Diatribes - Computer, Economic & Political

This blog is really just for me. If you find something interesting on it, leave me a comment. If you disagree with something, let me know what and why. In this blog I am just putting some of my thoughts for computers, the economy, politics, and other topics in writing.

22 May 2006

Don't Kill Welfare

This stems from a discussion I had with someone who thought that welfare should be eliminated. Her basic theories were this:
- it takes away freedom (you MUST pay it in taxes)
- the government cannot take away freedom (it'd be good if a few more people though this)
- it discourages self-reliance (thus there is little incentive to get off)
- it promotes laziness
- free rides are immoral

The following is a rebuttal of sorts.

I find in general those who oppose welfare have never received it, don't know anyone who has and have no direct experience with it. Most are just upset they have to give up money to those less fortunate. I hope this isn’t the case with everyone, but some people's positions are disturbingly inaccurate and illogical nonetheless.

Agency –
Welfare does not infringe on the donor’s agency any more than other laws. We have to pay taxes but few complain about a lack of agency there. Welfare doesn’t infringe on recipient’s agency either – they are free to reject it.

Welfare does not replace our obligation to give to the poor. But welfare isn’t about personal righteousness, it is about human compassion. We know that we ought to give personally to the poor, but we also know that not enough people do. Thus many poor people, often suffering from psychological disorders, go hungry in a land of plenty for no reason. People SHOULD be more giving, but they AREN’T, and these people still need help regardless of how many people feel like giving. The point of welfare is not to replace voluntary donations/help, but to augment the dearth of help available to the poor.

Self-Reliance –
Welfare need not destroy self reliance. Usually it doesn’t. Your view of welfare is quite antiquated; it isn’t the government just writing checks to poor people every month forever. First, few people subsist wholly off of welfare for very long. Few people can. Second, welfare almost always includes work incentives. To keep it you have to get a job. Third, welfare now has time limits attached – you get three years or so in ten (it varies state to state) to be on welfare, surpass that limit and you are kicked off.

Welfare isn’t about supporting lazy people. Welfare recipients are almost exclusively single women with children. There are good reasons single mothers have a hard time finding jobs – lack of education, lack of opportunities, plus they have kids to take care of and daycare is expensive. These are mostly people who legitimately can’t help themselves, without welfare they often fall into worse things – prostitution, drugs or starvation.

No Work Required –
I think I addressed this already, but welfare has work incentives. The LDS Church welfare often carries with it the requirement to work, but anyone who served as a missionary in a poor area in the United States can assure you – even in the church not everyone works for welfare. That doesn’t mean we should shut down church welfare for slackers, it means we should do our best and expect the same from others.

Authority –
The government has authority to send young men and women to kill people in war, authority to imprison and inflict capital punishment on citizens, and the authority to tap citizens without warrant, permission or notice. I’m not arguing they shouldn’t have this authority I saying it is amazing that some people believe that these are OK, but this same government cannot possibly have the authority to transfer money from the rich to poor among its own citizens. At the very least, if the government has authority to collect taxes and social security – it certainly can collect money for welfare.

Morality –
If all freeloading is a problem, we better repeal child labor laws. Before 18, kids are all getting free rides, put them to work! Many of us afterwards receive free rides (or cheap rides) – through gifts from our parents, pell grants, the earned income tax credit, scholarships, grants and on and on.

I am a student at BYU - what about the massive subsidy the LDS church gives all BYU students? No tithe payers can opt-out of subsidizing our education, they don’t have that choice (no agency! we cry). And no BYU student can opt-out of receiving this money. I suppose we are all immoral people in an immoral institution for accepting handouts. But really, what is the problem with an income transfer? We'll be paying someone else's social security all our life, what is wrong with some start up capital?

Conclusion –
My point isn’t that we should transition to a welfare state. I am libertarian and I see welfare as terribly ineffective and I think there are many better solutions. But I also see some sort of welfare as important to a moral society. Welfare does not release me from my responsibility to help the poor, but it makes me feel better about their situation. Why? Because I can’t help everyone and I’m glad that there is help available.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worse than welfare for indigent (and often stupid) people is the welfare for huge corporations via subsidies, tax abatements, payola, specail regualtions or laws etc.

At least someonse eats or heats on welfare, with corporate welfare the fatcats get fatter and we all suffer by paying higher taxes and supporting businesses that can't make it on their own.

Guess who?

16 July, 2006  
Blogger jambarama said...

I absolutely agree. Stupidity (unless it is willful) isn't a crime. Nor is it particularly bad for society. But distorting firm behavior towards rent-seeking (rather than making a better product) is bad. Warping a democracy in your favor (and away from "the people's" favor) should be a crime.

As you said - I have few problems with welfare - it feeds people. Not well, but it feeds and houses them. I often think we get into a certain mentality with the poor. You know the - give a man to fish... teach a man to fish - analogy? It is true, but I often think it is tough to learn to fish when you are starving (or barely scraping by) and sometimes it is necessary to give a man fish until he can do it on his own. That is why I always feel like I should give bums money more often - I can't judge them and say what they'll do with it.

Anyhow, thank you for your comment.

17 July, 2006  

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