. . . wrote Andy Rooney in this long-ago essay.Â This makes as much sense as anything else Andy Rooney ever said, which is to say, not much.Â What does it mean to â€œdeserveâ€ charity, beyond needing it?Â AsÂ George Bernard Shawâ€™s Alfred DoolittleÂ memorably explainedÂ in Pygmalion,
If theres anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, itâ€™s always the same story: â€œYoure undeserving; so you cant have it.â€ But my needs is as great as the most deserving widowâ€™s that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I dont need less than a deserving man: I need more. I dont eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause Iâ€™m a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything.
T]he mere fact that there is a valid moral distinction to be made does not entail that we want our public policies to make it. Â It is, after all, difficult to discern between the deserving and the undeserving â€“ maybe especially for governments, but for private charities too.
And Jewish folklore provides yet another version.Â The story is told of a rabbi who gave a beggar $100 and then faced the reproaches of his wife, whoâ€™d seen the beggarâ€™s wife wearing fur.Â â€œHe told me he needed it, and I had it, so I gave it to him,â€ replied the rabbi.Â â€œWhat he does with it after is none of my concern.â€Â The point is that generosity is the process of separating yourself from your money, not the process of evaluating someone elseâ€™s virtues.
Does I give my money to causes I judge worthwhile (and therefore deserving) and to agencies I believe are efficient (and therefore deserving)?Â Of course.Â But do I worry about whether the UN Population Fund is providing assistance only to women who became pregnant by an angel, or whether the ACLU vindicates the rights only of upright church-goers?Â Of course not.Â People who need help, deserve help.Â End of conversation.