“Do As I Say, Not As I Do”
People in support of state welfare like to accuse anyone in opposition to this system of being heartless and greedy. In fact, the opposite is true. I have yet to meet a single statist, leftist, or socialist who volunteers, gives to charity, or helps the poor in some way. I know this because I ask them. At first they look dumbfounded, as though this question has nothing to do with our feisty political debate. Then they admit they don’t and go on to justify it by claiming that they do not need to because they pay taxes. Government welfare programs seem to do one thing well; they give uncharitable people a way to not feel bad about it.
The embodiment of this attitude is journalist, talk show host and America’s Got Talent judge, Piers Morgan. In an interview with Penn Jillette – a known Libertarian and larger half of Penn & Teller- he brings up the fact that more and more American’s are having to resort to food stamps. His voice grows sad and empathetic as he describes the importance of taking care of the less fortunate first. After this convincing speech, Penn asks “And I assume you are helping them?” You can watch Piers Morgan’s reaction here, about 2 minutes into the clip. He stumbles for a second but remains honest, admitting he doesn’t donate time or money. He justifies his inaction by claiming that only the government knows how to help the poor. He goes a step further saying that people cannot directly help each other. I guess when Piers Morgan walks down the east end of London and a beggar asks him for a sandwich he refers him to David Cameron.
Sadly, this attitude does not start or end with Piers. The belief that the less fortunate would perish without government assistance has permeated our society to the bone. Interestingly, the people who perpetuate this propaganda are the very same people who would never help anyone. These people cannot comprehend individuals being charitable because they themselves are not charitable. They want the government to take this moral responsibility off their hands; they want nothing to do with the lower classes, they want them out of sight and out of mind.
People base others’ actions on their own actions. A cheating husband or wife will always be suspicious of their spouse. A person claiming that no one would help the poor were to not for the government claims so because they know they personally wouldn’t, therefore assuming others wouldn’t either. I am guilty of the opposite. I do volunteer, so I do believe in the charity of others. Neither opinion can be said to be correct; some people would help the poor and some wouldn’t. The real question is: would there be enough people who would? Let’s look at history and statistics.
Before most kinds of state assistance, more direct ways of helping people were used. Mutual-aid societies, fraternal hospitals, and good ol’ neighborly love pulled entire neighborhoods through. “During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, more Americans belonged to fraternal societies than to any other kind of voluntary association, with the possible exception of churches” writes David T. Beito, author of From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967. These societies ran homes for the elderly, orphanages, hospitals, and other social services without help from the government. Hospitals such as the Knights and Daughters of Tabor in Mississippi, treated primarily lower classes such as immigrants and sharecroppers for a mere $30 a year. People were certainly not left to die on the streets. Eventually the government decided to impose numerous rules and regulations, making all this good will illegal.
Currently, America is the most charitable nation on earth, with China being one of the least. Almost 50% of Americans have given their time to help the needy. Who are they? They aren’t the wealthy, they aren’t corporations or politicians, and they certainly aren’t liberals. The most charitable demographic is below middle class; they don’t even earn enough to be eligible for a tax return on their donations. Right wing households donate more time and money then leftwing and moderate households. Out of the top 25 most charitable states, 24 were red. It is interesting that the people supporting the political spectrum, by which the forceful redistribution of wealth is not endorsed, are also more charitable.
The fact is people do care about each other. The government – and the media outlets that it fuels – love perpetuating the Hobbesian notion of humans being in a perpetual state of war. It is not people but their governments that make war. Bad people exist, but they would have trouble retaining power without the state as their vessel. Do we forget that the majority of wars are started and carried out by governments? How can we expect the force responsible for these atrocities to help underprivileged classes?
A government’s goal is to grow and increase its power; it cannot do this with a united, self-sufficient population that trusts each other. It wants us thinking that we are all selfish, greedy, and that we need to be saved from ourselves and each other. A large dependent class fuels government, keeps taxes high, and ensures that the poor stay poor. I would like to see the government leave us alone and let us be human; we need not take moral reference from a system that kills more people than it saves.
You can believe that people are basically evil, or that the government does its best and wants us to prosper, but the fact remains that welfare has not worked. Since the post-World War 2 introduction of state welfare, poverty has increased. Instead of giving people a way out, it keeps people locked in. State welfare creates a permanent dependent underclass by eliminating capitalist incentives for productivity; it pays people to stay unproductive.
I recognize that some people actually need assistance, but are they significantly helped? The system is heavily diluted by people who abuse it. In England, fraudulent benefit claims are estimated to waste 1.6 billion pounds a year. That’s not counting the people they don’t catch or the able bodied populations sitting on welfare generationally. The mother of all nanny states, Sweden, has also shown drastic reduction of productivity and a rise in unemployment since the implementation of their welfare state post World War 1. All Swedish company giants such as IKEA and Volvo rose up during Sweden’s freemarket, before their social democratic era.
The state has spread welfare programs like two black wings over its people. They may shelter the less fortunate for a time, but they also cast a shadow in which nothing can prosper. Welfare programs undermine the individual and the growth of the private sector. This isn’t just a Libertarian conclusion; it’s originally a Marxist one. Marxists believe that social welfare is one of the key ways to crumble capitalism and replace it with socialism.
Paying people to stay poor doesn’t pay off in the long run. Government welfare is the antithesis of charity, it is oppression. If you truly care about the less fortunate, do something. If you don’t care, admit it instead of hiding behind your government.
– Julia Tourianski