Soho Forum

Would the Poor Be Better Off Without Welfare? Participate in Live Debate Tonight!

Neera Tanden, head of Center for American Progress, and Tarren Bragdon of Foundation for Government Accountability square in live Soho Forum/Reason debate.

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Soho Forum

Reason is honored to partner with The Soho Forum in offering monthly debates that take place on the cutting-edge of libertarian thought and policy matters.

Tonight, that means Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, and Tarren Bragdon, president of the Foundation for Government Accountability, will be debating the costs and benefits of welfare at New York City's Subculture Theater. Specifically, they will debate the following proposition, with Bragdon defending it and Tanden opposing it.

"Fifteen million able-bodied adults on government welfare would have a better chance at economic betterment if they were taken off welfare."

The doors open at 5:45 P.M. and the event starts at 6:30 P.M. There's a cash bar and food is included with admission. Tickets cost $18 ($10 for students) must be purchased in advance and are still available. A special bonus: You can bring a friend for free. Go here for more information and to purchase tickets now.

The Soho Forum runs Oxford-style debates, meaning that the audience votes before and after the conversation gets underway and the winner is the person who moves more listeners in his/her direction.

If you can't attend, Reason will be live streaming the debate on Reason's Facebook page, where you'll be able to vote for the winner and submit questions for Tanden and Bragdon.

For past Soho Forums, which also get released at our YouTube channel and as Reason Podcasts, go here.

NEXT: If Disqualified Gun Buyers Aren't Dangerous, Maybe They Shouldn't Be Disqualified

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  1. Welfare, shmelfare. What would really help the poor in this country is unlimited immigration.

    1. Yes, artificially driving up unemployment and depressing wages all while draining more public resources when we don’t even take care of our veterans is an awesome idea and will clearly help the poor.

  2. What the poor need is an unlimited federal spending plan for 50 years which gives power and blank checks to a herd of pedophiles and serial perverts to dispense with as they please.

  3. Everybody knows that poor people are better off without welfare money. Poor kids are better off without money from coddling parents. This showcases Libertarian dogma.

    1. What poor person gives money to their kids?

    2. Whereas giving money to rich people improves society.

      The beliefs are based on a wealth=virtue assumption so ridiculous it’s a wonder this philosophy even exists without massive amounts of charity itself. Oh wait, that is the only reason it exists.

      1. What improves society is not giving money to anybody. The problem is the government initiating force. Welfare and all social programs are just a symptom of the disease.

        1. The whole job of government is to initiate force, because without it you get every wannabe tyrant with a legitimate claim to initiating force. Which is why you think, in a complete contradiction, we need some kind of collectively paid-for police force to deal with them.

          1. No. The proper function of government is to defend individual negative liberty with the RETALIATORY use of force. We call the government initiating force tyranny. Why you demand it is beyond me.

        2. Which is to say you’re comfortable with the basic system, you just don’t think we should be doing most of what civilizations typically do. Can you not defend your policy positions on their merits without resorting to this self-contradictory initiatory force stuff?

          1. The government shouldn’t be doing most of what civilizations typically do. It shouldn’t do anything besides defend liberty. Everything else is done by the private sector.

            1. I think public healthcare increases liberty and should thus be defended by government.

              1. That’s because you believe in positive liberty which is wrong because it requires the government to initiate force. Humans as sapient beings have a natural right to liberty, negative liberty, which is freedom from external interference. Humans survive by using our minds and the initiatory use of force negates that ability and is therefore immoral.

                1. Ta-da! So what about starving children?

                  Let me guess, find your nearest church and hope for the best.

                  1. All the problems you list are caused by the government interfering in the economy. If government is kept to its proper function they would all cease. There would be no starving children.

              2. Why not food, clothing, and shelter while you’re at it?

                1. You mean things already provided as public services to one degree or another? Ever heard of food stamps? Publicly subsidized housing?

                  Government’s primary job in this country is ensuring that people have access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I fail to see how that’s possible without access to basic needs. Or why things like property rights protection aren’t, if anything, secondary to those.

                  1. That’s from the Declaration of Independence. Nowhere in the Constitution is such a thing mandated. Again “positive liberty” is not liberty because it requires the initiatory use of force.

              3. Tony, you are a stupid piece of shit. So what you ‘think’ (I use the word loosely in this case) is of no value. Just like you.

                Public healthcare DESTROYS liberty. Case closed.

