Tag: welfare

The Libertarian Case for a Border Wall

Andrew Lepore | United States

Libertarian philosophy centers itself around protecting property rights. It also recognizes the immorality of coercive action against any individual or group. So on its face, the construction of a southern border wall seems contradictory to libertarian values; in fact, I at one time opposed it. But since diving deeper into the issue, I have concluded that the wall will provide a net benefit to individual liberty. 

Misinforation about the Border Wall

First of all, it seems that many people have misinformation on the issue of illegal immigration. Among this is the incorrect statement that the majority of illegals come from overstayed visas. This is false: only 42% of illegal immigrants are here for that reason. Though this is a plurality, calling it a majority is deceiving. 

Another common false point is that illegal immigrants do not have access to welfare. But an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies of the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) shows that 62% of illegal-immigrant-headed households use some form of welfare, excluding social security (compare this to 30% of native citizens). Illegal immigrants do in fact benefit from welfare that their children legally obtain via birthright citizenship.

Moreover, opponents perpetuate the falsehood that, historically, walls have proven ineffective in preventing undocumented migration. They say it would be inefficient and is just not worth the cost on taxpayers. Common responses include the notion that immigrants could go over, under, or around it. However, the facts show that these assumptions are ignoring the history of border walls across the globe.

Walls Work

For example, the construction of Israel’s border wall decreased illegal migration by 99% while Hungary’s did the same by 98%. In Soviet East Germany, before the wall existed, illegal emigration was a serious problem. Between 1945 and 1961, over 3.5 million East Germans walked across the unguarded border. But as the statistics below demonstrate, the wall reduced defection numbers by over 90%.

Once again, there are obvious contradictions to libertarian philosophy in the construction of a border wall. Most importantly, it requires the government to use coercion against those trying to cross it. Moreover, the government will be using our tax dollars to construct it. They also will use eminent domain to obtain the land they need.

Granted, those are immoralities, but so is welfare (a redistribution of stolen tax dollars). Large, government-funded public programs are as well. And so is allowing political parties to take advantage of democracy by permitting massive migration of a demographic that vastly supports larger government programs.

Risks of Illegal Immigration

Government spending has exploded since the 1960s and is continuing to climb at an unsustainable rate (see graph below). As you may know, the United States is nearly $22 trillion in debt. But what you may not know is that the United States is also in an over $210 trillion hole in the unfunded liabilities column for welfare benefits, social security, and pensions that we owe in the future.

Government spending over time
Government spending over time

To reiterate, a majority of illegal-headed households use welfare. Moreover, 6 out of 10 who cross the border illegally will go on to start a family that will consume tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars every year. Every dollar of this is taken involuntarily from citizens.

Even worse, illegals are taking up benefits owed to Americans who actually pay into the overcrowded system. $210 trillion is an enormous number which we will be hard-pressed to pay off; some even say that we never will. Our system already has far too many burdens and rising debt. It would be financially irresponsible to hand out taxpayer-funded welfare benefits to anybody who shows up.

Welfare use

Welfare use, excluding social security

Some dispute the validity of the current statistics, as the analysis does not account for household income or size. This analysis does not compare the welfare rate of illegal immigrants and natives in the same income bracket or with the same size households. It is showing that due to many factors, illegal immigrant households have higher welfare use rates.

Use of Public Services

Welfare is not the only program which allows illegals to benefit from American taxpayers. Due to a vast array of public services, illegals provide an additional impact on the American taxpayer. Wear and tear on roads, cost of emergency services, congestion, public utilities and more all contribute.

These may seem less impactful, but the numbers add up significantly over the years. The taxpayer cost of illegal immigration over the years will make the initial construction cost look like a drop in the bucket. The cost of the wall is one-time, while the benefits are continuous.

Support for Big Government

Another way the wall may preserve liberty in the future is with the preservation of a demographic with limited-government political leanings. Statistically, Hispanics are most likely to illegally cross the border due to geographic proximity. The Hispanic population also happens to be the demographic with the highest welfare use among illegals. Moreover, they are far more likely to support leftist government policy than natives.

