Don’t confuse aid with charity. Charity is old coats. Donating a coat doesn’t make you a good person but I bet it makes you feel like one. You didn’t even want that coat anymore, what you wanted was the closet space. Sure, you could have sold it at a garage sale and made, like, twenty bucks. It was an expensive coat, damn it. But you, with your heart of gold, gave it away. There’s a twinkle in God’s eye just for you.

What makes you a good person to others (and not just to yourself) is the same thing that makes me, or anyone who can afford the occasional $12 cocktail, a good person: Your vote. Not your coat.

Anastasia Basil on not helping yourself.

Basil’s point here is that actual effective aid for the reduction of poverty is structural, not individual. It’s not donating coats or giving $10 to someone destitute. It’s doing tangible things like voting for minimum wages and non-punitive welfare, as well as understanding the social structures that impact advantage and disadvantage and working to address them, rather than ascribing everything to individual virtue (or the perceived lack thereof).