is morally suspect, if not downright evil. The Pope and the President don’t indulge in it, which is why so many of us consider them morally superior, in their aloof selflessness. Most of the masses do indulge in self-interest and self-preservation, and as a result they feel morally tainted. Hence, all the low self-esteem, emotional conflict, substance abuse and angst that permeate the psyches of the masses.

If you wake up in the morning and think of nobody but the suffering and the hungry, you ought to embrace rationality and unhampered capitalism with all the passion that our popes, presidents, priests and Hollywood celebrities exhibit in condemning them.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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