                1. Well that settles it.

          2. Tony|12.11.17 @ 5:53PM|#
            “Which is to say you’re comfortable with the basic system, you just don’t think we should be doing most of what civilizations typically do.”

            Classic lefty dishonesty.
            Slimy shit poisons the well for the get go.

  4. Prediction: what will NOT happen at this debate is any attempt to define what we mean by the feels-term, “The poor”

    Do we mean the many “people who labor 12 hours a day at low income jobs”, and have seen little improvement in their lives, or social-mobility in the last few decades?

    Or do we mean the “people who reside in govt subsidized housing, collecting govt benefits, who occasionally seek work in order to keep their eligibility for benefits, and whose community is comprised almost entirely of people just like themselves”

    Both sorts of people exist. They are not the same. And any case about the utility of ‘welfare’ to each, or how their lives could possibly be improved (or not) w/o it, would have to carefully distinguish between them.

    my guess is they won’t, and they’ll mostly rely on arbitrary income-levels and/or ‘financial security’ sorts of things.

    1. According to an article I read just today, above the fold, front page, “the poor” consists of a young man (early 20s) who lives in a youth shelter, owns a pair of high-end headphones, an expensive Macbook and spends his days in local cafes producing EDM music.

      So… all I know is, the definition of the poor seems highly mutable.

  5. Since giving welfare requires the government to initiate force and the government initiating force decreases everyone’s liberty, yes they would be better off without it.

    1. Okay but we have to dump literally every government program there is. None of this “it’s OK to collect taxes at gunpoint as long as it pays for a program I like” bullcrap. It’s your logic, now you apply it correctly.

      1. Do you expect me to disagree with that? It’s exactly what I want. I would love it. It’s literally my Libertopian dream.

        1. Gotta respect anarchists for their consistency, which libertarians totally and fatally lack. I guess the fact that it’s batshit insane is a matter of perspective.

          1. I’m a minarchist. I don’t believe there would be enough crime in Libertopia to support private defense companies. You do realize none of those programs existed for over a hundred years after our country was founded? What is insane is your position of demanding the government initiate force. Why do you insist on being a slave?

          2. I’m a minarchist. I don’t believe there would be enough crime in Libertopia to support private defense companies. You do realize none of those programs existed for over a hundred years after our country was founded? What is insane is your position of demanding the government initiate force. Why do you insist on being a slave?

            1. Of course there’d be very little crime. You asserted it! We’re talking about a completely untested form of society after all, which means we know everything about it.

              1. Well since only initiating force, threats of force or fraud would be illegal I think it’s safe to say crime would be a small fraction of what it is currently. Hell just ending the War on Drugs would decrease crime by probably 95%.

                1. But you just said that we can’t take taxes because it’s at the point of a gun and is initiatory force. So how do we pay the cops to enforce laws against force and fraud?

                  1. Any non coercive means. I suggest a fee on contracts that would be paid to ensure they are enforced. You could sign one without the fee but of course you would not have the government to enforce it. Tariffs maybe. Sales tax maybe. Volunteer cops maybe. Since there is so little crime the cops won’t cost much.

                    1. Daydreaming about fantasy worlds should be reserved for children or maybe adults lost in a sci-fi book. It shouldn’t occupy someone’s entire political worldview. But that’s an opinion.

                      I absolutely love how you just flat-out say “Since there is so little crime…” as if I’m just going to accept that assumption.

                      Why can’t you go find some untouched woods somewhere where you can live a nasty, brutish, short life and leave the rest of us out of it? We’ve clearly chosen civilization, whatever compromises to our autonomy that may require.

                    2. I guess I have more faith in the goodness of a free people than you do.

        2. You have to excuse Tony. Libertarianism has nearly disappeared from this website, despite fundraising claims to the contrary.

          1. “Do you guys even realize that your insane philosophy would mean no FDA?”

  6. Would The Poor Be Better Off Without Welfare?

    Might (stress: might) be an interesting economics debate, but ethically, does the question even matter? Welfare is theft.

    /gently places mic on floor.

  7. If you want to help children of poor parents (in terms of basics like feeding, clothing and housing) you either have to provide some sort of benefits to the family as a whole, or take the children out of the family.

    Taking children forcibly out of a family (in the absence of proven child abuse) is about as anti-freedom as it gets. Plus the foster system is worse than almost any bad parent.

    1. And giving the money to the parents of the children is also often very unhelpful. These are often the same parents who make their kids bring home the public school lunch so they can eat it.

