Tag Archives: welfare state

What FDR knew about welfare: “Continued dependence upon relief … a subtle destroyer of the human spirit”

In the Wall Street Journal, Independent Institute research fellow James L. Payne writes that FDR understood that welfare recipients need to be productive and build skills and a work ethic. Payne writes:

Franklin D. Roosevelt was clear as well. “Continued dependence upon relief,” he said in 1935, “induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.” Yet government programs, being shallow and impersonal, tend to drift into handouts. They are like the superficial giver who drops a dollar into the beggar’s cup and walks on, feeling self-satisfied.

Source: What FDR Knew About Welfare (WSJ site). Full text here if WSJ link does not display it.


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Independence in 1776; Dependence in 2014: Individuals, businesses, nonprofits become hooked on subsidies and tools of the state.

The above is a condensed version of an excellent observation by Chris Edwards. More:

the number of federal subsidy programs has almost doubled since 1990 …

The growth in subsidies may be good for the politicians, but it is terribly corrosive for American society. Each subsidy program costs money and creates economic distortions. Each program generates a bureaucracy, spawns lobby groups, and encourages more people to demand further benefits from the government.

Individuals, businesses, and nonprofit groups that become hooked on subsidies essentially become tools of the state. They have less incentive to innovate, and they shy away from criticizing the hand that feeds them. Government subsidies are like an addictive drug, undermining American traditions of individual reliance, voluntary charity, and entrepreneurialism.

The rise in the size and scope of federal subsidies means that Americans are steadily losing their independence. That is something sobering to think about on July 4.

Chris Edwards, Independence in 1776; Dependence in 2014 | Cato @ Liberty.

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July 3, 2014 · 9:45 pm

Debt ceiling & reducing deficit without raising taxes

The Daily Camera asks: Lawmakers in Washington continue to be divided about raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, which faces a deadline of Aug. 2, the day the Treasury Department says it will lose borrowing authority. Meanwhile budget talks regarding possible tax increases and debt reduction continue. What do you think?

My response:

Debt ceiling? What debt ceiling?  “In the last 10 years, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 10 times,” notes economist Veronique de Rugy.

The real problem is excessive government spending that has created the huge debt. Spending has increased more than 60% in the past ten years.  “43 cents of every dollar spent is borrowed,” de Rugy estimates.  According to USDebtClock.org, the federal debt exceeds $46,000 per U.S. citizen.

This spending is unsustainable and hazardous. The Congressional Budget Office warns of ” lower income growth” and risk of a “sudden fiscal crisis” that requires “spending cuts or tax increases more drastic and painful than those that would have been necessary had the adjustments come sooner.”  Taxation and government borrowing crowds out investment in private capital. This diverts “resources that could be used more productively. … U.S. companies are less likely to build new plants, conduct research, and hire people,” de Rugy explains.

As a remedy, Reason magazine suggests a “19 Percent Solution,” which refers to typical levels of tax revenue relative to GDP. The plan would balance the budget without raising taxes by reducing spending by less than 4% annually for ten years.

Since entitlement programs drive much of federal spending, these cuts will be unlikely so long as people see the programs as moral. But as forced charity, these entitlement programs are immoral. Charity can be virtuous, but there’s no virtue in being forced to donate to a charity, or empowering politicians to force others to do so.

This was originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera on July 16 2011.

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Rachel Maddow of MSNBC honors the national debt

Rachel Maddow describes how great projects like the national debt are accomplished. She feels the individual alone is not capable of accomplishing a 14 trillion dollar debt. Government is the only way to accomplish such a large task.

For more, see Mothers Against Debt.

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For true compassion & charity, vote NO on Boulder Ballot Issue 1A

Boulder County Ballot Issue 1A would increase property taxes for “county human services programs and for contracts with non-profit agencies maintaining a safety net for families and children in Boulder County.”

Support for measures convinces me that supporters of tax-funded and operated charities really do not care about the causes they supposedly support. Rather, supporting government charities are a way to shirk the responsibility to make sure your charitable donations is spent wisely. It’s more like phony compassion and making the appearance that you care. As I <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-t-schwartz/questioning-your-compassi_b_574030.html” target=”_blank”>wrote at the Huffington Post:

Why does being compassionate mean supporting government-run schools and health plans (or charitable causes)? This makes little sense if you view these programs as government-run charities. Would you agree to perpetually donate a portion of your monthly income to the same charity – regardless of its effectiveness? If the charity is doing a lousy job, wouldn’t you want the freedom to find a better one?

By supporting government-run charities like Medicaid and tax-funded schools, you relinquish this freedom. You could try to improve their performance through the political process. But this is grossly inefficient and ineffective compared to using on-line charity rating services to find a charity that deserves your donations.

Compulsory charity is also unfair:

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Questioning your “compassionate” politics

My <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-t-schwartz/questioning-your-compassi_b_574030.html”>first article/post for the Huffington Post appeared today. It begins:

“You oppose Medicaid and government-run schools? You’re heartless and lack compassion.”  If you have ever made this accusation, even tacitly, I invite you to reconsider the government policies you support.

Why does being compassionate mean supporting government-run schools and health plans? This makes little sense if you view these programs as government-run charities. Would you agree to perpetually donate a portion of your monthly income to the same charity –  regardless of its effectiveness?  If the charity is doing a lousy job, wouldn’t you want the freedom to find a better one?

Read the whole article: <a id="title_permalink" title="Permalink" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-t-schwartz/questioning-your-compassi_b_574030.html”>Questioning Your “Compassionate” Politics. (Update, the Denver Daily News also published the article.)

Thanks to Ari Armstrong, Paul Hsieh, Dave Kopel, and my wife for their comments. Thanks to Jessica Corry for putting me in touch with HuffPo.  I acknowledge many others in links within the article.  One person I did not link was Michael Cloud, whose book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion was quite helpful, especially for this sentence, which is basically his:

If you support mandatory charity, what do you authorize government to do to those who peacefully refuse to cooperate?

I also recommend Cloud’s CDs on this topic. Great material, and not much overlap with the book.

Peter Saint Andre also inspired some of my ideas for this article. Many years ago I read his essay, On the Road to Voluntary Government Financing.

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