Aid For Uncle Willie
FEBRUARY 01, 1957 by HUGH P. KING
Mr. King is an economist with the Chamber of Commerce of the
Uncle Willie passed on the other day — grand old guy. In his youth, he quickly worked up to top machinist in the railroad shops where he earned and saved quite a sum. He retired at 55 to go into the hardware business. "Always wanted a business of my own," he used to say.
Willie was one of the best-liked businessmen in town — "always good for a touch" for any worthwhile cause. He participated in almost every fund-raising drive that came along; he was a "pillar of the community."
Unfortunately, however, Willie never mastered the intricacies of accounting, bookkeeping, and purchasing. Big bargain sales were his specialty. And his prices were fantastically low. Before long, Willie was bankrupt.
His many good friends promptly bailed him out of this "temporary difficulty." But things seemed to go from bad to worse because, try as he would, Willie "just couldn’t seem to get the hang of this accounting stuff." Soon he was in bankruptcy again, which might have spelled the end of Willie’s enterprise and shop-keeping career. But a wealthy relative died and the legacy solved the problem for two years, during which Willie carried on the business in his usual grand style.
The day came when he couldn’t borrow enough to get out of the hole. When the proceedings were over, poor Uncle Willie hadn’t a dime to his name.
But Willie was still a master machinist. He could do anything with metal. The feats he performed time and again amazed even the topmost professionals. "It can’t be fixed" was like waving a red flag before Uncle Willie. He’d take up that challenge and nearly always prove it wrong. When finally convinced that he couldn’t make a go of the hardware business or any other because of his inability at figures, he went back to his old trade.
Emory Johnson hired him for his machine shop. He’d always liked Willie — same as the rest of us. But he couldn’t have expected much to come of it, for Willie was nearly 60. Within a month or two, however, Johnson landed a big contract, and Willie was put in charge of all machine shop operations. Shortly, he was earning enough to sport the fanciest car in town.
Every once in awhile, I’d drop in for a chat with Uncle Willie.
"You know," he said, "all my life I wanted a business of my own, but when I actually got into it, it just didn’t work out the way I thought it would. There were just so many things I’d never considered. Now I wouldn’t want this to get around — lots of mighty fine folks would feel hurt — but you know, when I went bankrupt that first time, I think all those well-meaning people who helped me get started again would have done me a big favor if they hadn’t. Know what I mean?"
I did. And I got to thinking that maybe the same thing is true of our foreign aid and many of our domestic "welfare" programs as was true with Uncle Willie. Maybe we’re just the well-meaning people who are keeping some tottering governments in power, or keeping some personal failures from making necessary adjustments. Maybe everyone would be a lot better off if we let things take their natural course. Maybe one of the big problems is our misguided generosity. Know what I mean?
A Personal Responsibility
The proponents of social control by the state collide as directly with the teachings of Christ as would two trains running toward each other upon the same track. Jesus was so uncompromising in his insistence that responsibility, be placed upon the individual for both his personal life and for his attitude toward others that Jesus never suggested an institution of any kind that could take the place of such individual responsibility. Nor did He ever mention an institution or a power to which an individual could transfer such responsibility, either by acquiescence, force or plunder.
Nevertheless, this fatal temptation—the temptation to believe that functions which are spiritual can be transferred to the secular state because it possesses the necessary force and power to "get things done"— continues to confront both religious and social effort.
Russell J. Clinchy, Charity: Biblical and Political