The 114th Congress should
- end the "maintenance of effort" requirement and
- prohibit new entrants to the welfare rolls;
- end the legacy of "The New Deal."
- acknowledge that it has no constitutional authority to levy taxes and appropriate funds for charity.
Are Libertarians Greedy?
Libertarians sometimes have a reputation of being "greedy capitalists" who don't care about the poor.
Individualists who don't care about their community.
Go ahead and assume for a moment that I'm a cold-hearted uncompassionate conservative.
Capitalists who put profit ahead of people.
Assume that I don't believe there are any poor people who deserve help.
- There are no children ignored by their parents.
- No elderly shut-ins with empty cupboards.
"You're crazy!" you say. "What do you mean there are no poor deserving of help? Haven't you seen the statistics!?"
I don't believe statistics. What you have to do is show me a poor person that you yourself have personally met. If you know there are poor who need help, Show me that person. Take me there. Point out the "deserving poor."
When you do, then I will tell you what you have to do. Then I will tell you what your three options are.
||You can take some money out of your wallet and help that person.
Don't have enough money to share? Then you have two options left.
||You can persuade me and other greedy Republican fat-cats to give you some of the money we made as entrepreneurs and capitalists so that you can give it to the poor person you encountered. If we think this poor person is poor because of his own fault, and don't want to give you our money to give to that bum -- or even if we agree with you that your poor person is a victim of tragic circumstances, but don't want to give you our hard-earned money because we're greedy and heartless -- then perhaps you will conclude you have one option left.
||Lobby for a government welfare program so you can put a gun to my head and order me to give you my money so you can redistribute my wealth more "fairly," threatening me with fines and prison if I try to keep the money I earned.
Libertarians believe that this third option is really no option at all. It is not ethically legitimate.
|And if you think Americans are cruel and hard-hearted, what makes you think you can convince Americans to vote for liberal politicians to redistribute their wealth? This question shows that welfare advocates are elitist, and don't really believe in "democracy." They say in effect, "My neighbors are greedy and selfish, and their money should be taken from them by the State and given to me, because I am more compassionate and wiser than they are, and I'll use their money for the benefit of the needy (after I take my cut)."
Why would you spend your time and money lobbying for an impersonal government program instead of persuading people to directly and personally help the poor?
I believe socialism is unethical.
Every government program is socialist.
Every government program is funded by theft.
Every government program is unethical.
So what am I going to do about the poor? As a Libertarian I only have two options:
Option #1: For nearly ten years before I moved to Missouri, I lived in "B-1 Bob" Dornan's district, in a not-very-desirable part of Santa Ana, California. I rented a large 12-room house with a couple of friends, and I let those that I thought were "deserving poor" stay in the extra rooms. I hosted 12-step meetings to help them get off drugs, sex, gambling, and other "defects of character" that kept them trapped in poverty. I helped them write a résumé. I collected clothing appropriate for job interviews. I gave them bus fare to get to their new job. I also let those that many Republicans believe are "undeserving" live with me,
such as illegal aliens. I taught them English. I protested in front of the homes of employers who didn't pay them what they promised. I made the poor a part of my own home, and did so without salary or government grants, sacrificing the earning potential of a USC graduate who passed the California Bar Exam. I did this because I had been persuaded that helping the poor made me more fully human.
I didn't do it because the government forced me to do it.
In fact, my most consistent obstacle in my quest to help the poor was the government. I wasn't "licensed." I wasn't a "professional." My home wasn't "zoned" as a "shelter." I remember spending hours and hours with one addict, trying to keep him from using, thinking I had succeeded, and the next day he received a check from the government, who had decided that his drug addiction was a "disability." That entire check -- over $1,000 -- was turned over to the local drug dealer for a weekend drug binge. "Your tax dollars at work."
A faceless check from a Washington bureaucrat is no substitute for genuine person-to-person, heart-to-heart charity on a local level. Socialism is not an ethically legitimate option.
Now I am running for Congress to advance Option #2 -- persuading people to take personal responsibility for themselves, their families, and for the poor in their own community. Not everyone needs to invite a dozen homeless people into their homes, but everyone can do something. Right now, most people do very little to help the needy, believing "that's the government's job."
