Horatio Alger Delusion


I’ve always felt that arguments challenging any form of social aid spring from pure self-righteous delusions. These challengers are hasty to claim that no one has ever helped them, so they have no cause to help others. Let us set aside that as Americans, Americans should be compelled, even if only slightly, to help fellow Americans in need. Better yet, let us set aside that as citizens of the world, everyone should be obliged to help fellow global citizens. Let us set aside ideas of international obligation, compassion, and interconnectedness—that we are in fact not islands unto ourselves.

These challengers seem to be claiming that throughout their entire personal history, not a single person has had even a minuscule role in their achievements; that they were not raised in a safe and loving environment where they were able to richly develop both physically and psychologically; that no one has ever instilled in them the value of education and work ethic; that no one ever encouraged them to succeed. No, they feel that these outcomes sprang from their own tenacious will.

They seem to claim that they saw no difference between their schools and the schools across the tracks; that they and only they purchased the clothes worn on their first job interview, the job that led to even better jobs that allowed them to participate more directly in society, perhaps even the job that led to the job that paid for their entire education without scholarships or financial aid. They seem to believe that from birth to present, they are the products of their doings.

This narrative of total self-sufficiency and deserved entitlement is a Horatio-Alger delusion. I know well I’ve only come this far from standing on the shoulders of my mother, who in turn stood on the shoulders of her parents.

If you have the means to help others in need, why wouldn’t you? In what kind of world do you want to live; in what kind of world do you want your children to inherit?

Remember where you came from and who helped you along the way. You are not an island, and you never were.

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