Tag Archives: Civil Society

Does the limiting of government spending make children starve?

This is a pretty illuminating article from Forbes magazine.

Here’s the question:

The budget debates have been illuminating. Apparently, those heartless tea partiers would gladly allow children to starve so millionaires can pay less in the way of taxes. The latter has been a recurring slander leveled against welfare reform in the ’90s and more recently in response to Paul Ryan’s budget proposal.

No one starved then. What if Washington stopped doling out relief now?

Wow. Are conservatives really so heartless? Is government spending really necessary to keep people from starving?

Let’s see:

People who oppose government redistribution contribute four times as much charity as those who favor such schemes. This includes 3.5 times as much to secular charities. Those who prefer free markets also give more blood, are more likely to provide directions, to return change given mistakenly or offer assistance to the homeless.

To truly be charity, alms must be given freely, require nothing in remuneration and offer the donor no material benefit. If possible, benevolence should be anonymous. The left hand ought to not even know what the right hand does.

Instead, the Left hand blares a trumpet about compassion while spending others’ money as it shamelessly smears the Right. Who is really heartless: those seeking fiscal responsibility or those spending our children into peonage?

That’s true – all of this government spending certainly isn’t good for our children. Why do we call it compassion when we impoverish the next generation so that we can spend ourselves into a higher standard of living with their future earnings?

But maybe the poor today really do need the money. Maybe charity isn’t enough and we need to government to take our money to help the poor?

Let’s see:

The real vacuum is federal spending. Washington filters our taxes through a bureaucratic black-hole before spewing out waste and vote-buying patronage. Public charity is an oxymoron. There is nothing moral in confiscating property from one to bestow on another.

As discussed previously, society does not revolve around Washington. The building blocks for an ordered, coherent community are families, friends and neighbors and then church (or equivalent). Only if each fails does government have any justification to execute its own counterfeit charity.

[…]Historically, when private parties provided most benevolence, it was generally administered more prudently than politicians redistributing other’s largesse. Thomas Jefferson bragged that you could travel the entire eastern seaboard and never encounter an American begging. Private charity was readily available and distributed responsibly so as to not create additional social burdens.

Relief was never meant for people who could help themselves, but don’t. Instead of easy handouts, people who neglect their duties could be taught responsibility and the dignity of work. Sensible charity offers a minimal safety net to prevent starvation or exposure, not provide idle comfort.

Poverty once suggested that someone lacked food, clothing or shelter. As the Heritage Foundation observed,

According to the government’s own surveys, the typical “poor” American has cable or satellite TV, two color TV’s, a DVD player or VCR. He has air conditioning, a car, a microwave, a refrigerator, a stove, and a clothes washer and dryer. He is able to obtain medical care when needed. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs.

Not exactly dire circumstances. The average menial laborer today enjoys more material abundance than a prince or tribal chieftain of recent past.

Please click through and read the rest of this article. There is a lot more I’m not quoting.

I think conservatives need to start thinking about this question. We are always being accused of being stingy, because we want to keep our own money, and maybe give it away in charity, while holding the recipients accountable to pull their own weight. Is that so wrong? I give a lot more money in charity than Joe Biden, and I make a lot less. Maybe leftists think that everyone is as greedy as they are. Maybe they think that people shouldn’t be held accountable for making the kinds of simple decisions that cause poverty.

The conflict between the state and the family

A book review by Raymond J. Keating. I just ordered the book.


Sympathy and compassion help make humans caring, moral beings. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, understood that, as illustrated by his emphasis on sympathy in The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Often, however, sympathy and compassion are transformed from tools of moral judgment and action into weapons of blind ideology, irrational emotionalism, and cynical politics. They particularly serve as the bat with which opponents of the welfare state get pummeled. After all, the argument goes, if you oppose an extensive network of government income, housing, healthcare, employment, and child-care assistance programs, you must be severely lacking in sympathy and compassion. To truly care, you must support big government.

That assumption, unfortunately, has long clouded the debate over welfare policies, especially when it comes to government programs affecting family life. The big-government crowd has pushed blindly for government to play an ever-larger role as financial provider for households, thereby contributing critically to the undermining of traditional families. Meanwhile, it should be noted that some who argue against such programs have tried to make their case without fully acknowledging the important economic and societal roles played by the family.

