Those Poor Unfortunate Souls

Thesemindz

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Reposted from www.ownyourfreedom.blogspot.com for explanatory purposes. Originally written November 14, 2008 by Rob Sandwell.


Those Poor Unfortunate Souls part I


Only a monster could be confronted with the amount of suffering we see in the world and not be moved. Poverty, sickness, death, crime, man's inhumanity to man. In the face of such things, most people are stricken with a great sense of loss, and helplessness.

Often, when confronted with the idea of a stateless society, people fear that the weakest amongst us would be left behind. Children, the disabled, those barely able to achieve subsistence due to poverty or disease. Regardless of what group of people you are most concerned about, they are the unfortunate. Those who, either through some unfortunate twist of fate or through their own missteps, have fallen by the wayside. Perhaps they have become wards of the state. Perhaps they exist only due to the efforts of charity. Perhaps they have lost everything and slipped through society's cracks, and live now homeless and hopeless, waiting only to die.

Most people are caring individuals, who want little more than to feed, clothe, and shelter their families, and be able to enjoy some measure of peace and freedom in their lives. When they are confronted with the idea of the unfortunate, they see in these sad examples their own mortality. How often have you heard things like, What if it was your sister, or I can't imagine having to live like that, or, perhaps darker, Better him than me.

It is their immediate and visceral reaction to empathize on some level with the unfortunates. They see that part of their humanity which all people share reflected in these poor souls, and feel fear. It is understandable. To do otherwise would reveal them to be uncaring.

And so, having never before entertained the idea of an alternative to the state to address the unfortunate, they fear for them and by extension for themselves. What would happen if the safety net of the state wasn't there. What would happen to these poor souls without the state there to help them out of poverty, to help them out of sickness, to help them recover from disabilities or at least to exist with them, to help sick children recover? What would happen if the same fate were to befall us? Who would be there to help?

First, you must consider the question. If a person is really, honestly concerned with the well being of the unfortunate, then they are already presenting the solution to their own problem. The unfortunate have always been, and will always be, on the receiving end of charity and benefaction. Those who truly care about others will see to their well being. The other alternative is that the person presenting the challenge doesn't really care about the unfortunate and is simply arguing the point, in which case they are hypocrites who are attempting to obfuscate the situation by raising concerns they don't genuinely hold. So, if you are presenting this challenge, then ask yourself, do I care about the well being of others, or am I simply antagonistic to voluntarism and really couldn't care less about my fellow man? I'll not judge your response, but understanding your motivation will help you to define your position.

I choose to assume that most people who raise this objection are genuinely concerned with their fellow man. They legitimately care about what happens to the weakest amongst us, and want what's best for them. If I am right, and what's best is their concern, then it is incumbent upon us to determine what is really best.

In order to do that, we will look at how private and public charitable acts work. What is their effectiveness? How many people are helped, and how successfully?

It is my position that people are helped best when they are helped just enough to succeed, but not so much as to encourage them to become dependent on the assistance to the exclusion of their own action. They should be taught to be free, not kept in perpetual bondage. A slave need not fear for shelter or food, because his master will wish him to be strong enough to work. A free person must effort his own existence, but in so doing will find opportunities far beyond those offered in subjugation.

So, does government create a system which encourages self reliance, or does it create a system which encourages reliance on others? How are private and public systems of charity funded, and which use their funds to greater effect? These are the kinds of questions we must answer in order to determine what is truly best, not only for the unfortunate, but also for ourselves. Remember, it is our own fear, our recognition of our universal humanity, which drives our empathy for others. It is in our own best interest to aid them, not in any way we can, but in the best way we can.

Are we?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-capitalism
 
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Thesemindz

Thesemindz

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Originally written November 15, 2008 by Rob Sandwell.

Those Poor Unfortunate Souls part II


In 1991, private citizens gave roughly 300 billion dollars worth of charitable donations, both in time and money. That included approximately 42% physical resources and 58% donated time. The same math gives us a total of nearly 700 billion dollars worth of resources donated in 2006. By comparison the American government spent approximately 1.3 trillion dollars on welfare in 1995, both through direct benefits and tax credits, roughly 20 percent of GDP. In 2006, the percent of GDP was roughly similar, but the growth in GDP in the United States resulted in that twenty percent increasing to roughly 2.6 trillion dollars in welfare expenditures.

So while the government stole and redistributed approximately 2.6 trillion dollars of private assets, individuals donated nearly a fourth as much on their own, free from government coercion, even after as much as 70% of their nearly worthless money has already been stolen from them.

But there is evidence that government subsidies to private charities actually decrease individual donations. This occurs for two reasons, one, private individuals are willing to allow their seized tax monies to replace their charitable giving, but also, charities reduce their fund raising efforts after receiving government grants. So when the government gives money to charities, it decreases the amount given by individuals.

