Most socialists (a.k.a., "progressives") are not bad people with evil intentions. They truly want to help their fellow man. I think this is true of most people regardless of their background. For instance, we Christians have the ultimate goal of following Jesus' commandment to love God and love one another, to feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the ill, visit those imprisoned. Jews have the same goal (Lev 19:18). Islam calls for providing for orphans and the needy and treating them justly. Even those who don't believe in God seem to appreciate the principle to care for one another. It's just part of being human. We all have common ground. We all recognize that helping each other makes society the best it can be.

The question becomes how best to do this. Socialists want to use the government to carry out this human responsibility because they believe it's the best way to help their fellow man. Their intentions are good. But a well-intentioned socialist, if they are honest, should understand that if you reach into your own pocket to help your fellow man, that is worth praise. But reaching into another man's pocket to do it is theft, and should be morally condemned. After all, government can't give a dollar to one man without first taking it from someone else.

So if it's morally wrong to use government to force someone else to care for our fellow man, the morally correct choice must be the private sector: private charities and free markets. Private charities are the most efficient way to help those in need. And historically, free markets have produced unprecedented wealth and prosperity. But "progressives" consider free markets unacceptable because they see it as a system that rewards greed and selfishness and creates an unequal distribution of income.

Maybe we can resolve this argument with progressives by seeing that there are two types of "greed," a good greed and a bad greed. Good greed is looking out for yourself without doing harm to someone else. Everyone has the right to self-preservation, and to try to better his own condition. When everyone has the freedom to exercise their own abilities and have the freedom to use the fruits of their labor as they see fit, we get continuous social progress. This is the foundation of property rights. But there is also bad greed. There are some in our society who take the easy way out by living at the expense of one another, for example through fraud, social welfare, or corporate welfare. Instead of living off the fruits of their own labor, they instead choose to plunder their fellow man.

So progressives are right to morally condemn this bad greed. But they shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water. Personal liberty cannot exist without free markets, respect for private property rights, and the rule of law. And when these are allowed to exist free from government interference, we have the most efficient economic development. And that benefits everyone in society, especially those most in need.

John Pickerill is chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party.