“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach and man to fish and you’ll feed him for life.” That is sound philosophy and there are memes to prove it. This bit of wisdom for the operation of social programs is ignored by governments at every level in the United States. Governments are fish dealers taking fish from fisherman’s nets and handing out the confiscated fish to those without poles with a gentle pat on the head and a hearty, “Come again.”
Teaching has somehow been dropped from the equation. Government programs have myriad requirements recipients must meet in order to get “free” fish. However, there is nothing that requires recipients to actually fish or to learn how to fish. Suggesting people learn to fish and actually go fish is bigoted, offensive and racist. Having abandoned their own rivers and ponds, many people feel entitled to a share of each day’s catch without ever intending to learn to fish.
Christians believe that when someone is in need that it is not enough just to pray for them. It is necessary to give them what they need. This is what government programs are trying to do and failing miserably. One reason government programs fail is that, for all the questions the government asks, it never asks the most basic question of all.
What is a homeless and hungry man’s greatest need?
It’s true that he needs a hot meal and a bed. However, his greatest need is not a meal and a bed. His greatest need is the means to procure those things for himself. When he learns to fish, he not only feeds himself, but he becomes a teacher able to help others.
There is some debate going on right now about how many fish the government should confiscate annually. Fishermen would like to keep more of the fish they catch. Some say letting the fishermen keep more fish will “cost” the government. I’m not sure how that will happen–the government makes little paper fish, but it doesn’t fish for itself nor does it own any fish of its own. To supply non-fishermen, the government must take fish from fishermen to feed the hungry on a daily basis.
Benjamin Franklin thought that if the government didn’t hand out fish that more people would take up fishing. I think ol’ Ben may have something there.