The Bible says
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
Before the "New Deal" transferred charity to the State, churches and voluntary associations did not fail to provide for widows and orphans. The transfer was made in order to benefit government, not the needy.
In the days following the terrorism of 9-11, Americans showed themselves to be charitable beyond measure, without government coercion. We came to the aid of the people in New York because we are Americans, not because the government threatened to have us brutalized in prison if we didn't. True charity comes from the heart, not the barrel of a government gun. Welfare belongs to the people, not the politicians.
Here’s a quotation from an American president. Who do you think it was?
The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America.
Those were not the words of a 19th century president. They came from the lips of our 32nd chief executive, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his State of the Union Address on January 4, 1935. A moment later, he declared, "The Federal Government must and shall quit this business of relief."
Of course, we all know that it didn’t. Indeed, 30 years later Lyndon Johnson would take "this business of relief" to new and expensive heights in an official War on Poverty. Another 30 years and more than five trillion federal welfare dollars later, a Democratic president in 1996 would sign a bill into law that ended the federal entitlement to welfare. As Ronald Reagan, a far wiser man, observed long before it dawned on Bill Clinton, "We fought a war on poverty and poverty won."
What Reagan instinctively knew, Bill Clinton finally admitted, and FDR had preached but didn’t practice, was that government poverty programs are themselves poverty-stricken. We have paid an awful price in lives and treasure to learn some things that the vast majority of Americans of the 19th century — and the chief executives they elected — could have plainly told us: Government welfare or "relief" programs encouraged idleness, broke up families, produced intergenerational dependency and hopelessness, cost taxpayers a fortune and yielded harmful cultural pathologies that may take generations to undo.
From: Government, Poverty and Self-Reliance: Wisdom From 19th Century Presidents, by Lawrence W. Reed.
FDR's "New Deal" only Perpetuated the Great Depression.
It is pure folly to continue those policies.
Poverty Has Already Been Abolished
When it comes to making government policies, confiscating the property of the rich, and strengthening the power of the Reich, it's important to re-think the definition of poverty. Robert E. Rector and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D. write:
|For most Americans, the word "poverty" suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. But only a small number of the 35 million persons classified as "poor" by the Census Bureau fit that description. While real material hardship certainly does occur, it is limited in scope and severity. Most of America's "poor" live in material conditions that would be judged as comfortable or well-off just a few generations ago.
The following are facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:
- Forty-six percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
- Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
- Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
- The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
- Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars.
- Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
- Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
- Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.
As a group, America's poor are far from being chronically undernourished. The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children and, in most cases, is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than do higher-income children and have average protein intakes 100 percent above recommended levels. Most poor children today are, in fact, supernourished and grow up to be, on average, one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier that the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.
While the poor are generally well-nourished, some poor families do experience hunger, meaning a temporary discomfort due to food shortages. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 13 percent of poor families and 2.6 percent of poor children experience hunger at some point during the year. In most cases, their hunger is short-term. Eighty-nine percent of the poor report their families have "enough" food to eat, while only 2 percent say they "often" do not have enough to eat.
Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs. While this individual's life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.
America's poor compare favorably with the general population of other nations in square footage of living space. The average poor American has more square footage of living space than does the average person living in London, Paris, Vienna, and Munich. Poor Americans have nearly three times the living space of average urban citizens in middle-income countries such as Mexico and Turkey. Poor American households have seven times more housing space per person than the general urban population of very-low-income countries such as India and China.
Capitalism has eliminated economic poverty in America for all intents and purposes. What remains is spiritual poverty, which is the absence of character that causes a person's life to appear "dysfunctional" from the perspective of a person who possesses the character that enables him to "exercise dominion" and pursue wealth. Mentally retarded people can still be trained to develop minimal habits of work, though they will still need charity to compensate for their limited abilities to produce economic value (wealth). The vast majority of those in the government-defined ranks of poverty are mentally and physically competent but don't have the character to produce good work habits which result in a
comfortable income. This is a spiritual problem, solved by Godly education and apprenticeship, not an economic problem calling for redistribution of wealth.