      Actual charity can account for these kinds of things – government administered “welfare” cannot.

  8. Does able-bodied include the mentally ill? It’s difficult for schizophrenics who refuse medication to get a job.

    1. They could do the jobs the Mexicans won’t.

      1. What are those?

        1. Slaying imaginary demons and monsters in alleyways, as an example.

          1. That sounds like fun how much does it pay?

            1. The eternal gratitude of the denizens of the ur-dimensions.

              1. And some limited health benefits, but the co-pays are dreadful.

              2. Is that anything like Bitcoin?

                1. Only if you believe in it.

                  1. So it’s exactly like Bitcoin!

                    1. Precisely.

    2. So people who know they have a problem and refuse treatment still should receive welfare?

      Let’s extend this to all problems, or more precisely, let’s expand the definition of mentally ill.

      I drink too much I know it, so gimme money.

      I beat my wife, I admit it, so gimme money.

      I sodomize Fist’s orphans without providing reacharounds, I confess, so gimme money.

      I infest Reason comments irregularly and inconsistently, so gimme money.

      1. Go with the small-government option. Just give the money without worrying about what people are doing with their leisure time.

        1. I know a smaller-government option.

    3. I would argue if you’re mentally ill enough to not be able to navigate through public life, you’re not able-bodied.

      1. Look at the big brain on mister “Mind-Body dichotomy”.

  9. Are we shoving a bunch of wildly unverified assumptions about human nature and how economies work into this conversation? You better be! We wouldn’t want to have a lame, boring discussion about the most obvious fucking thing in the universe, which is to say that giving poor people money makes them less poor.

    1. And it keeps them poor.

      1. That’s the kind of totally unsupported psychobabble I’m talking about! Keep it up.

        1. If you don’t see the generational addiction to the teat, your head is farther up your ass than suspected.

          1. “Generational” is a dog-whistle word, right?

            We’re all on the government teat. I hate to mention roads and winning WWII, as they seem like cliches, but there you go.

            “But those things are OK for me to benefit from because it’s construction and explody things! Feeding and housing poor children makes them soft!”

            Did I get accusations of racism and misogyny in one post? On a Monday??

            1. ‘ “Generational” is a dog-whistle word, right? ‘

              Why? Did you start salivating?

              1. Why? Did you start salivating?

                In that what that means is that you spoke a “code-word” that triggers him to call you racist, yes – yes he did.

                More and more I think Tony is one of Pavlov’s experiments gone horribly, horribly wrong.

            2. Where I live the main roads have 40 mph speed limits and no turn lanes. Thanks government!

              1. Where I live, those in our neighborhood would repave the roads ourselves, if government would allow us to.

                Where I live, the local hiking trail that washed out when an intermittent wash that is a “navigable water of the US” flooded last year would be fixed if not for the fact that we have to ask the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to tamp down the dirt and re-position the mats.

                What would we do without government?

                1. Modern-day aborigines you are. Experts at your natural environment, which includes roads. But no poor, infirm, or children people. That would complicate things, wouldn’t it? Or do we just throw them to natural selection?

                  1. What in Sam Hell are you babbling about now?

                  2. In Libertopia there are no poor or infirm. In Libertopia there is biological immortality. And flying cars, don’t forget the flying cars!

          2. Never underestimate the distance Tony’s head will go up his ass.

    2. which is to say that giving poor people money makes them less poor.

      No it doesn’t.

      1. Do you know what the definition of “poor” is?

        1. See my comment above, the definition is highly mutable.

          1. Ah, the old “He owns a gadget, thus cannot be poor, as we all know gadgets cost more than housing, food, and healthcare combined.”

            I suppose you think the fact that these arguments were stale 20 years ago just means they’re right.

            1. These arguments are not stale, it’s meant to point out that “the poor” has a mutable definition.

              Of course you can be poor if you’re able bodied, are unwilling to work, and set questionable priorities for your resources.

              That kid is in an entirely different category from the guy who has limited skills, only has worked low-end construction jobs and injured himself in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to work– while trying to support two kids.

              But yes, I would expect you to simply look at someone’s checking account and say, “You’re poor!”. You’re not even good at checkers, so quit trying to play chess.

              1. Well in addition to believing that the way to make people less poor is to make them less poor, I also don’t think it’s the government’s business whether poor people are spending their time doing. Certainly the children of poor people don’t have much say in the matter–or do we want government to stick its nose into their toybox and moral habits before deciding whether they’re worthy of a roof over their head and basic healthcare?

