Don Boudreaux, at Cafe Hayek, had some thoughts on this sort of folk.  Here’s one:

Saviors need victims who need saving.  And if such victims are not real and readily available, the saviors conjure them up by convincing themselves that this or that group of people are helpless victims eager to be raised from the muck of their misfortunes by the saviors.  Sometimes the saviors convince even the groups they seek to save that they—the members of these groups—are indeed mired in a muck from which they can be extracted only by the saviors.

This much is true, but I think Boudreaux missed a couple of other characteristics of these saviors.

One is that these become addicted to their saviorism: the addiction of needing victims is the saviors‘ desperate need for the ego rush of their helping, whether that help is real or a figment of the pseudo-benefactor’s imagination.  This sort of savior cannot get along without the dependency of others on their own largesse.

The other missed characteristic is pure, raw power.  That dependency of other on these ones’ handouts is, for these, nothing more than an enhancement of their own personal power, whether political, economic, or social.  The dependent ones represent votes, or tools for gathering donations from third parties (a significant fraction of which goes to “overhead”), or prestige among peers and credulous acquaintances and strangers.

One way by which we readily can discriminate such saviors from legitimate benefactors is the nature of the benefaction.  The latter offers hands up, temporary aid, means by which the beneficiary can get back on his own feet and become/resume independence and personal responsibility.  The former gives handouts, which serve only to maintain the “beneficiary’s” dependency on his savior.

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