|St. John of God, Patron of Hospitals|
I read this really great quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. just now.
A nation that continues, year after year, to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
I don't know the context of this quote, but it mirrors the way a lot of people feel.
His sentiments are understandable. A culture that is absorbed with problems outside of itself and ignorant of the grave problems within is blind, and there is a good chance it is already deteriorating.
However, from what I understand in the above quote, his prescription for this dangerous mindset could be unhealthful as well.
Yes, I know, cheeky little thing, aren't I, to disagree with the great Dr. King? My reservations about his solutions are these.
Please note these are simplified thoughts, and that they do not take into account the nuances of foreign policy and social doctrine. I'm just putting this out there for thought and discussion.
1) Government is notoriously wasteful. We spend millions of dollars funneled into programs that are supposed to address social evils but which go toward paying for unnecessary red tape and redundancies. How much of that tax money is actually seen by the poor and the sick?
Does anyone have any non-biased resources regarding this matter?
2) Military defense is the express jurisdiction of the federal government, as it was drawn up in the Constitution. Social programs are not.
So what, you ask. People need to be helped, do they not?
Unlike with military defense, the government is not the sole entity responsible for social uplift. The institutions traditionally looked to for citizens fallen on hardship were charities, chiefly charities run by a religious organization or church. In fact, the beginning of the twentieth century in this country, most hospitals were run by the Catholic Church. (See the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.)
The role of the government is to make sure the environment of our society is not hostile--or better yet, nurturing--to these spontaneous oases of human generosity. In the case that more is needed, citizens can vote to raise taxes for social programs.
What do you think? Have I misinterpreted Dr. King's quote entirely?
For further reading:
Just War Doctrine
Catholic Social Teaching