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Two Different Worlds

Written on Monday, September 5, 2011 by


Ideological clashes over particular laws, policies and programs often go far deeper. Those with opposing views of what is desirable for the future also tend to differ equally sharply as to what the reality of the present is. In other words, they envision two very different worlds.

A small but revealing example was a recent New York Times criticism of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs for not contributing to charity as much as the New York Times writer thought he should. The media in general are full of praise for business people and their companies for giving away substantial amounts of their wealth. Indeed, that is one of the few things for which many in the media praise businesses and the wealthy.

Americans in general — whether rich, poor or in between — have one of the most remarkable records for donating not only money but time to all sorts of charitable endeavors. Privately financed hospitals, colleges and innumerable other institutions abound in the United States, while they are rare to non-existent in many other countries, where such things are usually left to government or to religious organizations.

However, with charity as with everything else, it cannot simply be assumed that more is always better. A “safety net” can easily become a hammock. “Social justice” can easily become class warfare that polarizes a nation, while leading those at the bottom into the blind alley of resentments, no matter how many broad avenues of achievement may be available to them.

Judging businesses or their owners by how much wealth they give away — rather than by how much wealth they create — is putting the cart before the horse. Wealth is ultimately the only thing that can reduce poverty. The most dramatic reductions in poverty, in countries around the world, have come from increasing the amount of wealth, rather than from a redistribution of existing wealth.

What kind of world do we want — one in which everyone works to increase wealth to whatever extent they can, or a world in which everyone will be supported by either government handouts or private philanthropy, whether they work or don’t work?

It is not an abstract question. We can already see the consequences on both sides of the Atlantic. Those who have grown used to having others provide their food, shelter and other basics as “rights” are by no means grateful.

On the contrary, they are more angry, lawless and violent than in years past, whether they are lower-class whites rioting in Britain or black “flash mobs” in America. Their histories are very different, but what they have in common is being supplied with a steady drumbeat of resentments against those who are better off.

Politicians, intellectuals and whole armies of caretaker bureaucrats are among those who benefit, in one way or another, from picturing parasites as victims, and their lags behind the rest of society as reasons for anger rather than achievement.

Leading people into the blind alley of dependency and grievances may be counterproductive for them but it can produce votes, money, power, fame and a sense of exaltation to others who portray themselves as friends of the downtrodden.

Both private philanthropy and the taxpayers’ money support this whole edifice of a make-believe world, where largesse replaces achievement and “rights” replace work. Trying to rope Steve Jobs into this world ignores how many other famous businessmen, whose achievements in business have benefited society, have created philanthropies whose harm has offset those benefits.

Henry Ford benefited millions of other people by creating mass production methods that cut the cost of automobiles to a fraction of what they had been before — bringing cars for the first time within the budgets of people who were not rich. But the Ford Foundation has become a plaything of social experimenters who pay no price for creating programs that have been counterproductive or even socially disastrous.

Nor was this the only foundation created by business philanthropy with a similar history and similar social results.

Let business pioneers do what they do best. And let the rest of us exercise more judgment as to how much charity is beneficial and how much more simply perpetuates dependency, grievances and the polarization of society.

To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is


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  • nvrpc

    “A small but revealing example was a recent New York Times criticism of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs for not contributing to charity as much as the New York Times writer thought he should.”– First of all it’s none of their business what Joes did with his money. he does not have to contribute anything to anyone and I darn glad he didn’t since it seems the more you hand out to these people the less incentive there is to work giving the socialist democrats more vote to institutionalize their one world order BS. No this reporter can go right straight to he-l-l. Jobs worked for his money as do many of the well-to-do people and they should get to do what they want with it. There’s only one rich bass-tar-d I hate and Soros. Now that communist turd can be deported anytime and all asset ceased today..

    • johnk

      It’s too bad Soros’ higher ups won’t let the US do that. Even if Soros runs their cash cow broke and to the effect of not being useful for their profitable purposes anymore. Talk about being stupid.

    • Whackajig

      It is absolute proven fact that conservatives contribute much more to charities than the liberlosers do.

    • http://verizon Ann Rand

      whack… The only thing they contribute is criticism. Happy Labor day…Ann

    • Whackajig

      Ann, you did not make it clear who you meant by “they”. I sincerely hope that you were pointing to the liberwussies.

  • 68Truthseeker

    Investigators Probe White House Role in Massive Energy Loan (CBS News – 9/2/11)
    House investigators said they have uncovered evidence that White House officials became personally involved in an Energy Department review of a hot-button $535 million loan guarantee to the now-failed California solar company Solyndra

    Obama sticker in urinal draws criticism and laughs KGET TV 17.

