Monday, December 30, 2019

Coercion and charity are opposites

  The entire welfare-state way of life is based on the concept of force. Through the threat of arrest, prosecution, incarceration, and fines, the American people are forced to be good, caring, and compassionate to others.

  Here is how the process works. People are forced to deliver a percentage of their income to the federal government, which in turn delivers the money to others. It’s not a 100 percent turnover, of course, because some of the money is used to cover the expenses associated with performing this service, such as salaries for bureaucrats in the IRS and in the federal departments, and agencies that distribute the money.

  There is nothing voluntary about the IRS and federal income taxes. If someone fails to pay his federal income taxes, he is subject to being severely punished by the federal government.

  The fact that a person’s employer withholds a certain percentage of his income and sends it to the federal government doesn’t change the nature of the coercion. If the employer fails to send the money to the federal government, he himself is subject to arrest, prosecution, jail, and fines.

  This is the way that every welfare-state program operates. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, education grants, food stamps, public housing, foreign aid, and many more. The federal government forcibly takes money from Americans and gives it to others.

  The rationale undergirding this system consists of goodness, caring, and compassion. The system, we are told, reflects how good Americans are.

  But how can force and goodness be reconciled? Aren’t force and goodness opposites?

Coerced charity

  Suppose you’re in a grocery store and the cashier asks, “Would you like to donate $1 to help the local hospital provide medical care to the poor”? You can say yes and you can say no. That’s what freedom is all about. People might criticize you for saying no, but that’s not the point. The point is that freedom necessarily entails the right to say no.

  Suppose the cashier instead says, “Federal law requires that we add one dollar to your grocery bill, which we are sending to the local hospital to help provide medical care to the poor.” What then? In that case, freedom has been destroyed because the customer is no longer free to say no. The law has forced him to “donate” his money to the hospital whether he wants to or not.

  Does that federal law reflect the goodness of the customers? Of course not. Goodness can come only out of the choices that people voluntarily make not when they are forced to be good, caring, and compassionate.

Safety net or freedom?

  At the foundation of the entire welfare state is the notion that people cannot be trusted to be good, caring, and compassionate to others. We are told that if left free to keep all of their own money, Americans would never donate sufficient amounts to help the poor, needy, and disadvantaged.

  That’s where coercion and the federal government come into play. The federal government intervenes in the process and forces people to provide a “safety net” for others. The reason it’s called a “safety net” is that since people will not donate enough money to others, those needing assistance will fall into the “safety net” of the federal government’s welfare state rather than hit the ground and die.

  Social Security, which is the crown jewel of the welfare state, is a good example. The idea is that younger people would never help their parents and grandparents on a voluntary basis if they were free to keep all of their own money. Thus, they must be forced to do so through the coercive apparatus of the IRS and the criminal-justice system.

  But why shouldn’t younger people have the freedom to make that choice? Sure, some might turn their backs on their parents and grandparents, but isn’t that the essence of freedom — the right to say no? Even if they do refuse to help their parents and grandparents, what about friends, neighbors, churches, community groups, and charitable foundations? Couldn’t they be counted on to come to the assistance of others?

  Welfare statists say no. They say that people have to be forced to care for others. I say: People can be trusted to do the right thing, but in any event, people have the natural, God-given right to make that choice on their own.

  Given that God trusted mankind when He vested him with free will with respect to charitable decisions, should we be vesting Caesar with the power to interfere with God’s process through the initiation of force? Shouldn’t our political system instead be based on faith in ourselves, in others, in freedom, and in God?

  About the author: Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

  This article was published by The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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