Along with honor killings, slavery, and polygamy, personal charity is a relic of barbarism. As civilization advances, the satisfaction of basic human needs moves from the realm of personal charity to the realm of civic solidarity. The extent to which a modern society still relies on personal charity to provide unfortunate individuals with adequate access to food, shelter, medicine, and even education, by way of scholarships, should be a source, not of personal pride on the part of generous philanthropists, but of collective shame on the part of the community.
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Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.


The boy had the kind of ears no human could possibly hope to grow into, and when he showed up at my restaurant table, just tall enough to mouth-breathe into the backside of my newspaper, I told him to eff off. I had become the anti-Mother Teresa in my first month in India. I knew from experience that if I gave a street kid food from my plate, it would lead to him asking for more food, money, and eventually, I feared, a piece of my soul. So I took to regularly telling the kids, beggars, and even the monkeys of Mysore to piss off while I was eating.

As the kid with the ears breathed on the other side of my paper, I read English-language personals to my friend Carly across the table. She was reading the… More…