Some people object to the Libertarian position on the grounds that the majority of people are greedy and have no compassion for the poor, and the poor will starve to death unless Government overrules the greedy majority and provides benefits for the poor against the objections of the greedy majority.
But every November these same people engage in campaigns and political action to persuade the greedy majority to vote for liberal politicians who promise to give money to the poor. Does this make sense? Why not just persuade the greedy majority to give directly to the poor instead of sending their money to Washington in a long, leaky hose, and have Washington send it back with instructions not to use it to teach morality and virtue?
Liberals don't believe the greedy majority can be trusted to take care of the poor, but then they turn around and claim that the greedy majority can be entrusted to vote in democratic elections for government officials who will take care of the poor.
Or do they?
Some might suspect that those who object to the Libertarian position don't really want the majority to decide, and don't really believe in democracy. They are elitists who believe they are better than everyone else. They want their views imposed on others by force.
|Tuesday, August 22, 2006 marked the 10th Anniversary of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, signed by Bill Clinton, the most extensive reform of the nation's welfare laws since the Great Society. Since the act, welfare rolls have declined dramatically, but poverty and long-term dependence on government programs persist. The following works look back at welfare reform successes and failures, and forward to ask what the future of welfare reform holds.
- Cato Policy Forum: Welfare Reform Turns 10: A Look Back, A Look Ahead
- "The Critics Were Wrong: Welfare Reform Turns 10," by Michael Tanner, San Francisco Chronicle, August 21, 2006.
- "Welfare Reform: Less Than Meets the Eye," by Michael Tanner, Cato Policy Analysis no. 473, April 1, 2003.
- The Poverty Of Welfare: Helping Others in Civil Society, by Michael D. Tanner (2003).
- "Welfare," Chapter 29, Cato Handbook for Congress: Policy Recommendations for the 107th Congress, (2001).
Sharon Harris, Advocates for Self-Government
A free society is a generous society.
In a free society, those in need would be better cared for. Michael Novak said of a free society, "No better weapon against poverty, disease, illiteracy, and tyranny has yet been found . . . Capitalism's compassion for the material needs of humankind has not in history, yet, had a peer."
How do we know a free society would be more generous? Thanks to Marvin Olasky, we don't have to theorize. In his two books on American compassion, The Tragedy of American Compassion and Renewing
American Compassion, he provided examples and reasons that private charities have worked wonders — and showed why the government's so-called "welfare" was doomed to failure from the outset.
Government welfare has created resentment against the poor. And government has taken away the sense of personal responsibility to provide for others.
It's time to strip away the veneer of humanitarianism from government.
As Charles Murray demonstrated in Losing Ground, government welfare simply doesn't work. In fact, it's been a disaster.
And it's not necessary.
We didn’t need Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush — or Congress — to create the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, or thousands of other charities.
We don't need the income tax to force us to help the poor. As Milton Friedman points out, before the income tax "privately financed schools and colleges multiplied. Foreign missionary activity exploded. Non-profit, private hospitals, orphanages, and numerous other institutions sprang up like weeds. Almost every charitable or public service organization, from The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to the YMCA and YWCA, from the Indian Rights Association to the Salvation Army, dates from that period."
People know this, intuitively. When you’re talking with someone who really cares about helping the poor, just ask them this question: "If you came in to lots of money — say you won the lottery — and you had millions of dollars for use in helping the poor, would you give your money to the Department of Health and Human Services, or to a private charity with a great track record for helping the poor?" You can see the light bulb come on in someone's head. No one ever proposes to donate a windfall to the government.
The gentle invisible hand of private charity vs. the visible fist of government welfare.
The Invisible Hand Is a Gentle Hand
In addition to traditional forms of welfare for the poor, the Government currently provides welfare in the following forms:
If all Republicans are greedy and don't care about the poor, then all Democrats are elitists who think everyone is selfish and depraved and cannot be depended on to help the needy - everyone, that is, except Democratic politicians, who "feel our pain" and are truly compassionate -- as long as they can be compassionate with other people's money.
