It seemed like a good idea at the time. He was an honest man in trouble, so I gave him money. Not my money, your money. Surely you didn't begrudge it. It's not as if I took it out of your pocket. I got a law passed. The law took it out of your pocket. That's not stealing, that's—well, if it's a law it can't be stealing.
But then a funny thing happened. That honest man began acting as if he were spending stolen money. Instead of using it to get out of trouble, he used it to forget his trouble. I told him your money meant he was worthwhile, but he acted as if I had shown him he was worthless. Sure, it would have been better if you had personally given him your money, but you didn't. Actually, I suppose it would have been better if you had personally lent him the money, but you didn't. The law didn't allow for that.
I told this honest man that he had a moral right to your money, since he was in trouble. He agreed with me. At least he said he agreed with me. He said your money was his by right. He said it over and over. It was the first time I'd ever seen him drunk.
Then he complained about the amount of your money he was getting. I explained that other people needed your help also, and he couldn't expect you to provide the entire amount needed to get him out of trouble. He seemed to think that was funny, as if you were providing just enough to keep him in trouble.
Even though I knew he was an honest man, I began to have my doubts. He had the nerve to ask why I gave him your money instead of my money. I explained that I knew you wanted to help, and I was making that possible. He seemed to find everything funny.
For some reason, the poor guy just seemed to lose all regard for himself. His pride in being honest was the reason I gave him your money, but it seemed to work in reverse. He started saying odd things, like that the amount of your money he got was just the right amount to keep him anesthetized.
Finally I had to threaten to stop giving him your money unless he got off the booze. He pointed out that the law said you had to pay for getting him off the booze. He was right. He was not a liar; he was an honest man.
Then came a chilling moment. He looked me in the eye, and said, "So that's the way you help an honest man: by giving him stolen money." I could see he was delirious.
But I don't feel guilty about it: you should feel guilty about it. After all, it was your money that destroyed him.
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