And what about the people who are receiving money from the government? While there is some evidence that approximately 18 percent of welfare recipients move out of poverty within one year, studies show that more than twice that percentage amongst the poor not receiving welfare are able to do so. When left to their own devices, people are forced to find ways to survive. The majority of those who receive government welfare, more than 80% of them, do not move out of poverty.

One reason for that is the welfare trap. A person receiving welfare has an incentive to stay on the dole. People don't like the argument, and some will argue that it's cruel to point it out, but the reality is that in economics, you get more of what you subsidize, and you get less of what you tax. Welfare creates a perverse incentive, where some recipients are arguably better off to stay on the dole than to attempt to join the workforce.

Not all will feel that way of course, but the maximum amount of possible benefits ranges from $11,000 to $36,000 in some states. Those benefits can include housing, food and food stamps, utility subsidies, and even clothes, transportation, and a variety of other services. Not all people will be eligible for all benefits, and not all those eligible will elect to take advantage of all the services offered, but some will and many could. And those benefits are tax free.

So why would a person who was receiving between ten and forty thousand dollars a year, tax free, for doing little or no work at all, choose to get a minimum wage job working forty hours a week making less than $12,000 a year after taxes? Perhaps because they have pride. Perhaps because they see it as an opportunity to get ahead. Perhaps they see it as the start of a new life where they can move up from an entry level position through hard work and promotions. But perhaps they don't see the incentive at all. And that's why many of them, once on the dole, stay on the dole.

Private charities on the other hand are in a much better position to see to private needs. If a person on the dole has their car break down and can't get to work, the government will tell them to wait until their next check comes in. A private charity on the other hand, could give them money today to get it fixed, or pay for a taxi, or give them a new car. They are able to diagnose and address the need immediately, while the state can only incorporate them into their bureaucracy. Under the state, some will be helped, most will be hurt, and all will be oppressed.

I come from the teach a man to fish school. Even toiling under oppression, people are willing to do what they must to survive. Those who support the state as the solution to perceived social injustices believe that they are doing people a favor by adding their names to the welfare roles. I believe that we would do people a greater good by encouraging them to become self sufficient. And we could. And when we did, there would be far fewer people in need of real aid. And those in real need could receive it.

I've already shown how a stateless society would do a better job of educating the people, and education is an important part of staying out of poverty and off welfare. In fact, a study from 1992 showed that more than two thirds of welfare recipients had the lowest levels of literacy, well below that of unskilled laborers. Additionally, victims of child abuse are more likely to be on welfare later in life, and I've shown how a stateless society can address psychopathic behavior and reduce violent crime. Already we can see how the number of those applying for assistance would decrease in the absence of the state. But would charitable giving increase in the absence of the state? I believe it would.

And there's evidence to support that belief. For one thing, when comparing people with similar incomes, those who work give more than three times as much as those who receive government assistance, even though they have roughly the same expendable income. For another, those who believe that the government does not have a responsibility to take care of those who can't take care of themselves are 27% more likely to make charitable donations than those that do. The reality is not that people who don't support social welfare are selfish, or cruel, or uncaring. It's provably the opposite. They believe that charity is important, and should be the responsibility of individuals, not governments. Accomplished not through theft and violence, but consciously and freely given.

So once we reduced the number of people applying for charity by improving education, health, and opportunity, while decreasing violence, crime, poverty, and disease, what would we be left with? Well, there would still be some who through no fault of their own became mentally or physically disabled. There would undoubtedly be others who chose a life of poverty. I believe that the $700 billion dollars we already give would cover those truly in need, without even taking into account the increases which would occur in the absence of the state. When their money had more value, and 70% of it wasn't being stolen from them, people would be more willing to give to charity. So could a system with fewer hungry mouths and more to go around support those truly in need?

The answer is yes. And it wouldn't rely on violence and theft to do the job. No matter the need, there can never be a justification for inflicting suffering on one person so another person can benefit. That yellow brick road leads to evil. We tiptoe down it, thinking one step at a time can't hurt. But the reality is it hurts not only the person we intend to suffer, but also the person we intend to help.

Able bodied people can and will find ways to survive. The truly unfortunate can and will find help in the charitable acts of their neighbors. We need to find a path to humanitarianism which does not sacrifice the rights to life, liberty, and happiness of some for the sake of others. The dogs of society will howl, but we have to ignore them.

We have to decide where our future lies.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-capitalism
 

Sukerkin

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Cogently posited pieces, TMZ. I shall read them in detail later as I reckon that the lateness (or earlyness :D) of the hour means I need sleep to do them true justice.
 

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