During one of the Presidential debates, the moderator asked the candidates where they stood on illegal immigration. He followed up on his question by asking them if they would therefore deny emergency medical care to a 5-year-old child who was injured while in this country illegally.
His question uncovered the unavoidable conflict that occurs when the arbiter of justice is also the dispenser of charity.
Justice is based on law. In a free society, the law must be applied equally to every person. Each of us, regardless of our circumstances, must be held to the same standards of reward and punishment. The image of Lady Justice in her blindfold reminds us that no one is considered to be above, or below, the law’s dictates.
The government is the arbiter of justice.
Charity, on the other hand, is based on individual circumstances. To be effective, charity must actually look at the individual person to see what the recipient needs, how best to meet the need, and, if possible, how to move that recipient to a state of self-sufficiency. Charity is guided by standards, but it is based on love and generosity and compassion. To put it briefly, charity has to see.
Traditionally, the church has been the dispenser of charity.
But in the past four decades, the government has usurped the church’s charitable mission.
So the blind arbiter of justice is simultaneously acting as the seeing dispenser of charity. No wonder things are a mess.
Putting a blindfold on charity has resulted in rigid eligibility standards that ignore individual circumstances, with the insane result that the difference between the government’s "rich" and the government’s "poor" is one single penny. That rigid standard destroys initiative because recipients are punished for moving toward independence – unless they can attain it in one giant step. It has taught people that it is easier, and safer, to remain safely below that cut-off point, turning a short term need for assistance into a long-term condition of dependence.
On the other hand, putting holes in the blindfold of justice has resulted in unequal application of the law. Once justice moves form equal to unequal , it is not justice. The law cannot be either mean or kind because the law is not emotional. Holes in the blindfold move the law from an impersonal application of equal justice to an emotional roller coaster where feelings override standards. That is not just changing justice, it is destroying it.
The debate question is a prime example.
An injured child needs help. That is charity. Charity belongs to the church. So in a medical facility run by a church, an injured child would be helped.
Illegal immigration is a crime. That is justice. Justice belongs to the government. So a person who has committed a crime should be dealt with according to the laws concerning that crime.
When the two are separated, there is no confusion.
The confusion arises because the government has decided to combine the two roles. But no one can both be blind AND see. In its attempt, the government has perverted charity and destroyed justice.
Any effort to correct the problem must begin by acknowledging this reality, and then working to correct it.