Charity/Philanthropy

Capitalism Does Much More for Poor People Than Government Playing Santa Claus

Government creates loyalty in the minds of citizens by pretending to be Santa Claus.

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It's the season for giving. That doesn't mean it's the season for government.

Government creates loyalty in the minds of citizens by pretending to be Santa Claus, doling out gifts and favors. Politicians claim they help those unfortunates who aren't helped by coldhearted capitalism.

The truth is, government gets in the way of charity, making it harder for people to help others and for the poor to help themselves. It also gets in the way of commerce, which is what really makes people better off.

When I was in college, President Lyndon Johnson declared "an all-out war on human poverty. … For the first time in our history, it's possible to conquer poverty." I believed him. But then I watched government poverty programs fail. America spent trillions of your dollars on the poor, and the poor stayed poor.

Actually, the poverty rate did fall after the "War on Poverty" began. But it had already been falling prior to initiation of welfare. Sadly, the poverty rate stopped falling about seven years after Johnson's programs began, mostly because government handouts encouraged people to be dependent.

Simple capitalism does much more for poor people. On my show this week, Marian Tupy, editor of HumanProgress.org, speculates on why people don't appreciate that.

"Our minds evolved tens of thousands of years ago when we lived in small groups of between 50-200 people," says Tupy. "We would go out, kill game, bring it back, share it." The idea of everyone getting an equal share still makes us feel warm and cozy.

"Some of the anti-capitalist impulse goes back to that hunter-gatherer mentality and not comprehending the complexity of the market economy," says Tupy. "The complexity outpaced our ability to understand it."

But even those who don't understand markets should open their eyes and acknowledge its benefits: World-wide, wherever economic freedom is allowed, millions of people have lifted themselves out of stoop labor and miserable poverty. 

Of course, not everyone can reap the benefits of markets. The sick, the mentally ill and other truly helpless people need a hand. But why assume government must provide that help? Government doesn't do anything very well. Why not let private charity handle it?

I once assumed there was too much poverty for private charity to make much of a difference. But now I realize there is plenty of money, and private charity would do much more if government didn't discourage it.

When the welfare state took over poverty relief, it crowded out "mutual aid" societies that the poor ran for themselves. They were like a cross between private unemployment insurance and "moose" or "elks" lodges that encouraged members to help each other out. They were better at helping the poor because their members, unlike government poverty workers, were free to make judgments about who deserved help and who didn't.

Today, there are fewer mutual aid societies because people say, "Why do it myself when we already have giant welfare bureaucracies? My taxes pay for Obamacare, food stamps, housing vouchers, and so on. I'll let the professionals handle it."

But those "professionals" do a poor job.

Fortunately, charities still try to do what government cannot do. I give money to the Doe Fund, an organization that helps addicts and ex-cons discover the benefits of work. I give because I can see the results: Doe Fund participants work as caterers, exterminators, and street-cleaners, and they do it with a spring in their step. Somehow, the charity teaches these men (they only work with men) to take pride in work. That pride changes people. Unlike other ex-cons, those who are Doe graduates rarely go back to jail.

If government didn't discourage it, more charities would do even better work with the poor. Human beings don't sit around ignoring the suffering of their neighbors. But we are most likely to neglect these moral tasks when government insists it has everything covered. Get government out of the way and just watch what we can do.

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  1. Equality trumps prosperity in the minds of many people. Envy is a terrible thing.

    1. As a car guy I say, God bless rich people. They are early adopters of new technology that can be scaled up for the rest of us, and can spend the dough to restore and preserve the old cars.

      God bless them, every one.

      1. They came for the Packards, and I said nothing, cause I wasn’t a Packard guy.

        They came for the Cadillacs, and….

        1. I laughed, because they are crappy cars….but the Saturn went under and I wept bitter tears and looked for a UAW rep to kick in the nuts.

  2. “Our minds evolved tens of thousands of years ago when we lived in small groups of between 50-200 people,” says Tupy. “We would go out, kill game, bring it back, share it.” The idea of everyone getting an equal share still makes us feel warm and cozy.

    Uh-huh. That’s why slaying the men and, um, having the women of the other tribe is still so naturally comforting.

    1. Yeah, I find these evolutionary arguments very unpersuasive, almost where ever they are applied (behavior, diet, etc). I’m also suspicious of the claim that in groups of 50-200 people, everyone shared and everything was nice and rosy.

      1. Tribal societies DO share more than we do, just nowhere near as much as the modern Liberal Establishment would like to believe they do.

    2. “Some of the anti-capitalist impulse goes back to that hunter-gatherer mentality and not comprehending the complexity of the market economy,” says Tupy. “The complexity outpaced our ability to understand it.”

      What a total fucking moron.

      Hunter-gatherer societies are defined by alpha-male wolf-pack mentalities where the “most equal” member of the tribe/pack gets the “most equal” selection of the day’s take.

      1. “The complexity outpaced our ability to understand it.”

        But, enough about the Affordable Care Act.