  • SHERMAN (like the tank)

    Back when apple first started making computers, it was policy that they donated free computer labs to thousands of schools all over the country. since the early 1980’s most schools have brought their students into the computer age on free Apple computers. While, granted it was a masterpiece of marketing genius, with apple now a major force in the US economy, it was the charity of giving when times were lean that made them the popular products that brought them the wealth of today.

    In a smaller scale, most, quality small businesses were established on this same principle, (Give to those in need, and they will return the favor when they are able)

    Obama is destroying that philosophy in marketing today, and the trust involved in the process will be very difficult to reclaim.

    • Thom


      Actually, Apple had a few ups and downs between its establishment of the policy of giving away computer labs (I’m not sure when they stopped this, but they sure haven’t done this for a few years and their computers remain among the most expensive). Its current strength is more to based on: the weakness of the intial Vista realease, hampering MicroSofts entry into 64 bit computing, 2) the return of Jobs to Apple (with his recent retirement and advancing health issues, we’ll have to see if the company retains its vision), 3) the retirement of Bill Gates from Microsoft and 4) the release of the iPhone.

    • Thom

      Analysis of the current PC/Mac situation should also take into consideration this important fact: when one buys a Mac, one is also buying an OS. In other words, PC builders compete against other PC manufacturers and Mac, hence hardware-wise Mac accounts for about 30% of all computer sales (last time I checked). This looks (and is) good on that level. But on the level of OS sales, Windows-based systems account for about 70% of all sales and Mac OS-based systems are only 30%. Taken from this perspective, this is not so hot. So one has to be precise in just what one is attempting to ascertain. On hand-held devices, Apple does much better obviously; my comments only pertain to the computer/OS market.

  • R. Cook

    Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for life. Philanthropy and the taxpayers’ money should be used to help people become successful, not to remain dependent.

    • Whackajig

      Our systems of welfare remove the incentive for those on welfare to learn a trade, or do much of anything except remain parasites.

    • Thom

      I thought it was: “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll sit mindlessly in a little boat, staring vacantly at the water, and drink beer there for days on end”.

      Just a joke :-)

    • http://verizon Ann Rand

      Thom…. Good one. Let’s lighten up a bit.LOL

  • Alice

    In the oil producing countries, despots gather the wealth and give it to their families. The people are starving. In our country, productive people work and our government takes their money and gives it to the so-called poor. These American poor have cars, cell-phones, televisions, and new Nikes. They use money from welfare and food stamps and steal the rest or sell drugs. We are no better than the oil sheiks. Our liberals keep our people starving, not for food, but for self-esteem. Self esteem is replaced with resentment. Liberals are not satisfied with robbing business of their wealth, but cripplng their ability to create jobs. People in oil-rich countries should share the wealth produced by their countries oil; Americans wealth has been produced by the sweat of our brows and no one has a right to the wealth created by another’s sweat. The most egregious thing a government can do to its citizens is to provide them with income for which they or someone of their family has not earned.

    • Steven F

      I have never accepted unemployment payments, food stamps, or any other payments from the government with 2 exceptions. I accept tax refunds (Always much less than the withholding, and I accept a PAY check for working at the polls on election day (I think it actually exceeded minimum wage last year).

      My point is, I can’t afford everything the ‘poor’ have in this country.

    • bohemian

      Re: tax refunds – you’re comparing apples and oranges. Tax refunds are not a ‘payment from the government’. Tax refunds are a return of your own money, much the same as when you go to a grocery store and cashier rings up $31.58, you give her (or him) $40.00, and you get $8.42 change.
      Actually, tax refunds are the only DIRECT return of your own money. Every other ‘payment from the government’ is OUR money being paid out, after the whores in Washington pay most of our money out to ‘administer’ whatever it is they’re paying out.
      Remember – THE GOVERNMENT HAS NO MONEY – they only have what we pay in taxes.

  • Rose

    Thank you for clarifying the facts: they made their money by helping others to jobs and making money, how they spend their money is their business, and, thirdly, people who think they should be supported by others need to get off their duffs and take a job so they can contribute their work and money to help those who truly need help. It gets tiresome of those complaining about others and how much they have and that they, the loafers or complainers, want their hands on it. Simple. You need money get rid of Obama so we can get back to work and honor Jobs and others who create wealth and businesses and jobs. We earned what we have. Have you, complainers? or just sitting around wanting to take from others? I guess the answer is obvious: You have your hand out for others’ money but don’t give a dime yourself to anyone. You are disgusting, non-American, and definitely not contributing anything of value and that is why America is suffering with an idiot as prez and lots of people on welfare, etc. We can’t afford you any more. Get used to it.

