Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Freedom - The Best Antidote for the Tyranny of the Welfare State

James 2:1-5 (New Living Translation)

James 2

A Warning against Prejudice

1 “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others?
2For instance, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in shabby clothes. 3If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”--well, 4doesn't this discrimination show that you are guided by wrong motives?
5Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn't God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren't they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?”

I read an interesting short post this afternoon by David Smith, author of Contrarian Views. I’m only going to include a small sample of his work, so I recommend that you pay his blog a visit to read more. It would be well worth your time. In a piece piece titled “Contrarian View from the Pew: Duck” he briefly outlined his idea that freedom is the best antidote to poverty and the welfare state. The over-arching philosophy of his case was stated succinctly:

“Freedom is a time tested method for reducing poverty and improving lives. Welfare is a black hole that destroys families and increases poverty. We should be promoting freedom, not welfare.”

There are three reasons I believe he’s right. First and foremost, experience and faith have taught me that welfare is an institution that demeans the soul, strips a man of his dignity, and makes him a slave to the state. Second, experience has also taught me that those who build and maintain the welfare state have nothing but contempt for those they say they want to help. Third, men who have studied the whole issue of the link between freedom and prosperity have made, in my view a compelling case for freedom.

Before I launch out let me make one thing clear. When I speak of freedom I do not mean an unbridled freedom. I’m not talking about a compassionless freedom. I understand that the old adage that anyone’s freedom to swing his or her fist ends where someone else’s nose begins. I believe that the concept of freedom has responsibility as its cornerstone.

I’ll now start from the point of view of experience. I can say unequivocally that I’m an expert on the welfare state. I lived under the oppressive thumb of the system from the time I was about nine or ten until I graduated from high school. I know what the system is like.

The foundation of the welfare state has little or nothing to do with human welfare. It’s an instrument of oppression draped in a cloak of false compassion. Those who administer it say all the right things; they use the language of compassion. I heard the catch phrases over and over again. “He’s less fortunate.” “He can’t help himself.” “The poor kid, he hasn’t got a chance. His father’s a drunk and his mother’s got no education.” I’ll let you judge, but I think you see that the words have absolutely nothing to do with compassion.

I’ll have to say one thing about them, though. Their deeds matched their words. I’ll give you an example. When I was about sixteen I wanted to get a job in the housing project I lived in. I applied many times and was always turned down. Why? The jobs were reserved for college interns. It was all classic system thinking. The students had this compelling need to be “compassionate” and learn about those of us who were “less fortunate.” Was there anything about the job that would preclude a welfare recipient from doing it? No! There’s nothing very complicated about pushing a broom or a lawnmower. Just about anyone can do that, even someone “less fortunate” like me What disqualified me? I was never told, but I had a pretty good idea. Those in the know felt that someone like me, someone “less fortunate,” needed guidance. And who better to provide that than an intern from an Ivy League school. All I really needed to get out of the mess I was in was an opportunity. I didn’t need to be an intern’s lawn jockey. I needed an opportunity. I knew within me that I was every bit as good, every bit as intelligent, as those interns. But they didn’t seem to know it. Privilege had placed them where they were in society and it was their task to “mentor” me,

There was a message that came loud and clear through the system to me. Be grateful, be thankful, and most importantly, don’t get overly ambitious. The system needed fodder

It took me a few years to figure out, but once I did I determined that even if my life depended on it I would never again let a soul-less system strip me of my dignity. I would never again leave my fate in the hands of a system that was built to keep me in my place.

I’m sure that some reading this essay will think I’m bitter. Far from it, I’m grateful to have escaped the clutches of the beast.

I could give you more, but I think I’ve made my point.

Men far more intelligent than I have figured out that the welfare state and the welfare mentality are rotten to the core, destructive to freedom and human dignity. F.A. Hayek put it this way in the language of economics:

“That hodgepodge of ill-assembled and often inconsistent ideals which under the name of the Welfare State has largely replaced socialism as the goal of the reformers needs very careful sorting-out if its results are not to be very similar to those of full-fledged socialism. This is not to say that some of its aims are not both practicable and laudable. But there are many ways in which we can work toward the same goal, and in the present state of opinion there is some danger that our impatience for quick results may lead us to choose instruments which, though perhaps more efficient for achieving the particular ends, are not compatible with the preservation of a free society.”

I believe Hayek was even being a bit kind in his criticism. I have grave doubts about whether it’s compassion that's moving those who kill with their kindness. In my view it’s got more to do with power and control than it does compassion.

