Essay on Breaking Down Foundations

Submitted By Meadows78
Words: 1021
Pages: 5

Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot’s article Foundations was published in 1757 and was a very radical way of thinking for the time. Turgot discusses his opinion on “foundations” which involved corporate charities that were created to aid the community. He felt the underlying motives of the charities were aimed solely to the benefit of the founder and their self-worth, and not to fixing the true problems that were present and all the more increasing with these foundations. He also discusses how these charities change over time and the negative effect it has. Turgot then presents his ideas on what we should do to end “foundations”, and what should be done instead to further the public good. Turgot felt that charities may have had good intentions but there was more harm caused in the long run than any benefit and claimed, “Is it not very easy to do harm in wishing to do good”. Because most of these charities looked to have good intentions the public was blind to the ill that would come to society as a result. He points out, “misery is most common and most widespread in precisely the countries where these charitable resources are most abundantly available”. When we provide free subsistence we subsidize idleness according to Turgot. As we give to the poor and create free services we give them no desire to improve upon themselves. There is no desire to work when you can get what you need for free. This attitude which was stimulated by the charities created more beggars and loafers. There was also an example given of the establishment of the houses of asylum for repentant women. These houses were set up to provide shelter for women that were former prostitutes. They would need to provide proof of their debauched life to be accepted. This charity did nothing to prevent the cause of debauchery which was the true issue, but overlooked this and provided a means of housing for prostitutes. If anything this would encourage prostitution as after participating in such debauchery they would then have somewhere to go and be accepted. This cause and effect relation that Turgot implies is resulting from charities is further solidified when he provides an analogy of charity provided to a well-run state with no poor, “An institution offering free assistance to a certain number of men would soon create some poor”. These charities will break down a state, creating more beggars and thus increasing crime and hurting the overall good of society. Turgot felt over time charities begin to break down and it is impossible to maintain their function, stating “There is no body that has not in the long run lost the sense of its original purpose”. He felt with time we start to do things by habit and lose the original desire we once had. He references how we feel when we first visit a hospital and the feeling you have toward humanity and the emotions toward the people in misery. With habit the workers in the hospital lose this feeling and he observes their lack of concern toward the patients as they carry out their daily duties. The original enthusiasm that was once had is lost with habit according to Turgot. As a result the purpose of a foundation cannot be fulfilled continuously and idleness is created. This idleness that Turgot refers to creates inaction. This has a trickle effect through the management of the foundation, each becoming less likely to take any action to expose any issues within the foundation. Any monetary interest will supersede taking any action as profit has become the aspect of the foundation. This creates a cycle of foundations that are degenerated and then replaced again and again, instead of being changed for the better. The founders obviously take more concern to the distinction that comes with creating new foundations. The other issue according to Turgot is that needs change over time so what was once…