Hispanic party affiliation, from Pew Research Center

The wall will help preserve a population that prefers smaller government by reducing the demographic impact of any future amnesty deals. In the case of such deals, massive demographic changes would take place. Most likely, it would not reflect the aspirations of native-born citizens. A large-scale amnesty deal like Reagan’s in California may not happen, but it is very possible. Such would have massive effects on the political demographics of the United States.

Even if an amnesty deal never takes place, illegal immigration has a significant effect on the electoral college and the distribution of seats in the House. Seats are apportioned based on state populations, which includes non-citizens and undocumented immigrants. So, increased illegal immigration without amnesty gives citizens in border states an unfairly large voice in Congress.

The Wall: A Net Benefit to Liberty

Every year, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants come across the border to work. But while they do this, many take advantage of the benefits the government hangs in front of them. Illegal immigration is not stopping any time soon, and neither is the welfare state. Every single dollar they hand to illegals, they stole from a working American taxpayer.

Granted, funding and constructing a wall will require some force and an act of government. That pinch of statism, however, is necessary to stop a tsunami of future leftist coercion. Construction of the wall can almost fully prevent this future pillaging of the American taxpayer. The protection of liberty we can achieve through its construction vastly outweighs the little liberty we must surrender for it.

In conclusion, if I could abolish welfare instead of building a wall, I would. In today’s political theater, though, the abolition of welfare is not feasible while the construction of the wall is. Due to the boatloads of money Americans lose every year due to illegal Immigration, the wall’s construction will provide a net benefit to liberty.


71 Republic is the Third Voice in media. We pride ourselves on distinctively independent journalism and editorials. Every dollar you give helps us grow our mission of providing reliable coverage. Please consider donating to our Patreon.

Featured Image Source

Advertisements

A Healthy Dose of Collectivism is in Our Individual Interest

Craig Axford | Canada

During the summer of the 2012 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama asserted that America was the product of a lot of collective hard work.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires. ~ President Obama, Roanoke, Virginia, July 2012

This lack of deference to the American myth of the rugged individual able to overcome virtually any obstacle through a combination of hard work and perseverance was duly noted by Obama’s 2012 opponent, Mitt Romney. The key phrase from Obama’s speech used by the GOP in their counterattack was “you didn’t build that.” Romney replied personally, arguing that “What he’s [Obama] saying is that if someone has succeeded, if they built something, he’s saying they didn’t really build it — no, it was the government, it was the government that takes responsibility.”

Well, of course, government research is responsible for a great many of the things that Americans currently enjoy, but that wasn’t really Obama’s point. His reference to government involvement in the creation of the Internet aside, his larger argument was that without a lot of collective effort on the part of countless fellow citizens, all the things we like to think of as our own individual accomplishments wouldn’t be possible.

Barack Obama was hardly the first president to recognize that civilization is a group endeavor for which no single person can take credit. Our individual successes are made possible by these collective exertions. Given Mitt Romney had made his fortune in finance rather than swinging a sledgehammer or on the assembly line, Abraham Lincoln might have reminded him that his wealth was largely the product of other people’s hard work:

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation.~ Abraham Lincoln, First Annual Message to Congress [December 3, 1861]

The controversy surrounding Obama’s 2012 comments are reminiscent of the earlier attacks leveled against Hillary Clinton for her 1996 book It Takes A Village. In a stunning example of judging a book by its title, conservatives attacked then-First Lady Hillary Clinton for promoting the state as a substitute for parents and family.

Mrs. Clinton’s book title was derived from an African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” No doubt the former first lady thought it would be uncontroversial to suggest that communities, as well as families, play a critical role in a child’s wellbeing and happiness. She, like others before and since, underestimated American resistance to anything that challenges its cult of individuality.

