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In the essay Samaritan’s Dilemma, Robert Sirico claims that charity is not always helpful to society. He implies that some people take advantage of others kindness, in this case, soup kitchens.
To support his claim, Sirico told a story of when he was training to be a priest. He states that each Friday he would help set up and serve a free meal to those in need, usually 200 to 500 people. One Friday after the meal, he and a friend cleaned up then went to a seafood pub just down the street. While eating the two men realized that the soup kitchen they had just finished working at was competition to the seafood pub and other surrounding restaurants. They realized that their charity was making it harder for other entrepreneurs to make a living and provide for their families.
Sirico basically states that when people are waited on “hand and foot” they become more dependant on others, therefore, making it even harder for them to get out of poverty. He also implies that giving “handouts” to people encourages laziness. He says, “When charity creates a disincentive for an able-bodied person to work, it leads this person down the wrong path. It encourages indolence. Real work provides the individual with the vehicle for a productive and virtuous life. It gives a person self esteem and a role to play in society.”
The support he uses does not help his case, though. For example, the comparison Sirico makes of the soup kitchen to a seafood pub is irrelevant. He states, "Just a block away we provide a product and a service that make this man's effort to provide for his own family more difficult.” A soup kitchen and a seafood pub are not comparable. The pub has the intention to make money, whereas a soup kitchen is not interested in money. Soup kitchens are there for the purpose of people who cannot afford to eat at other places. The speaker never states the prices or quality of food at the pub. This information would help the reader recognize the similarities and differences between the two. Sirico fails to mention the other restaurants that are also the pub owner's competition. Surrounding restaurants may be taking business from the pub, not the soup kitchen. In addition, Sirico uses insufficient personal experience to suggest that people are taking advantage of charity. After observing people coming to the soup kitchen, Sirico noticed a couple that "told me they needed to eat quickly because they were planning to go shopping after dinner.
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Sirico also uses many logical fallacies that make his claim even less convincing. For example, he creates a false dilemma in stating, "When charity creates a disincentive for an able-bodied person to work, it leads this person down the wrong path.” He makes it sound as if charity is making the otherwise capable people too lazy to provide for themselves. Sirico believes this is the only reason an able-bodied person would need charity. Yet even people who are physically able to work may need soup kitchens. People go to soup kitchens because they are hungry and most often have no other way to get food. Also, people who receive charity frequently would much rather provide for themselves than have to rely on the kindness of others in order to get a simple meal. Another fallacy that Sirico uses is a hurried generalization. At the soup kitchen, he "…witnessed one person arriving in a taxi.” Through this one person, Sirico assumes that people are all taking advantage of charitable services. However, one person is insufficient evidence to draw such a conclusion. It suggests the idea that anyone that can afford a taxi does not truly need a soup kitchen. He never considers that it may be less expensive for a taxi ride to the soup kitchen than an inexpensive mean in a real restaurant. And some people have a disability that allows them no other mode of transportation.
The author suggests making the people wash dishes or help prepare meals in exchange for food. The obvious question that should be asked here is: is that a drastic enough measure? Is washing dishes a big deal, donating five minutes of ones time is a small price to pay for a free meal, is it not? And when it comes to preparing the food; most people would rather eat the food that they prepared, at least they would know what was in it.
What people need to realize is that even if a few people are taking advantage of the system, the others who do need the services are very grateful. They should not be denied service because of a small portion of selfish people.