A terrific book full of wisdom. It is a great resource for how best to help the poor. The authors have the experience and background to write a book which should continue to be one of the go to books on this subject.
This is the third Olasky book I’ve read. Though they are very different books, all three have been terrific reads.
The Tragedy of American Compassion is the book that Olasky is best known for. Even though it was published thirty years ago, it stands up very well.
A compelling case is made that the prior ways of understanding compassion and therefore dispensing aid are superior to our modern policies and programs. By “prior ways,” we are talking about the nineteenth century.
Books like this can so easily fall prey to trotting out an endless stream of statistics. Numbers matter to be sure, but they don’t tell a story. W.E.B. DuBois learned that lesson in a graphic way when he realized that his fascination with numbers could not adequately convey seeing “the barbecued parts of a lynched man.”
Olasky peppers his seminal book with loads of stories that help us better understand what true compassion entails. In other words, Olasky appropriately moves both our minds and affections to consider a wiser approach.
A short, winsome, provocative (in the best sense), and biblical look at a topic of great importance.
It is indeed a very short read but will leave you pondering important matters for years to come.
Want a riveting read? Well, this book certainly qualifies.
As a young Christian, I read a collection of King’s sermons titled Strength to Love. In college, I took a rhetoric class where our professor regularly reminded us that King was the “greatest speaker he ever heard.”
Rosenbloom’s book chronicles the final 31 hours of King’s life. And what a life it is. The author does not paper over King’s adultery, but clearly thinks King was a great man.
King challenges us to live focused life with courage and compassion.
The publisher is to be thanked for making a beautiful book at a reasonable cost…a rarity in our day!
My friend, Roger Berry, sent this my way. Christian faith in action!
HT: Micah Mattix’s excellent email blast, Prufrock
Two “much food for thought” insights from the article above:
Adam Smith spoke of “the man of system” who “seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board.” [Richard] Thaler and his benevolent friends are men, and some few women, of system. They hate the Chicago School, have never heard of the Austrian School, dismiss spontaneous order, and favor bossing people around—for their own good, understand. Employing the third most unbelievable sentence in English (the other two are “The check is in the mail” and “Of course I’ll respect you in the morning”), they declare cheerily, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.”
The great essayist Lionel Trilling wrote in 1950 that the danger is that “we who are liberal and progressive know that the poor are our equals in every sense except that of being equal to us.” The same may be said of Burkeans or conservatives, too. He also wrote that “we must be aware of the dangers that lie in our most generous wishes,” because “when once we have made our fellow men the object of our enlightened interest [we] go on to make them the objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion.”
From C.S. Lewis:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
I’ve felt a bit of this shame during the recession when it looked like we might lose our house. I know the weariness of dickering with doctors over an easier payment plan. And yet…we have always had friends who have generously given of themselves and their resources. I can’t imagine what it would be like apart from supportive friends.
Short, but important read on paying more attention:
When our sons were younger we spent some time in the North Caroloina home of legendary Dickens scholar, Elliot Engel. Here is a recent interview with Elliot on The Christmas Carol.
A good interview with the author of a book I’m still processing…