A willingness to work hard is a valuable attribute for an individual to possess. Certainly, it increases their chances of reaching and maintaining at least some degree of comfort and status. But, as has been pointed out many times before, if hard work alone guaranteed success every poor mother who has to haul their family’s daily water supply in buckets from distant wells or watering holes would be a millionaire. Both social and physical infrastructure matter and nobody can build or maintain them on their own. That’s as true in the so-called “advanced” nations of the planet as it is in the least developed.

Americans are fond of thinking of the poor as lazy. Unfortunately, that the data shows most of them do work and work hard represents another assault to the myth that it’s their work ethic that makes the successful worthy of their relative wealth and status. “Today, 41.7 million laborers — nearly a third of the American workforce — earn less than $12 an hour,” according to one recent New York Times article, “and almost none of their employers offer health insurance.”

So if it wasn’t all their hard work that made the rich and famous rich and famous, or even made the middle-class, what was it? Showing up, punching the clock, putting in a solid eight hours or maybe a little overtime is, perhaps, arguably necessary but has proven over and over again to be far from sufficient.

If we live anywhere in the developed world we should count ourselves fortunate to have been born in or to have successfully immigrated to a country where hauling our drinking water in buckets is no longer required for our survival. For those of us born in such a nation, it’s pure luck that landed us in a place where we had access to things such as safe drinking water and a public education system. In the US, the only developed country without universal healthcare, being born into a family covered by health insurance provided us with another lucky break. To paraphrase Barack Obama, as children we certainly had nothing to do with building any of those advantages and the many more we inherited.

It should be obvious that being randomly selected by an indifferent universe to begin life in a place with well-paved roads, educational opportunities, healthcare, supermarkets and, more recently, the Internet, gives certain individuals a huge headstart from day one. If you happen to have been driven home from the hospital by a chauffeur and had a trust fund established for you before your first birthday, your odds of success rise much further still. If anyone thinks, upon graduating from Harvard or Yale, that this sort of headstart had nothing to do with their degree or the school they received it from it is, to be frank, an indication that their Ivy League education was probably wasted on them.

Try for a moment to imagine sustaining any of these benefits of civilization without the labor of the “nearly a third of the American workforce” currently scraping by on $12 an hour or less. Many of them are in the healthcare industry. Others clean the homes of far wealthier families so both parents can work without either having to worry much about housecleaning or the other basic chores that are daily routines for their poorer neighbors on the other side of town. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of these workers are in the construction trade busy building the homes, schools, and roads of tomorrow. Yes, some are fast-food workers, of which a rapidly shrinking minority are teenagers, but why should that matter? Work is work and even the president is rather fond of KFC.

By now some readers will no doubt be mumbling furiously to themselves about all the effort doctors, lawyers, scientists, and business executives put into their education. Doesn’t this effort deserve to be rewarded? If you’re one of them, you aren’t wrong; you’re just not looking at the big picture.

Picture yourself earning a diploma or degree under the following conditions: To begin with, you must hunt and gather all the food it takes to sustain yourself as you complete your studies. Then there’s the small matter of making the clothes you must wear each day. Before you can even begin to think about studying for your finals you will need to build yourself a shelter, dig a latrine (or invent indoor plumbing complete with a steady water supply and a reliable sewage system), dig a well, build a kiln to fire all your plates and cups in, mine the minerals you’ll need for your utensils (to say nothing of your laptop, which you’ll need to build from scratch). Of course, you’ll also need to cut down a few trees and convert them into paper so you can hand copy all your textbooks (or perhaps you can barter a copy from some earlier student who somehow made it this far).

Hopefully, you get the picture. An awful lot of people make their living taking care of all the necessities for us so we can focus on pursuing our aspirations. Pride is the wrong response given this reality. We didn’t single-handedly overcome the challenges life throws in our way to get where we are today. None of us “pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps.” We all stand upon the shoulders of millions of others, both living and dead, who sacrificed themselves to make it possible for us to pursue our dreams — dreams they believed would ultimately benefit them and their posterity as much or more as it would you or I. The proper attitude in this light is one of gratitude and humility.