[…]Part of the problem is the failure to apply economic analysis to the family’s role in the economy and to the impact of government policies on the family. That has been remedied to a degree in The War Between the State and the Family: How Government Divides and Impoverishes by Patricia Morgan. Published initially by the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs, it mainly deals with the programs and realities of Great Britain, but the discussion and analysis obviously apply elsewhere, including the United States.

Morgan pulls together overwhelming evidence and data showing the benefits to adults, children, and society in general of marriage and intact families, and the problems of non-marriage, single parenthood, and divorce. And she illustrates how the welfare state subsidizes and encourages family breakdown.

For example, Morgan shows that marriage boosts personal responsibility and employment among males, while single males are far more likely to be jobless and receiving government assistance. She also makes clear that government benefits have a strong impact on marriage and childbearing decisions and responsibilities among both men and women.

She notes the varying ways in which government policies affect such critical decisions: “By rewarding some behaviours and penalising others, tax and welfare systems affect the preference and behaviour of individuals not just through hard cash calculations but by (unavoidably) embodying and promoting certain values and assumptions. . . . The generous subsidisation of the lone-parent household cannot but reinforce the belief that it is quite acceptable for men to expect the state to provide for their offspring.”

Morgan sums up the implications of all this on the size and intrusiveness of government: “Growing family and household fragmentation” drives government spending and taxes ever higher; increases the “number of clients of the state”; “displaces existing institutional and private arrangements”; places the government in the role of parent and provider to children; allows for increased government intrusions into family life; and generates “an increasing mass of legislation and regulation of provisions for custody, access and financial support.” For good measure, child development is inevitably hampered due to the loss of “private investment in children,” which can never be matched in substance or quality by government programs.

She’s like a British Jennifer Roback Morse, and I mean to read her book.

What I find puzzling is that I keep running into young people who aspire to be married and to have children, but who are going about their plan in ways that seem to be counterproductive – at least to me. I see a lot of young people voting Democrat, for example. I find this confusing, because voting Democrat means that there will be fewer jobs, higher taxes, more debt and more crime. That’s just a start. So why are people voting for Democrats when Democrat policies undermine the feasibility of marriage? Probably because they saw Republicans being mocked on Comedy Central and cannot tell the difference between comedy and news.

New version of Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse’s Love and Economics talk

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

If you’ve heard it before, it might be worth listening again – this version is clear and new, and there is Q&A. This is my favorite lecture on marriage because she makes marriage seem like the Lord of the Rings or some similar epic. There’s good and evil, and it’s very dangerous and adventurous and important.

The MP3 file is here.

Her goal in this lecture is to explain what families do to help to raise children who can participate in society and the free market. Her audience is fiscal conservatives and libertarians who think that marriage and family are not as important from fiscal issues. She is making a connection between marriage and civil society, and civil society to limited government, and limited government to liberty. Family should be very important to fiscal conservatives and libertarians.

My favorite part is about 26 minutes in, when she is discussing government-run day care, government-provided meals for children and being very aggressive about how she doesn’t want government taking over the roles of mothers and fathers. The push to make government take over the parental roles flows from the idea that women need to be more like men, and that means they need to be separated from their children so they can work like men do. Also, government programs attempt to communicate to women that men are unecessary as protectors and providers and moral leaders, since the government can protect, provide and educate.

What she does not mention is that socialists also love the idea of taking money from the hard-working, frugal parents and redistributing it to single mothers so that all the children will be equally screwed with loveless day care and lousy public-school educations, which are really more indoctrinations than preparation for a profession. They like the idea that everyone will be equal and the only way to do that is to yank children away from their parents.

Consider the words of this radical feminist:

“We really don’t know how to raise children. If we want to talk about equality of opportunity for children, then the fact that children are raised in families means there’s no equality. […]In order to raise children with equality, we must take them away from families and communally raise them.”

(Mary Jo Bane:  Former Assistant Secretary of Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services of the Clinton administration)

This is what they think about the traditional family. The left thinks that the man’s job is to work, and the woman’s job is to work, and the government’s job is to steal their money so that everyone’s children are raised “communally”. This is what the left believes about marriage and family. That’s why they enact policies to break up marriages and push women out of the home to make them work like men. Leftists also don’t want parents teaching their children conservative views and values.

This lecture is highly-recommended. Christians really need to think about marriage and family the way she does. There are two things a woman needs to do to convince a good man to marry. 1) Treat marriage and family as a war against tyranny and socialism. 2) Understand and assist men with their needs and plans.