Acton Institute Powerblog

Ineffective Compassion?

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Writers on this blog have pointed to a lot of examples of effective compassion when it comes to charity and public policy. But what can ineffective compassion, or maybe just a lack compassion, look like? The Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina Andre Bauer made a comment saying government assistance programs for the poor was akin to “feeding stray animals.” I’m not highlighting the comment just to bash Bauer and you can watch the clip where he clarifies his comments. He continues in a follow up interview by offering up a much more articulate and measured response to the problems of government dependency.

I think the comments show, besides being woefully short on compassion, the value of the work we do at the Acton Institute. This is especially true when it comes to talking authentically on issues of poverty and the unintended consequences that result from government solutions. Bauer went on to say that “My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed.” The problem with the illustration or metaphor he used was that it completely misses the mark about the dignity of the human person. Furthermore, most Americans want to help people, even when their intentions are misguided.

Let’s be frank, it is hard to adequately help those caught in a cycle of dependency by government programs with animal comparisons. It is not a coincidence that many programs and charities that are run for the poor are managed best by those who have a deep love for those in need. It is one of many reasons why they are more effective and loving than bureaucratic treatment. 1 Samuel 2:8 declares: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; upon them he has set the world.”

In a story in the Boston Herald Bauer adds, “I also believe government, too often in its effort to help people, ends up creating a bigger problem.” The story also highlights some of the circumstances of Bauer’s upbringing, which suggests to me it is hard to believe he is at his core a man of little compassion. In any event, it sounds like Bauer could really benefit from Acton University.

Ray Nothstine is opinion editor of the the North State Journal in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previously, he was managing editor of Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford.


  • I think the whole problem with the comment from Andre Bauer is the comparison of humans with animals. Human are NOT animals, and even describing them as “sentient animals” misses the mark. Man was created in the image and likeness of God. I am sure, however, that Andre Bauer didn’t intend to demean humans as mere animals. Yet that is exactly what many secularists do nowadays. To them humans are merely another species. Sadly, though, they rarely have the honesty to apply such a description to themselves.

  • When citizens considers that Americans are at risk of being a victim of homicide the nearer the womb or tomb they are, then the Lt. Governor Bauer’s remarks aren’t so remarkable. Consider a million abortions (non-persons) a year, and the spector of death panels in proposed health care legislation.

    It might be safer to be a cute little puppy or an endangered species than a human being in a progressive society. I’m certain that Margaret Sanger’s remarks aren’t that far off from Mr. Bauer’s.

  • While big government doesnt solve anything, looking at the poor as stray animals is the antithesis to Christian compassion. There is a better way, a third option.

    Red Letter Believers
    “Salt and Light”

  • Neal Lang

    “When citizens considers that Americans are at risk of being a victim of homicide the nearer the womb or tomb they are, then the Lt. Governor Bauer’s remarks aren’t so remarkable. Consider a million abortions (non-persons) a year, and the spector of death panels in proposed health care legislation.”

    When ever any government is impowered to rank human beings by their “worth” the World get ahorations such as the Nazi gas chambers, the starvation of the Ukrainian Kulaks, Stalin’s Gulags, and Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” and “Cultural Revolution.”

    The definitive Human Rights of Life, Liberty, and Property in the US emminant not from government but from God, the Creator, in Who’s imagine ALL MEN were created. At least that was once the way America understood Human Rights. Unfortunatly today government and the courts can determine who does, and who does not deserve the Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property – and they do this by random score-keeping. Unborn babies die because that dependent, and therefore a “non-person.” Old folks die because they are not worth as much to society in terms of productivity. Jew die because they are different, and some peasants die simply because they are in the way!

  • Barbara Huet de Guerville

    The poor man needs our prayers. It would be nice to take away his collection of The Birth Control Review. For those of us who live in SC his comment was both an embarrassment and a blessing. It kills his chances of becoming governor.