When companies like Amazon and Walmart fail to pay the men and women that show up to work each day a living wage and when politicians stand before the cameras to defend their “right” to do so, they aren’t just being unjust; they’re actively undermining the very social contract that made our world possible. When people dismiss the working poor as lazy they aren’t merely wrong; they’re lying to themselves in order to justify their own privileged place in our social hierarchy.

Such narratives may be self-serving in the short-term but in the long run, they’re deadly myths that can undo entire nations. In light of current events, one is forced to wonder just how many more Americans need to be driven into poverty before the ideology of the self-made man (or woman) is finally recognized for the civil society killing cancer that it is.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com

Other articles that you may enjoy:

 
 

Get awesome merchandise. Help 71 Republic end the media oligarchy. Donate today to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!
 
 
 

The Free Market Can Be Used To Preserve Tradition

Daniel Szewc | Poland

One of the most common mistakes made by political enthusiasts across the political spectrum, is the false notion that traditionalism can only exist and flourish under a market mutilated by many regulations, as well as at least basic forms of state redistribution. To best expose the problem with this idea at large, it’s worth viewing the subject from a broader perspective.

In the most basic sense, value systems compete between each other, and have done so since the beginning of civilization itself. This can be expressed by the fact that societies with good values turn out to out perform and take over societies with lesser values. All is well and fair with this, as long as deceit and force aren’t involved in the process of internal value changes. These occur in cases of revolutions installed by external powers (such as the Bolshevik Revolution, started thanks to German funding of Lenin), or when the tyranny of the majority (i.e democratic rule) takes control of societal values, as well as regulates the market, especially when it comes to the right to discriminate, or through redistribution. For it is because of the last two, that traditionalism has been abandoned in the West. Since tradition is the result of constant rivalry between moral values, and mutual discrimination is the tool by which the power of each competing world view is expressed, not letting competition happen creates a lack of clashes between the two. The older a tradition/value is, (for example the long for truth), the more, according to probability, enemies it had to face in the past, making it more likely to win with new competitors on the market of ideas. A good example of this happening in history, is the high quality of the press in the past, during an era when no failing businesses were saved, which systematically prevented the press from spreading, what we now call “fake news”- if any newspaper decided to publish false information, it would go bankrupt- starting a business was extremely simple in the past, and their market competition would therefore destroy them- not to mention the boycotts of their good, otherwise known as market discrimination.

The other problem causing the fail of traditional values in modern times, is the welfare state. If we look at history, the only people to die of hunger (excluding times of famine, and extremely rare exceptions), were units who were asocial and wouldn’t receive any help, because nobody in society wanted to help them. How much of a bad human being do you have to be, for literally nobody to help you? In contrast, the modern era allows people to completely detach themselves from society, dismiss the idea of having children (why would they, if they’ll get state help when they are old or sick?), and in general become parasites of the system. The same holds for representatives of ALL inferior value systems, and ones that are purely against Western interpretations of personal freedom.

Those who favor tradition often note, from the depths of their hearts, that single mothers and poor people must be helped! There are two problems with this. For one, the innocence attributed to poor people, is the result of poor people, historically having to appeal to society as good, or else nobody would help them. In the case of the help being state organized, and therefore ending the risk of not receiving any help, laziness and egoism may kick in in poor people. The second problem with is, is that the less dangerous a societal position is, (“Oh no! How will I feed my children!”), the less likely people are to fight off becoming part of it.

A typical example of a situation like this is of a man who leaves his woman and children alone, without funds to live. In the past, this meant uncertainty and extreme stress caused by financial risk for the mother, which caused the man to be seen as a monster, and people discriminated against him, because of what tradition would consider to be poor character. Nowadays, even though leaving your family is still frowned upon, people are less sharp against such deeds, as the mother isn’t in a position as bad as she would have been under a free market, which is precisely why more men leave their wives/partners with their children, than ever before.


