“But What Of The Poor?” A Libertarian Response

The echoes of the welfare state. You’ve heard them before. Don’t believe me? They sound a little bit like this: “We can’t get rid of welfare! Welfare is essential to helping the forgotten impoverished people that nobody would help otherwise!”

The essential nature of the welfare state is a common argument made by progressives. However, progressives have been so persistent and so successful at using their pro-government welfare rhetoric that it seems now only the most ardent limited government supporters dare to question if the welfare state is truly essential or not. However it has not always been a fringe group of people that abhor and question the necessity of government welfare. In fact it is only since the Great Depression that there has been a desensitization of the taking of government assistance, or more properly stated, the forced charity of taxpayers.

The truth is that before the Great Depression taking welfare of any kind, government or private, was generally looked down upon. Anywhere between one-quarter and one half of working class people engaged in fraternalistic opportunities that helped their peers in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They called these fraternal groups “mutual aid societies”. Mutual aid societies would fulfill the same needs the modern welfare state purports to fulfill, even sometimes going as far as owning and operating hospitals. All of this happened during a time when America was not nearly as economically “blessed” nor as economically dominant as it is today, as America did not see its rise as a world superpower until after the World Wars were fought.

Even today, much after the time period of mutual aid societies, it seems a vast majority of Americans across the country are willing to give of their time and their money to others. I think the reason people are willing to give boils down to the fact that people want to feel good about themselves. Whether for self-actualization or religious reasons, Americans have shown that despite possible burdens we may be experiencing, we are willing to give to others. Yes, even with the slow economic recovery since 2008 and the large taxation burden imposed by the government, the American people were the most charitable first-world nation in the world last year. Just one of the lies of the welfare state is that people will not care for each other if there is no welfare state. The facts belie a different truth.

“Now hold on”, bleeding hearts might say, “how do you know the extra money people are going to get back from the elimination of the welfare state is going to go to the people that need it? How do you know that people will not just give the same amount they are giving now and not give anymore?”. First, it is naïve to assume that none of the money the citizens will rightfully get to keep instead of hand over to the ineffectual welfare state will not go to charity. However, it is also naïve to assume that for every dollar we give back to the American people that they will use that same dollar for welfare. “People are selfish, they will never give close to the same amount the welfare state is providing the poor!”, the progressives and bleeding hearts cry out.

They are right. People are selfish. I can guarantee you that many people are going to take the return of their money, their hard-earned money I might add, and spend it. People tend to live according to their means and spend the money they have. You only have to ask a few of the multitudes of broke trust-fund country clubbers and impoverished former professional athletes to figure that out. That hard-earned money no longer going to the welfare state will be put to work buying products, services, and investments. In turn, the purchase of these products, services, and investments will create jobs and wealth long term for not just the American people but the people of the world. Free market capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system. America’s prosperity is a living testament to that fact. The welfare state does not create wealth and progress that brings people out of poverty; entrepreneurship and the free market does that. The system that brought us the mobility of the automobile, the health of mass produced medicines, and the knowledge concentrated in information technology leads to the betterment of man. The welfare state, however, brings with it the ever tightening shackles of the system and the self perpetuating serfdom of the people.

The echoes of the welfare state gets louder and louder as the ring of freedom gets softer and softer. It is high time we realize the outcomes of the welfare state and eliminate the welfare state for the good of all.

Religion and Government: Let People Choose!

Days ago, Mississippi(where I live) passed HB 1523, otherwise dubbed the “religious freedom” bill. There is something I have to share with you: even though I “do politics”, I hate days after big, controversial legislation is passed. Why? Because no matter if the legislation is good, bad, or inconsequential, uninformed people who normally do not care a wit about politics feel the need to comment. These uninformed people come in from all sides of the argument and tend to just make everything worse. If you are not going to bother informing yourselves politically on a regular basis, no matter your ideology, please do everyone a favor and shut up before your crude “bull in a china shop” argument breaks all of the finely crafted arguments from people on the same side as you.

This week, however, highlighted the complex relationship of religion and government. For centuries, religion and government have assumed many different roles in how they treat one another. Christian nations of old and modern Middle Eastern countries have employed theocracies. Soviet Russia and China have tried to displace traditional religion completely and arguably attempted to make government the people’s religion. Whereas in America, the ideal is that there will be complete separation of church and state, each institution respecting the other. The Founding Fathers hoped by creating the Constitution, that they had designed a system where government could govern and religion could worship apart from each other.

Although I believe our Founding Father’s did their best to provide us a separate and apart system, they (inevitably) failed due to human nature. Humans are simple and overbearing by nature, which is both why religion and government must be separate from one another and why they are so often not kept separate. People corrupt the system. People try to use government as an ATM machine at the expense of others livelihood, they try to use it as a safety net with the resources of all, and they try to use it as they try to use it as the moral arbiter of all with the power of regulation. People are simple. Instead of allowing one man to live a life you may disagree with, they decide they want to force you to bend to them. It makes people’s lives a lot simpler when they do not have to deal with people who make choices that make them uncomfortable, even if those choices hardly affect them or are within the rights of the individual to deny to another.

As mentioned before, we have seen this countless of times repeat itself over the course of human history. Modern Middle Eastern nations are corrupted by religion in government and force others to live certain ways, just as old Christian nations were in the Middle Ages. Soviet Russia was corrupted by government usurping religion in the 20th century and similarly forced people to live in certain ways. People twist government to force others to live this way or that, and thereby pervert the entire institution.

