Some Prevailing Thoughts for April 2012

The following are some thoughts I had while in a discussion with a left-liberal about the poverty of the welfare state but did not have an opportunity to express.

  • Charles Murray has good evidence that government charity does displace private charity. For what it is worth, a person I know who lived in Sweden was rebuked by natives for giving money to a homeless person. “The government takes care of that,” he was told.
  • The reason I would think that private charity would not promote dependency to the same extent is because private charities have an incentive to only help those who truly need it (since the charity’s resources are more limited). And since its resources are solicited voluntarily, it would seemingly be accountable to its constituents more so than politicians would (since as many as 49 percent may not get their way in a given election, even in a politician amazingly upheld his or her campaign promises).
  • Also, I would differentiate charity (public or private), both of which can promote dependency, from mutual aid.
  • I was just pointing out that the benefits of liberty are realized to the extent that liberty prevails. We may not reach complete liberty, but that is all the more reason to think that a government even under ideal conditions would have a difficult enough job just upholding the rights of others.
  • Lots of people have obligations and responsibilities they acquire willingly. There may even exist other moral obligations to help others, but the only enforceable obligation that one has for merely living in society is a negative one: to abstain from violating the rights of others.
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