                1. “I also don’t think it’s the government’s business whether poor people are spending their time doing.”

                  Libertarian moment.

                2. So you want the government to interfere in rich people’s lives and take their money but not interfere in poor people’s?

                  1. One generally should pay for things they buy. Rich people enjoy the services civilization provides too.

                    1. And they’re the ones paying for them. The top 10% pay 70% of the taxes.

                    2. They’ve really gotten you to feel sorry for the rich–and the richer the worse off they are, of course, because they pay more taxes. (Just ignore their share of the wealth and income why don’t you.)

                      If the rich don’t want to pay so much in taxes, I know a way they can escape that terrible burden. Wonder why they never, ever take that option.

                      What glorious, audacious propaganda that has its hooks in you. I don’t know that anyone’s ever tried that before. Marie Antoinette, most oppressed member of French society, who’s for giving her some of your cake?

                    3. “One generally should pay for things they buy.”

                      All right the gig is up. Nobody can be this clueless.

                  2. So you want the government to interfere in rich people’s lives and take their money but not interfere in poor people’s?

                    No, no. Tony’s been shrieking for days that he believes no one should get anything from the government that they’re not 100% paying for.

                    He obviously thinks poor people should be given money because they’re paying for it and it belongs to them.

                    Otherwise, according to Tony, they would all be thieves. And you know Tony would never call poor people thieves!

                    1. One generally should pay for things they buy.

                      ^ See?

                    2. Well it’s like you think taxation and redistribution is a never-ending malicious act of throwing good people’s money into a sinkhole for no reason. Is it progressivity you object to (in which case I’ll happy to explain why that’s fair too), or are you simply an anarchist?

                    3. Yes! That is exactly what we think!

                    4. Well it’s like you think taxation and redistribution is a never-ending malicious act of throwing good people’s money into a sinkhole for no reason. Is it progressivity you object to (in which case I’ll happy to explain why that’s fair too), or are you simply an anarchist?

                      Huh?

                      I’m agreeing with you – people shouldn’t get things they aren’t paying for.

                      That is what you’ve been saying – right?

                    5. And since we all start gumming the teat of government services 9 months before we’re shat into the world, we have a tax and spend system, since fetuses can’t hold down jobs, usually.

                    6. we all start gumming the teat of government services 9 months before we’re shat into the world

                      Um, no, “we” don’t. My parents paid for the whole shebang, thanks very much, and did it on what my dad was making assembling airplanes for McDonnell-Douglas in the late 60s.

                      But in fairness, that was before the government got involved in healthcare and drove the costs through the roof.

                      Wait – what was your point again?

                      People shouldn’t get things they don’t pay for? What does that have to do with poor people again?

                    7. And they constructed their own monorail system to get them to their own hospital and made sure to bring gallons of dirty water to do the birthing and drinking. Wouldn’t want any government help.

                3. Well in addition to believing that the way to make people less poor is to make them less poor, I also don’t think it’s the government’s business whether poor people are spending their time doing.

                  If only all the poor people that received money had the same priorities as those of us who don’t think homelessness is a “lifestyle”.

                  1. They do have the same priorities as you, not that it’s any of your business.

                    I’m going to say this slowly so that maybe it sinks in before you embarrass yourself again: Data show that poor people spend money on food and other basic needs first, just like everyone else.

                    Anecdotal horseshit about how they by virtue of being poor squander it on things you find morally objectionable is a racist political narrative meant to scare white idiots into voting for tax cuts for their betters.

                    Again, not that it’s any of your business, since it’s not your money.

                    1. Anecdotal horseshit about how they by virtue of being poor squander it on things you find morally objectionable is a racist political narrative

                      Who mentioned race? Other than you, that is?

                    2. I did because I’d hate for you to keep peddling racist 80s-era Republican Southern Strategy evil horsecrap around your friends.

                    3. But it WAS our money before the government stole it.

  10. Does donating to Reason make it into a liquor-chugging woman-chasing layabout, or does it intend to redistribute the welfare to grow the economy?

      1. At some point there’s a crossover where being given free money stops making you a lazy ne’er-do-well and starts making you a job creator. Just not sure where Reason falls on the spectrum. (It’s orange so I can’t tell the usual way.)

          1. Tony does seem particularly incoherent today. His meds must be out of adjustment again.

            1. Not sure.
              He’s a fucking dishonest piece of shit at best. This could simply be a bit farther along the spectrum.

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