Missouri's 7th District, U.S. House of Representatives




Congressional Issues 2006
Welfare and Charity

The 108th 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.

Libertarians sometimes have a reputation of being greedy capitalists who don't care about the poor.

Individualists who don't care about their community
Capitalists who put profit ahead of people.
Go ahead and assume for a moment that I'm a cold-hearted uncompassionate conservative. 

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.

Option #1: 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.
Option #2: 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.
Option #3: 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.

Why would you spend your time and money lobbying for a 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.
James 1:27

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.

The Myth of Democracy

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.

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.

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