By Joseph Brown | United States
Among the most volatile hot-button issues in America today is the concept of the welfare state. In a society as increasingly polarized as the United States, opinions regarding its virtue are just as divided as the nation is.
An initiative as expansive and parasitic as the welfare state has influence in the lives of each and every American, yet despite its enormous implications, there are many who are unaware of how exactly it affects them.
In its basic form, welfare refers to actions of service given willingly from one entity in an effort to promote the health, happiness, or fortune of another. Now I know what you’re thinking: If that’s really all that welfare is, then why has it created such a fuss? The concepts of giving and compassion are generally accepted as basic standards of humanity throughout the world in virtually every culture.
The answer is: welfare in the state and welfare in the individual are founded upon completely separate principles.
Welfare, as defined and practiced by the state, is the involuntary collection and redistribution of wealth by its own standards. Thus, welfare by the state is deprived of the only aspect of giving that actually makes something of any moral worth. This missing ingredient is, of course, free will.
What is the value of a gift, if you were required to give it? Most people would agree that providing for the poor is a noble pursuit. I am completely within my own rights as an individual if I decided to give my lunch to a homeless man in act of kindness on my way to work. Likewise, I am equally within my own rights to exercise judgment to keep my lunch for myself. The problem arises if another person held a gun to my head, and demanded that I surrender my lunch to the homeless man. As ridiculous as this sounds, that is precisely how the government works.
The state has confused compulsion with charity.
The esteemed American economist and social theorist, Thomas Sowell, commented on the American welfare state when he said: “I have never understood why it is “greed” to want to keep the money you have earned, but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.”
So long as the resources in your possession are rightfully yours by merit of your own effort, you are absolutely free to give or keep them whenever you want, to whoever you please, without government interference… unless you live in the “land of the free”.
The problem with the welfare state isn’t that it wants to provide for the poor and needy. The problem is that it uses illegal and immoral methods of coercion to accomplish its goals. Thus, any moral “high ground” the government thinks it has when it gives to others is immediately reversed when it steals your money to do so.
“What, so you just want these people to starve? It’s our responsibility to help them!”
Well luckily for our good-hearted friends on the left, there are countless ways to help those in need without involving the government. What if I told you that there are over 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the U.S.? These numbers include public charities, private foundations, and other types of nonprofit organizations, whose mission is mobilizing the public to provide for the needy. Statistics made by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society show that over 971 million people volunteer in a typical year across the globe, and the estimated monetary value of these volunteers’ time has exceeded 1.5 trillion dollars in just under a decade.
It’s ironic that the same people who deny the potential of the free market in comparison to the state could be found participating in private institutions such as charities that do the government’s job, only more efficiently.
Welfare has turned into something of a cursed word in the conservative realm of intellectual thought, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Objection to the seizing of private assets to use in a federal agenda is not an objection to kindness. The private sector is perfectly capable to provide welfare.
Stuart W. Holliday, the President and CEO of the Meridian International Center, demonstrated the enormous power of the private sector when he said:
“…corporations are championing employee-led initiatives and corporate social responsibility, while innovative NGOs are harnessing the talents of volunteers in new and powerful ways. On the road to economic recovery, these combined efforts at stimulating volunteerism have a great deal to offer.”
The first step in creating a charitable society is abolishing the system that robs the individual of their own rights of self-determination. The people of our country don’t need government to tell them how to practice basic human kindness. True welfare cannot be synthesized.
“…free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” -C.S. Lewis.