Will charities step in to fill the gap if we end welfare?
The most common line from both libertarians and conservatives when it comes to the subject of ending government welfare programs is that people and charities would step in to fill the gap. Is this true though?
Primary concerns about welfare are that people become lazy and dependent upon the system, it removes incentives for people to better manage their budgets, people in their communities aren’t as close because picking up a check from the mailbox is a lot less social than having to be face to face with those helping them, with food stamps there is fraud involved where people can buy groceries for others and sell them at half the cost in order to pocket pure profit and it amounts to corporate welfare as businesses pour in to get their products approved for the program, products such as Red Bull.
These concerns are all very legitimate and need to be addressed.
On the other side, people are concerned about children going hungry, people falling on hard times due to the economy or unforeseen medical disasters. There’s also concern for the disabled, which further brings up the subject of people getting disability who can actually work and support themselves.
These are all very valid concerns as well.
It’s a giant mess of problems, and this doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate and military industrial complex welfare aspects which amount to a much more costly issue than social welfare.
Yesterday morning I went out and did some community service, nothing extravagant, just a highway cleanup for our local NORML organization where we picked up trash for about two hours. I’ve been known to help the local food banks and donate clothes as well. It really got me thinking about what other forms of community service I could do. It also gave me a great discussion idea for the Progressive Libertarianism page on Facebook.
Upon asking people what forms of community service they perform, I soon realized that most of the people who advocate ending welfare and letting charities step in don’t perform any charity or community service work themselves. It struck me as odd that these very people who claim that things would be better without welfare are failing to step up and fill the current gaps we’re already experiencing. I found it hard and disheartening to imagine what we would experience should the welfare system be ended.
I have no figures on the amount of libertarians and conservatives who perform community service and help with charities. From personal experience I see more liberal oriented people doing these things, followed by libertarians. What I gather from conservatives is that they’re more focused on working through religious organizations and military organizations. The problem with this is it’s not really charity, but more of an effort to expand their congregation. Keep in mind this is in terms of time volunteered, not money.
Most aren’t willing to volunteer their time, and much of the money donated does not go to helping those in need and instead enriches the people who manage the charities. If it does help people it comes with all sorts of agenda and strings attached. This doesn’t say very much for the notion that charities can and will step in and do a better job.
Of course, it doesn’t help either that in several cases, ordinances and laws have prevented charities from helping people, whether it’s by destroying donated food, banning certain types of food from being donated, preventing public feedings, and preventing various other services people try to provide to the needy. Laws which are made in the name of safety but in actuality prevent people from helping others need to be removed.
It could and should be argued that if we had a free economic system, one that was not over-regulated and not designed to stifle competition, that all levels of our society would be better off and not nearly as much charity would be needed. My primary concern is for those who genuinely cannot do for themselves at times and whether or not they would get the needed resources from charity alone.
There’s a lot of people in this country who are down, aren’t necessarily there of their own accord, and we need to help them in any way we can. Without people stepping up, getting rid of government welfare is entirely out of the question, especially when priorities for cutting the government lie elsewhere. We spend more than the next 10 countries combined on our military each year. Of course the issues go far deeper than just money as there is a legitimate concern about the society of dependency that government welfare creates and the amount of fraud that comes along with it.
One thing is for sure, we all need to devote at least a little time to causes which will legitimately help people. Waiting for someone else to do the job just isn’t an option. Charities and community service organizations are understaffed and underfunded. Until people step up and contribute more, and make no mistake people can but largely make excuses about why they don’t, the arguments for getting rid of welfare are not sufficient. Please note that we’re not talking about things such as social security, medicare and medicaid here, which are deserving of their own discussion article.
What forms of community service and charity work do you commit yourself to? Please let us know in the comments section below. There are those who are interested in doing more but aren’t quite sure what to do. If you don’t volunteer time, why not?
By: Stephen Carter
Contact Stephen via email at Stephen@iCarter.com
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