To support 71 Republic, please donate to our Patreon, which you can find here.

A Look at Finland’s Universal Basic Income

By Isaiah Minter | United States

Last month, the Finnish government rejected a proposal to extend its universal basic income trial. Contrary to most media reports, this does not mean that basic income in Finland has failed. Rather, the program is going to expire at the end of 2018, as planned.

Finland wants to gather data on the results of the program before making a decision on it, but one would never know this from the media.

To no surprise, however, political pundits have tried to explain this supposed failed UBI trial through one of two prevailing theories. The first theory, as offered by Dr. Gigi Foster of ABC News, suggests that the UBI creates a disincentive to work worse than traditional welfare programs. But there is no merit to this claim: unconditional cash transfers had no significant effect on Alaskan employment, nor did Iran’s UBI reduce employment.

It never occurs to Gigi Foster that a basic income is a cash supplement. Under a UBI, individuals receive a monthly check and remain free to earn more money through work. The measure does not, in stark contrast to America’s current welfare system, make it more profitable for recipients to collect benefits than to seek out employment. Nor does it cut the individual off from their monthly check in the event that they make enough gross income. Ultimately, a basic income, by its very nature, sets a minimum income floor under which people may not fall.

For those less critical of Finland’s failed UBI trial, the popular theory seems to be that it didn’t go far enough. This is the route that Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg took, and it’s one I want to steer clear of.

First, Finland has been practicing small-scale cash transfers for years, and with great success. Similarly, in an earlier piece of mine on UBI, I made note of the poverty reduction achieved by non-universal cash transfers throughout Africa. If Bershidsky’s claim was true, in the sense that a lack of universality is to blame, then one would expect these cash transfers to have failed. But that isn’t the case.

Similarly, even if he meant that Finland’s UBI failed because it didn’t do enough to reduce poverty, he is wrong. Finland isn’t extending its UBI trial because it wants to gather data on the program’s results and determine if it was a success or a failure. In other words, it’s too early to tell what the effects of the basic income trial are.

Somehow, Bershidsky’s claim manages to both lack evidence and run contrary to it.

But I want to get to his central theme, for it’s a dangerous one. The notion that we need to redistribute to level Y because level X of redistribution didn’t work pardons any bad outcome of wealth redistribution.

Allow an example: in America’s War on Poverty, we’ve taken over $20 trillion from the rich and given it to the poor. In the wake of this lies a destroyed black community and more than 40 million Americans in poverty. This was of little to concern to Sasha Abramsky of The Nation, who published an article some years ago titled “Why We Need a New War on Poverty.”

It never occurs to Leonid Bershidsky that the shortcomings of programs often stem from the very institution that enacts them: government. It is illogical to expect that imperfect humans with imperfect knowledge can come together and form a perfect government. With all the different incentives and motives of politicians in a government,  there is often tampering with programs. Enough to the point where the actual program may differ greatly from the original model envisioned by policy proponents.

Indeed, Finland’s activation measure, apart from serving as an obstacle to the basic income trial, absolutely did more harm than good. In withholding benefits from unemployed persons who were determined to not be actively seeking work, the program restructured welfare policy for the worse.

In this, I am not saying that a basic income is inherently flawed, nor that we must avoid government action altogether. For, in fact, the tampering of said program may very well make it more effective than originally planned. Rather, I am suggesting that citizens be wary of the incentives politicians face and the finite knowledge they possess.

In the end, it would do us well to reject the approach of Foster and Bershidsky. While I am sure they mean no ill, both of their claims are baseless. Each of them looked at some facts of the case and drew conclusions supporting their beliefs. This confirmation bias behavior simply fails to benefit our current political environment, and us as individuals within it.

There Is No Such Thing As Charitable Government

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!”

Sound familiar?

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.


Featured image source.