        1. Grog’s got a bum knee and can’t run worth shit anymore. But Grog’s figured out how to turn flint into spear heads, and he won’t show anyone else how to do it. So Grog gets a nice cut of meat every night, even though he’s a total asshole.

          1. “The Dawn of Enhanced Interrogation”

          2. Aunt of Grog’s sister (his mother) gathers over two pounds of berries everyday! Last moon, she gather 60 pounds! Seem legit to me, dude.

            1. +1 Venus of Willendorf

      2. Hey, at least nobody owned a yacht. Because that would be, like, unfair and stuff.

      3. ” and not comprehending the complexity of the market economy,”

        This part is sadly true however.

    3. I can guarantee that not every caveman got an equal share.

    4. ” Uh-huh. That’s why slaying the men and, um, having the women of the other tribe is still so naturally comforting.”

      What is best in life.

      To crush your enemy. To see him driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.

      That is good.

    5. Uh, the 10,000 Year Explosion debunks this idea.

  3. I just dont get the whole thing dude.

    http://www.AnonBay.tk

  4. I find Lord of the Flies much more plausible than some hunter/gatherer utopia.

  5. Because Stossel is a fairly recent “convert,” he’s plowing new ground… going where most libertarians have dared not go before.
    He is a hero for sure. Build the man a big-ass statue!

    1. David E, it’s been forever! Glad to see you here. Hope all is well.

      I shall be back on the FBN to greet you after Christmas. I needed a break from the derp.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours – hope all is well with you!

    2. With privately raised funds, of course.

  6. I think hunters and gatherers had horrible, painful, and short lives compared to free traders.

    You know why I think that? because it’s fact.

    1. Check your privilege and mansplations.

      1. don’t be butthurt.

        butthurt = mansplain for effectiveness in arguing.

  7. America spent trillions of your dollars on the poor government functionaries, and the poor stayed poor.

  8. “Some of the anti-capitalist impulse goes back to that hunter-gatherer mentality and not comprehending the complexity of the market economy,” says Tupy. “The complexity outpaced our ability to understand it.”

    What a maroon.

    Fucking division of labor- how does it work?

  9. Government creates loyalty in the minds of citizens by pretending to be Santa Claus

    or resentment by being Krampus. ymmv.

  10. I agree that Pauline `s storry is shocking… last week I bought a gorgeous Ford Focus after I been earnin $6233 this past month and over 10/k this past-munth . this is definitely the nicest-job Ive had . I actually started 3 months ago and pretty much immediately startad making minimum $71 p/h .
    Am join this way but you can join now————- http://www.jobsfish.com

    1. Gorgeous Ford Focus is an oxymoron.

  11. Hell, the main reason I don’t give more to charity is that somebody has made off with more than 40% of my fucking income.

  12. We finally have the means to solve most problems we face today, to feed, clothe, house each human being, beyond the standards of even the currently wealthiest people, while saving the environment. All that without the use of money, credit, barter, or any kind of servitude.

    Let’s make everything FREE! We’ve got the technology already to implement it.

    A 6 minute video explaining the idea: http://www.freeworldcharter.org

    In-depths documentary about the problems and the solution (quite frankly a must-watch):
    Zeitgeist Moving Forward (2hr41mins)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z9WVZddH9w

    Detailed free ebook “The Zeitgeist Movement defined” on
    thezeitgeistmovement.com

    thevenusproject.com

    Humans Need Not Apply (15mins)
    youtube.com/watch?v=7Pq-S557XQU

    James Burke Connects the Future (13 mins)
    youtube.com/watch?v=nPCgYy1VcN8

    Will Work for Free (2hrs) about available technologies
    youtube.com/watch?v=0SuGRgdJA_c

    and:
    3d printing is but a stepping stone towards the holy grail of additive manufacturing – molecular engineering. This
    is the technology showcased in ‘Star trek – the next generation’ as the
    replicator, and which would wipe out the monetary/market economic system once democratised across the population. Here’s the institute leading the research: ime.uchicago.edu/

  13. Look, there’s one path that consists of charity, caring, and gratitude. It involves personal commitment and helping out where one sees a need. There’s another path that consists of coercion, theft, resentment, and entitlement. It involves faceless bureaucrats taking your money by force, and doling it out to faceless clients who may or may not deserve it. Crude, impersonal, wasteful, and ineffective — everything that private local charity is not.

    Of course, the latter path also involves many opportunities to skim a healthy percentage off the top, and also makes the client class dependent and pliable. So it’s little surprise that Our Moral Superiors prefer that route.

  14. Once again John completely overlooks the fact that for capitalism to work one needs a an overwhelming altruistic society – which has never been and never will be. You’re living a pipe dream, John, and trying to sell it as truth – shame on you.

    And here’s a question for you – where does the base, the most stable form of funding come from for those benevolent charities you love to espouse? Yeah, the government, in other words, from our taxes.

    Give it up, John, I believe you to be smarter than this.

  15. “….Sadly, the poverty rate stopped falling about seven years after Johnson’s programs began, mostly because government handouts encouraged people to be dependent.”

    That reminds me of that video I saw on Youtube. http://youtu.be/B-OvDYwO6Jk

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