I believe America is a better nation than this.
by Bart Frazier, Posted July 6, 2007
To every high-school student in this country between the ages of 15 and 18, this letter is to you. If there is ever something that you should take the time to learn about, it is government.
Why? — you ask. If your idea of government is endless babbling by old congressional codgers on C-SPAN, you’re partly right. The art of government, or politics, is less entertaining than a visit to the dentist. However, hidden among all the babble of congressional rules and yeas and nays that you hear on television, the real secret that is never explained to you in school is that government is force, and government can use this force to violate your rights.
It is through government that other people can take your money, forbid you to visit foreign countries, prevent you from drinking alcohol, mandate attendance in public (i.e., government) schools, and even force you into the military to possibly die in battle thousands of miles away from American shores. In short, you need to be interested in government because government officials can adversely affect your lives in the most serious of ways.
Since government at its basic level is force, what should the role of government be? After all, with force government can act in just about any way that we allow it to, right or wrong. Philosophers have debated the question for centuries, but a sound rule of thumb that has emerged is that government should defend our rights, while at the same time not violate them.
In other words, government should protect us from the violence of others but not initiate violence against us. The government should not be allowed to steal from us, it should not be allowed to enslave us, and it should not be allowed to murder us. In short, it should protect our fundamental rights but not transgress them.
It sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Government should not prevent any activity that does not violate the rights of another person. However, you’ll see, in fact, that most of the things that government does today violate individual liberty in one way or another. Let’s look at an example.
Contrary to what your teachers may have taught you, government welfare is not charity. It is theft. Social Security is not the warm and fuzzy charitable retirement program that you have been led to believe it is. It is instead a scheme that enables the government to take money (by force) from one group of people — i.e., the young and productive, most of whom are struggling to start families — in order to give it to a group of elderly people, many of whom have plenty of money saved up after decades of work.
Let’s suppose that you are hungry but you have no lunch money. In order to buy lunch, you beat up a middle-schooler and take his pocket change to feed yourself. I know all of you would agree that this would be wrong. Theft is always wrong, no matter what the intention is, no matter how hungry you are.
W E L F A R E
When you love strangers so much that you're
willing to have government steal money
from another stranger to help them out.
Yet this is exactly what government does with Social Security when it takes the wages of the working to give to the elderly. The only difference is that instead of beating you up, they use the IRS to take your money. If you don’t pay your taxes to the IRS, government agents may not beat you up but they will send you to jail. How can it be right for the government to take one person’s money and give it to someone else, especially when it is clearly so wrong for anyone else to do so?
No matter how well-intentioned, the government cannot morally take from one person what is rightfully his and transfer it to another person. Charity exists only when a person voluntarily gives his money or time to help someone out. The only moral way to help the elderly, sick, and poor is to freely give your time or money. Good examples abound, such as the work your church or local soup kitchen does.
Social Security, and all other government programs that transfer money from one person to another, are legalized theft and should be abolished. Americans lived without these welfare-theft programs for more than 125 years; our ancestors believed in voluntary charity, not coerced welfare. If you did not know that, you should pay more attention to government.
There are many more examples of the abuses that we suffer at the hands of government, but as long as you learn this one lesson — that government is the biggest threat to the freedom of its citizenry — you are well on the way to becoming an educated citizen and a patriot. There are no parting words more appropriate with which I could leave you than these words attributed to George Washington: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
That is why you should pay attention to government.
The Future of Freedom Foundation
"The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience."
- Albert Camus
Libertarians (Small Government) are More Charitable than Liberals (Big Government)
There are two issues that converge with the welfare issue: immigration and abortion.
- Libertarians are generally pro-immigration, while "conservatives" are anti-immigration, largely because of the feared effect large numbers of immigrants would have on the welfare system. Here's what you can do.
- "Conservatives" are also anti-abortion, but have a bad reputation for neglecting the needs of single mothers who are in financial crises. Here's what you can do.
Once you take the first step, you'll see how these basic responsibilities are the foundation of a healthy social order.