Charity versus government welfare
Thursday, December 20, 2012 9:00 PM
As Americans we cherish our freedom. We cherish living our lives how we see fit, without constantly being told what to do. But a free society cannot exist unless government is limited, because a government that knows no limit on its powers always leads to fascism. The very definition of fascism is a governmental system having complete power, regimenting all facets of society1. Limited government, on the other hand, means government functions are restricted to protecting citizens from having their life, liberty, or property taken away by someone else. It means government is not used to plunder one sector of society at the expense of another sector. It also means that we understand using government to force citizens to give to charity (i.e., welfare programs) never works well2. It creates resentment in those forced to give and it destroys incentive to better one's self for those receiving it. Private charity works infinitely better, because it is done out of a free will desire to help others. Government charity works infinitely worse, because it is carried out by force or the threat of force (if you're skeptical of this fact, try refusing to pay your taxes, which fund these programs, and observe the government's response).
Here is an illustration of the gross inefficiency of government programs. John Chubb of The Brooking Institute once investigated how many bureaucrats worked in the central administration offices of the New York City government for one type of social service program, and then compared it to a private organization performing the same service. He found the government program had 6,000 bureaucrats to administer just this one program. The Catholic Archdiocese of New York performed the identical social service, and served about one-fifth as many people as the government program. It took only 26 people to run their central administration.3 In other words, it likely took the government about 50 bureaucrats to do the same job as what one church administrator could do. In general, studies have proven that a government program will spend 70% of it revenue on bureaucracy with only 30% reaching the needy. Private charities do just the opposite, where 30% is spent on administration and 70% reaches the needy.4 This shouldn't be too surprising when you think about it. Organizations and individuals are always more productive when free from government mandate, when free to make their own decisions on how best to help their fellow man.
Free-will giving has always been an American hallmark. When foreign officials visited our country in the nineteenth century, they were very impressed to see how many voluntary associations Americans had formed in order to achieve common goals. "The political associations which exist in the United States are only a single feature in the midst of the immense assemblage of associations in that country," wrote one Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, "Wherever, at the head of some new undertaking, you see the Government of France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association." He admired "the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men, and in getting them voluntarily to pursue it."5 Giving its citizens the freedom to come together and solve their own problems (instead of relying on the government to try to solve them) is what made America the most prosperous nation on earth. The American experiment has proven to the world that there are very few roles in society where government is needed at all.
Americans are overwhelmingly generous with the prosperity they have achieved. Americans voluntarily give more time and money to those in need than anyone else in the world6 7. This was true whether it be internationally after the Tsunami of 2004 and the earthquake in Haiti, or within our own borders after Hurricane Sandy or Katrina. Here in Montgomery County there is an endless list of examples. Local businesses and their employees contribute generously to MUFFY and its support of all the programs assisting the disabled, children, treatment of drug addiction, those with mental health issues, victims of domestic and child abuse, the elderly, child abuse victims. Churches and charitable organizations throughout the county volunteer their time to "ring the bell" for the Salvation Army, for whom it is said that a volunteer ringing the bell for a two hour period brings in about $70 of donations into the red pot. We have organizations like Trinity Missions and Rock Point Church's "Celebrate Recovery" program providing a place for those suffering from crises related to drug, alcohol, and sexual activity to get help through their faith-based drug recovery programs. The local REINdear program makes sure local kids in poverty can still have a Christmas present underneath their tree. F.I.S.H. Food Pantry and Food Finders Mobile Pantry are where the hungry in our community can go, as well as to the numerous soup kitchens run by our local churches. CROP Hunger Walk helps to raise money for hunger-fighting agencies. And when someone in our community is stricken with disaster we are legendary for pulling together fundraiser support, such as for the families of local cancer victims like little Henry Tucker. And there are countless other local examples.
"Freedom means you are free to be responsible. No one has any rules or regulations for you to follow because you are a responsible individual." - Russell Means. Americans have proven time and time again that they will voluntarily take responsibility of the needy in our society. In 2011, Americans gave $298 billion (a 4% increase from 2010), with an average household contributing $2,213 8. Just think what we could do if we were free of the burdensome taxes that support government welfare programs. We can be confident that if Medicaid, Food Stamps, Unemployment Insurance, HEAD START, and every other government welfare program were suddenly eliminated tomorrow, that American free-will charity would rush in to fill this need as immediately as it does for a natural disaster. It is what we do as free Americans. It is our national character.
1. Dictionary.com, "fascism."
2. Frederic Bastiat, "The Law," http://mises.org/books/thelaw.pdf
3. Ron Paul, "The Revolution," pp. 76-77.
4. James R. Edwards, "The Costs of Public Income Redistribution and Private Charity," Journal of Libertarian Studies Vol. 21 No. 2, http://mises.org/journals/jls/21_2/21_2_1.pdf
5. Ron Paul, The Revolution," p. 75.
6. Arthur C. Brooks, "A Nation of Givers," The American, http://www.american.com/archive/2008/march-april-magazine-contents/a-nation-of-givers
7. Hudson Institute Center for Global Prosperity, "The Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances," http://www.hudson.org/files/publications/2012IndexofGlobal-PhilanthropyandRemittances.pdf
8. National Philanthropic Trust, "Charitable Giving Statistics," http://www.nptrust.org/philanthropic-resources/charitable-giving-statistics.
The Montgomery County Tea Party is a local grassroots organization with the mission to restore limited government, fiscally-responsible government, and accountable representation through citizen activism and education, in order to preserve the blessings of liberty and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. MCTP is not affiliated with any political party. It holds regular meetings on the fourth Tuesday of every month. Contact us at 435-2475 or visit our website at http://montco-in.tpsites.us.