Let me now take if full circle. Those caught in the grip of poverty need help, but I believe the help must come in the form of opportunity. They don’t need to live at the mercy of un-caring beaurocrats and and self anointed experts, they need the dignity of work and freedom that is all too often denied them. The system treats the poor as if they were helpless, when in truth they have as much ability, if not more, than their “benefactors.”

At the beginning of this new millennium Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto noted that:

“Charitable organizations have so emphasized the miseries and helplessness of the world’s poor that no one has properly documented their capacity for accumulating assets.”

It’s amazing! The poor actually have ability. They actually have strong minds and bodies. They actually have all the resources needed to succeed in society. Someone needs to let the welfare administrators know.

I don’t think that I’m much different than anyone else who’s been caught in this vice of false compassion that’s been constructed. I, like they, had a strong mind, a strong body, and a good spirit. All I needed was an opportunity to prove myself, and the only way I could do that was to escape and freely make my way. When it came I took it and I assure you that I will NEVER go back!

I began this essay with some cogent words from Holy Writ. I’ve heard them rendered many times to mean that our role is to look kindly upon those “less fortunate than ourselves.” Kindness is one thing, but at the core of the welfare state there’s a bitter root. It comes in the form of an insidious attitude that sets one group up as benefactors and the poor as their serfs. It’s doubly toxic because it’s built on a half truth that opens the door to oppression and serfdom. It sets up two distinct classes, one that is kind, fortunate, and noble and another that is helpless.

Words and ideas, when twisted, can all too often have disastrous results. That’s what the welfare state is all about. It’s a twisted system and there’s nothing good about it at all. It destroys the soul. It is destructive to society. And, if given enough leeway, it will bring free societies down.


James Fletcher Baxter said...

The missing element in any 'solution' is an accurate definition of the creature. Try the Creator's...?

Human is earth's Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by nature
and nature's God a creature of Choice - and of Criteria.
Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive characteristic
is, and of Right ought to be, the natural foundation of his
environments, institutions, and respectful relations to his
fellow-man. Thus, he is oriented to a Freedom whose roots
are in the Order of the universe.

The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits,
customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of
his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the
creative process, is a choice-making process. His
articles, constructs, and commodities, however marvelous
to behold, deserve neither awe nor idolatry, for man, not
his contrivance, is earth's own highest expression of the
creative process.

"These examples demonstrate a basic truth -- that human
dignity is embodied in the free choice of individuals."
Condoleeza Rice

Q: "What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son
of man that You take care of him?" Hebrews 2:6
A: "I have chosen the way of truth; your judgments I have
laid before me." Psalm 119:30 "Let Your hand become my
help, for I have chosen Your precepts."Psalm 119:173


Allan said...

Good points, Phil. Add to the welfare state eventually bringing down a society this:

Berkeley, CA - Parents, teachers, school employees and children all voted to change the name of Jefferson Elementary School to Sequoia Elementary School. When asked why voted for the change a nine-year old boy answered, "because Jefferson owned slaves."

This is what he knows about Jefferson, that he owned slaves. Not that he wrote the Declaration of Independence, not that he worked in the Virginia legislature to bring about an end to slavery, not that he tried to have inserted an anti-slavery clause into the Constitution (from France), but that he was part of an at the time legal system.

Couple dependence on government with ignorance of history and values and the road to perdition grows ever shorter.

Allan said...

I forgot to add this: Imagine asking nine-year olds to make judgments about macro issues. Children's opinions on what or where to eat or their personal relationships are important, but their opinions on history, world events, and policy...you might as well ask your dog.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...


Thanks for you comments!

I'm going to be posting a piece tomorrow morning about American education. I'm going to attempt in some way to desribe my fury at what's being done to American kinds in our public school system.

Thanks again!

Allan said...

Phil, I teach at a community college here (LA area). Without exception the students I see are completely ignorant of history and have been taught to be non-judgmental...except of anything pro-American and pro-Christian. It is not universal, but nearly so.

This is not to say that the students aren't wonderfully sweet people for the most part, merely unlearned. They are taught, well you know what they are taught, multi-culturalism, moral relativism, and the feel don't think approach to life. Faced with this and having no historical context against which to meaure it, they become walking sea anenomies.

Touch an anenomy and it closes, that's all. No thought, just instinctual reaction. That's how they react to conservative thought.

It is a sad, dark place we are sliding into. Had I not my faith I would likely take out my sword and fall on it.