    • Joyce

      As stated in the Bible, 2nd Thessalonians 3:10, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” In America, not only does he eat, but during the course of his lifetime our government has in essence bought him a 5-star restaurant.

    • http://verizon Ann Rand

      Joyce… And in obama’s case $300 a lb. Kobe beef.

  • Randy131

    You want to see a huge example of hypocracy, look at the New York Times and the author of the article berating Steve Jobs for not contributing to charity, as if the New York Times and this author knew what Jobs has contributed to the poor, for some like to do that anomously, and ask what has the New York Times contributed to charities that benefit the less fortunate, the poor people of America, and ask the same of this author, whose attitude surely must make him a huge philanthropist, otherwise where would he get the right to critisize Steve Jobs? Everyone knows that the New York Times is nothing but a liberal rag, espousing a socialist and communist agenda, along with all the members of it’s staff, as the author of this critisism must surely do also if he wants to keep his job, for which Ann Coulter has written a best selling book, according to the New York Times, about the liberal pretense for charity, and their lack of providing charity to the poor. It should be read by everyone so as to understand the New York Times’ and this author’s attack on Steve Jobs, for the unfound charities they could not credit to him.

    • Joyce

      The people and corporations who contribute to charity only to have their names emblazened on buildings or put on a list extolling their generosity for all to see are hypocrites. Those who contribute but keep their names hidden from all but the recipient charity are building up their riches in heaven. Just like prayer, righteous deeds are best done “in a closet.”

    • Whackajig

      Dummy………… in the vast majority of cases it is the recipient not the donor who puts a name or names on a building to show who donated the money to build it.

    • Johnnygard

      I can’t remember if it was the 2007 or 2008 tax returns, but Obama gave 1% and Biden gave a TENTH of a percent to charity. They started doing a little better when people started looking at them closer. I wonder what charities they gave to, Greenpeace? Sierra Club? (Are those tax deductible charities?)



    • Whackajig

      8……are you saying that the welfare rats are not incompetent? In what areas does their competence lie? Laziness? Scamming the system? Indolence?

      I would dearly love to be able to tell each one of the parasites just how incompetent they are, and that is all I would send them.


      Whackajig – no I am not saying that. Some of all humanity is probably incompetent. Even those that have achieved. But if they are capable of scamming the system, they are capable of working. What I am saying is that if I hand it to them they will not do for themselves nor will they know the joy of setting and achieving goals.

    • Whackajig

      Some folks can be helped.

      Some folks reject any effort to raise them from government dependence.

      Many are far too stupid to benefit from anything except handouts.

  • Wolf-Talker

    First and foremost it isn’t anybody’s business as to whether Apple is or isn’t making enough charitable contributions! It is Apple’s business only!

  • Brian

    Socialism is great………………until you run out of other peoples money.

    Margaret Thatcher.

  • Miroco

    Thomas Sowell is my main man, what a guy. Excepting my Texas redneck accent he and I would never disagree. Thanks to Rush I also came to know Walter Williams, had it been them rather than Jesse and Al we would have NO racial problems in this country. Thanks for another spot on column.

  • am2sweet

    I saw this quote earlier this month and it fits although most on welfare won’t see it like that.

    A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have……Thomas Jefferson.

    • Whackajig

      Let me know when the government begins taking from the parasites and giving back to the productive people.

      That will be a sight to see.

    • Boletero

      Elect me and that will happen !!!!

  • Buck

    If America ever wanted or needed a good president , black , white or purple , Thomas Sowell wouuld be the best we could ever get . Unfortunately , those of us that are happy being uninformed and ignorant have never heard of him as he is a conservative columnist that remains sbove the fray .

  • EDDO

    Thomas Sowell is a rare person indeed. He would make a
    wonderful president or vice pres. or chief of staff. He is a
    great man.
    We all know what color we are but the rare ones don’t make a note of it. Others perform or not and that is what they should be rated on. The current adminis. is NOT performing in the best interests of our country.

  • m. sharpe

    Great article Dr. Sowell. Most of the wellfare programs were set up by F.D.R. to capture voters for life. The ‘New Deal System’ was established to net Blacks, poor southern Whites,Jews, and private labor Unions. Search F.D.R. and see what He did for the Democratic party.He assisted in the destruction of man’s will and replaced God with Gov.It could be referred to as a type of Beast.