In a previous article I distinguished “requirements” for life from “rights”. Requirements are things that we are to provide for ourselves which allow us to continue the biological process we call life (e.g. food, water, healthcare, shelter). Since we are to provide these for ourselves either directly (e.g. grow our own food, etc) or indirectly (via work which is exchanged for money which is then exchanged for these things), this then begs the question: What of those that are incapable of providing for themselves? Shouldn’t the government provide this social “safety net”? Well, actually no. Why? There are three principal reasons although I could simply point to the nightmare of a Ponzi scheme that is Social Security and Medicare as prime examples of how well government is able to manage such systems.
Carrots vs Sticks
1) Theft. Theft for a noble cause is still wrong. Merely renaming “theft” by a group (government) from the individual (taxpayer) as “taxation” does not suddenly change its moral character. If I rob my neighbor and then donate all that I have stolen to the local food bank, is that ok? Clearly not. In the same way if the government robs from my neighbor (taxation) and gives to someone else, it is still wrong.
2) Inefficiency. Government is inherently incapable of utilizing resources (tax money) efficiently because it does not employ the profit/loss feedback system. Profit says “you’re providing something people want” whereas Loss says “you’re not providing something people want.” The funds doled out by governments are not theirs; thus there is no inherent motivation to efficiently allocate such funds. In fact government budgeting rationale is the opposite of that in a profit/loss system: using all money and NOT accomplishing your goal is justification to get even more money. Without a profit/loss test governments are doomed to be throwing darts at a budgetary efficiency target whilst blindfolded… every now and then they’ll get lucky, but most of the time they don’t even hit the board.
3) Forced Charity. Every major world religion holds acts of charity in inestimably high regard. Such acts must come from within, not without. If we are forced by the government into giving (through taxation or the proposed “Universal National Service Act” continually reintroduced by Rep. Rangel (D)) then two thefts have occurred. First our money or time. But secondly we are robbed of the positive spiritual feedback we could have received when we willingly extend assistance to someone who truly needs it.
Independent, free market and unregulated charitable organizations are the most efficient tool to help those that need assistance. They offer the exact counterbalance to the above three problems with government based charity. Theft is transformed into Giving. Money that was stolen is now given to those charities the citizen (not the government) deems worthy. Inefficiency is transformed into Efficiency. Charities are described as “non-profit” organizations however that is merely a tax descriptor. Charities do profit, but non-profit tax regulations prohibit distributing said profit to the owners of the charity. All money is reinvested. So the profit test exists – inefficient or bad charities go out of business and those that “profit” will grow bigger and more able to accomplish their mission. And finally, Forced Charity is transformed into Charity. When we give to someone willingly we get back much more in a spiritual sense. The positive feedback from giving compels the giver to continue giving. What could be better then a system that encourages giving through carrots rather than sticks?