That is not what government should be. Government should provide a minimum standard someone must live up to that protects people’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Outside of that standard, people should be allowed to live their life without government interference. If someone else’s action does not potentially affect your life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness, then the government has no right to regulate it. That means gay marriage, even though I personally disagree with it as a lifestyle, should be legal. The denial of service for any reason, if there is an alternative option, should be legal even if I disagree with the reason. The government’s purpose is to protect the people, not to make the people feel comfortable. It should not force consenting adults who can decide their own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness to be married or not be married, just as it should not force an individual to sell or to buy. I would not force a Jewish baker to sell a cake to a Nazi anymore than I would force a Christian baker with moral reservations sell a cake to a same-sex couple engaged to be married.

I am a Christian, and have many Christian friends. Christians for too long have been using government as a moral prop for others when government in reality should only be a body to protect individual rights. If we, the church, attempt to use government as we have in the past to legislate others, when the secular government has power in hand, how are we to defend ourselves when the government attempts to legislate us as they are now?

If you disagree with someone’s moral choices as a Christian, I beg of you, do not use government as a way to force others to live the life you want them to live. Instead, as Jesus did, approach them with love and with reason. Let the Gospel do its job. It does not need the government. God gave us a choice to believe, give others a chance to act on belief.

I am also an American citizen. If you disagree with someone’s moral choices as a citizen, I beg of you, do not use government as a way to force others to live the life you want them to live. Consider how it would feel if the group you are trying to regulate had the power to impose restrictions on you.

For too long, people of all creeds and credences have been using government as a way of lazily forcing others to live the life they want them to. This is wrong. People should be allowed to make choices, not forced into them. Therefore, I support freedom bills across the nation that allow people to deny service for any reason as long as there is an alternative for the person seeking out service. I support people’s right to choose within the limits of life and liberty. If you try to take that away, using government or not, you are just a stones throw away from protecting murderers who take lives and slave owners who take liberties.

The Two Party Fallacy

If you have ever considered voting for a third party, you’ve heard the Two Party Fallacy before: “Your vote for X is actually a vote for Y!” Just this week, I was told that if I choose to vote for someone other than Clinton or Trump,  I am actually voting for Clinton. It does not matter if I am choosing the candidate that I believe would do the best job, I am actually voting for Clinton if I choose anyone other than the Republican nominee. Partisan voters across the country make this argument and similar arguments to try to keep people together so that their preferred candidate can win.

This is a fallacy. To show this, let’s take a look at the logical arguments stemming from this claim and break them down.

The “Feasibility” argument. “There’s no way a third party candidate can win”, the partisan voter might say. The first thing the partisan voter would point to is history. “People within the two major parties are always the most successful ones” they might say. The only problem with that statement: it’s not true. Many different parties have arisen and had varying levels of success in American history. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt won 11 times more electoral votes than the Republican candidate William Taft. In fact, in 1824 there was only one party with 4 different candidates running! In addition, parties have died and risen numerous times throughout history, including the Republican Party, so it is safe to assume other parties outside the two ruling parties can be successful. Faced with this evidence, the partisan voter might say “well, there are a couple of exceptions, but it has nearly always happened the same way in the past so it will happen the same way in the future”. This is a logical fallacy. Simply because American politics has in the past favored two parties does not necessarily mean it has to always be that way. To say that we must support a candidate because the past justifies the future is to say “pick my terrible candidate because people in the past have picked one of two terrible candidates”. Obviously, I am not bound by the faulty strategies of my ancestors. The last argument the partisan voter might make in regards to feasibility is that not just anyone has a feasible chance to win a Presidential election. This claim is actually true. Not just anyone can win a Presidential election. Even if you think your High School History teacher is the best candidate for President, it is probably not justifiable to vote for them. However, it is justifiable to support and vote for someone who successfully jumped through the electoral hoops to get their name on a ballot, especially if they went through a primary process to do so, because to meet those qualifications they had to have at least some level of grassroots support.

The “Loyalty” argument may be the second reasoning the partisan voter may point to. By saying “Your vote for X is actually a vote for Y” is for the partisan voter to essentially say “you picked your party in the past and now you have to stand by them no matter who they put in front of you”. If you do not, the partisan voter implies, you are a traitor helping the other side. The problem with this argument: voting along party lines does not equal loyalty to that party nor does it mean you are signing a contract to always vote for that party. A party is a way for like-minded people to combine their influence to elect candidates that share their values. If the candidate does not share your values or does not earn your vote, then there is no reason you must vote for the party candidate. My vote is not already in the bank for a party even before the election occurs. My vote is a stamp approving candidates that share my convictions and can do the job, and until the party can prove to me that their candidate is the best man for the job, I have no obligation to vote for your candidate simply because people with similar ideology choose to vote for your candidate.

If the partisan voter continues to try to convince you, in a desperate attempt to land your support for their candidate, they may try to “fear” you into voting for their candidate. “If you do not vote for X, Y will destroy the country!”. This argument is usually hyperbolic, however, it can have some legitimacy to it. However, for your party candidate to have the higher ground, your fatalistic argument must be reasonable. Remember, it takes a lot to destroy a country as strong as the United States. A legitimate crisis must be imminent if, AND ONLY if, the other candidate gets elected for your argument to be legitimate. If the partisan voter believes there is a crisis that must be averted, then the burden of proof is on the partisan voter to prove to me that the danger to the country is more important than choosing the person that I believe will be the best President. In addition, the partisan voter must convince me that your preferred candidate is the solution to that danger, not my preferred candidate. If the partisan voter does not convince me of these things, that does not make my vote any less legitimate nor does it make my vote actually for someone I did not cast it for.

If you are a partisan voter and you are trying to force people into voting for “the lesser of two evils”, you are part of the problem. You are reinforcing the status quo that continues to give the American people inadequate candidates by trying to force people to rubber stamp candidates they know are bad. If America wants to receive better candidates, American voters must be open to better candidates. If America wants better politicians, the Two Party Fallacy must die.