Conclusion of yesterday’s column.
The reader continues:
Aside from further documenting the massive, total failure of the welfare state, these stories underscore the principle that government handouts and/or benefits cannot reduce poverty – at least not in any real way. In reality, this could only happen if, (a) government created the conditions necessary for economic prosperity, i.e., protection of individual rights, less regulation and taxes, and (b) people decided that they actually wanted to improve their lives and then took positive action toward achieving that goal.
The free-will aspect of economic prosperity is tremendously undermined by welfare programs that do nothing more than make people ever more dependent on government handouts. None of which serve any purpose other than to provide today’s politicians with a phony sense of moral superiority – and votes from the moochers.
Advocates of the transfer-of-wealth state treat human beings as inanimate objects. “Give person B some of person A’s money. Now person B will be better off.” Sadly, it’s not that simple. This assumes, among other things, that person B is in no way negatively affected by this transfer of wealth. From my quarter-century of work as a psychotherapist, I have talked to many people whose primary reaction to ending up on government welfare or disability is not euphoria as much as fear, resentment and even shame. These are not psychologically uplifting or enhancing qualities.
Wholesale money-grabs and “transfers of wealth” such as the “war on poverty” hamper and undermine economic growth, positive attitude and innovation/investment that only capitalism can provide. And it simultaneously makes the less well-off people hopelessly and permanently dependent on handouts extracted from others by force (or, worse yet, financed by massive and dangerous government debt). Such a system benefits nobody other than the neurotic and arrogant who inhabit the halls of government and academia.
Private charity provides those who wish to help others with an opportunity to offer a “hand up, rather than a handout” (a distinction we rarely hear any more). This is not to say that private charity (especially within families) is always rational, healthy or uplifting for the beneficiaries. But at least it’s done voluntarily, and the donor has a chance to evaluate how well his charity is doing (or failing to do). With government programs, there is no accountability and the “donor” loses that choice, but is forced to keep on giving, regardless of the consequences.
Government “charity” is as far from a choice as it can get. The giver is forced to give, in the absence of consent and without any say in the conditions or length of the benefit. The beneficiary is told, “Once you’ve got this benefit, you’re going to lose it the minute you start to become productive.” Am I the only one who sees how stupid that is?
The overwhelming incentive of government aid is to keep the recipients helpless and unproductive. Once dependent on the handouts, it’s reasonable and rational to become petrified at the prospect of losing them. I see this all the time in people’s real, day-to-day lives.
I had an interesting conversation last night with a woman I met at a Zydeco party. [Zydeco is American dance music of southern Louisiana, typically featuring accordion and guitar.] She told me that she lived in New Orleans from 2007 to 2009, but became discouraged in her work there. So she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area (where I live). She had originally moved to New Orleans to work for a government agency that was supposed to help the people rebuild the city following hurricane Katrina. She explained that the reason she left New Orleans was because “nobody really wanted our help,” adding that she was despondent that all her good intentions and efforts were largely in vain. Crime in New Orleans was rampant too.
These stories sum it up for me like this: In many cases, the poor don’t really want the help offered by the do-gooder bureaucrats and political elites. And even if they do accept the freebies, the dependency it breeds (both economically and psychologically) keeps the poor from ever rising up through their own effort. The only way to judge success in the “War on Poverty” is by greater independence and economic self-sufficiency. To that end, there is nothing any government can do to truly help the poor and radically reduce poverty other than to protect individual rights, especially property rights, and nothing more. If our government was truly limited to just that function – protecting us from criminals/aggressors both domestic and abroad – we’d all be much better off.
The advocates of the welfare/ transfer-of-wealth state no longer cite reason, logic or facts in defense of their policies. And they don’t have to, as long as the clueless 50% continue to not pay attention. These “advocates” resort to moralism. Morality is, and should be, a powerful argument, but only when your approach to morality is valid, rational, true, and goes along with the facts of reality.
Advocates of government wealth transfers will accuse you of being a bad person if you oppose them (or, in the last few years, a “racist”). If you favored shutting down the government’s Obamacare, you’re told that you “don’t want health care for poor people.” But no arguments are ever offered in favor of Obamacare, and none are seen as necessary.
Whenever the proponent of a particular view resorts to moral threats or emotional intimidation, this is proof positive that they have run out of substance. The threats are all they have. Nothing else.
The case for a private-property based, free market society is both moral and practical. When the United States was still primarily a free market economy, it rose higher and faster than any society in human history. Sadly, now that the United States has begun to back away from a system of capitalism, and continues to tumble deeper and deeper into debt, its prosperity evidenced by that dramatic growth is decreasing.
Freedom and capitalism are moral in terms of both the big picture and the individual level. The results of the big picture speak for themselves. On the individual level, capitalism enables and requires people to deal with one another without the threat of force. Reason, not intimidation, is the only tool with which capitalism can function. Those who worry about “helping” the less fortunate – assuming that it’s truly intended to “help,” – are certainly free to do so.
Even if your standard of morality includes giving to others, you should still favor capitalism. How else can you create the wealth you need to give to others without capitalism in place to allow you to do it? The more wealth, the more potential there is to give it away. Capitalism’s singular contribution is a middle class. When capitalism falters, you lose the middle class. The very few truly rich can only be exploited so much. If it’s donations you seek for charity, you must have a middle class from which to draw.
The socialists, of course, want it both ways. They want the wealth created, and then they want you to give it away, under threat of force. Yet the moment you start to force transfers of wealth is the moment you cause producers to minimize, shield or otherwise protect their potential wealth and, in extreme cases, stop producing it altogether. As jobs (provided by these producers of wealth) diminish, the middle class suffers, spends less, and jobs diminish even more in a reverse cycle of progress.
There’s no getting around it. If you want wealth to exist, you must have wealth producers. If you want wealth producers, you must have capitalism. The more capitalism we have, the more wealth (including a vast middle class) there will be. The less capitalism and the more socialism/redistribution we have, the less wealth there will be.
Supporters of Obama or any of the other variants of socialism love to scream at capitalism, or the poor hapless saps (i.e., the Republicans) who pose as capitalism’s defenders. But it’s not really capitalism they’re shrieking at. It’s reality. They cannot get around the fact that in order to have a rich society in which trillion-dollar government subsidies and programs may exist, you must first have … richness. And this is where the leftist socialist’s eyes glaze over.
It’s an absurd contradiction to hate, despise, oppose and even wish to enslave the things upon which you depend in order to achieve what you claim to want. Yet that’s exactly the position in which the misguided advocates of the entitlement state find themselves, thanks to their own evasions and contradictions.
Ironically, the joke is ultimately on them; not on those they think they have defeated by taking over and destroying the private economy.
It’s only a matter of time.
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