Give, Don't Govern

Philanthropy helps others. Government controls them instead.


This week, children may learn about that greedy man, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is selfish until ghosts scare him into thinking about others' well-being, not just his own.

Good for the ghosts.

But the way Scrooge addresses others' needs matters.

Today's advocates of equality, compassion, increased spending on education, health care, etc., say "we care" but demand that government do the work.

Controlling other people with the power of government doesn't prove you care.

If you want to help the poor, clean the environment, improve the arts. Great! Please do.
But if you are compassionate, then you'll spend your own money on your vision. You will volunteer your work and encourage others to volunteer theirs, by charity or commerce. You don't force others to do what you think is best.

But government is not voluntary. Government has no money of its own. Whatever it gives away, it first must take from others through taxes.

If you vote for redistribution of wealth, welfare benefits, new Medicare spending or free education, you can tell yourself you're "generous." But you're not. You're just forcing others to pay for programs you think might help. That's not generosity. That's control. The more programs you demand, the more controlling you are.

In fact, you are worse than greedy old Ebenezer Scrooge.

With Scrooge, people have a choice. They can work for Scrooge or quit. They can do business with someone else.

Governments don't offer us choice. Governments say: "Comply or we will lock you up. Pay taxes and we will decide whom to help. No one may escape the master plan."

Why, then, do people react to big government ideas as if they're generous instead of scary? Because most people don't think clearly about what it means to tell government to use force against their fellow citizens. They think about society the way their ancestors did.

"Our minds evolved tens of thousands of years ago, when we lived in small groups of 50-200 people," says editor Marian Tupy. "We would kill game, bring it back, share it."

The idea of everyone getting an equal share still makes us feel warm and cozy.
Some of you may feel that coziness this week, sharing a Christmas meal. Great. But remember that if you decide that society's resources should be redistributed, that's much more complex than passing meat around a family table.

Seizing control of a big society's resources has unforeseen consequences—ripple effects that are hard to predict.

Back in the cave, you stood a pretty good chance of noticing which hungry relative needed a bigger share of meat. In the tribe, that sort of central planning worked well enough. It doesn't work as well once the tribe numbers thousands or millions of people. No tribal elder knows enough to plan so many different people's lives.

Today's politicians, for instance, don't know how many workers will be laid off if they raise taxes on Walmart. They don't know what innovation will never happen if they cap CEOs' salaries. They don't know how much wealth creation will be lost if they tax investors' money in order to fund another government program.

Government's built-in ignorance explains how it can spend trillions on failed poverty programs, and then respond to the failure by demanding more funds to continue the same programs.

You stand a better chance of getting good results if you do real charity, close to home, where you can keep an eye on it—and without coercing anyone else to do things your way.

We can invent new ways to give to each other. Philanthropy evolves, much the way markets do, harnessing new technologies and social networks that span the globe.
Innovative ideas, like microlending, start in one kitchen. If they work, they grow.

By contrast, government grows even when it doesn't work. It bosses people around even when it's not really helping them.

Big hearts are a good thing. Big government is no substitute for them.

NEXT: Now That It's Toothless, Obamacare's Individual Mandate Is Unconstitutional

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  1. So many people need to learn this.

    Semi-related: Been reading Fair Play by Steven Landsburg. It purports to see the world through children’s eyes, and there’s enough of that to justify the premise. What it really is, is ways to open your eyes. None of the conclusions surprise anyone who believes in self-ownership, or “Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff”, but his methods make me laugh and argue and think, and that’s what it is for.

    For instance, making it a crime to refuse to rent to a minority, disabled, etc. He asks why isn’t it also a crime for tenants to refuse to rent from a minority or disabled landlord? And why isn’t it a worse crime to not even build apartments to rent out? Someone with a spare room or two, or especially an in-law apartment over the garage — why isn’t it a crime to not rent that out at all? The landlord is the only one doing something illegal, yet the landlord is also the only one doing anything to alleviate the housing shortage.

    Fascinating book. I don’t agree with all of it. Some parts seem to me a waste, where he has no special outlook which makes the reader sit up and say “Wha?”. But overall one of the best books I have read.

  2. Today’s politicians, for instance, don’t know how many workers will be laid off if they raise taxes on Walmart. They don’t know what innovation will never happen if they cap CEOs’ salaries. They don’t know how much wealth creation will be lost if they tax investors’ money in order to fund another government program.

    More importantly, they don’t care.

    1. At the Federal level; They’re aren’t suppose to “care”. It’s Unconstitutional. Their JOB is international defense. I don’t think my gardener should preform my surgery so I’m not going to pretend he has any say in the matter. The Constitution really is a great platform…

      1. “Their JOB is international defense.”

        Can you point to the section of the Constitution that mandates this?

        And since Stossel’s statement was about taxation (you know, one of those things that government does), they should consider (or care about) the consequences.

        1. Article I Section 8
          – “provide for the common Defence”
          – “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations”
          – “To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations”
          – “To declare War”
          – “To raise and support Armies”
          – “To provide and maintain a Navy”
          – “suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions”
          Amendment X
          “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

          1. All of these apply to NATIONAL defense. The Constitution does not require global defense.

            1. Awe Yes!! Excellent point.. I shall use the word ‘National’ from now on instead of ‘International’ as I’ve actually been inferring intervention-al. Thank you for pointing that out.

              1. I’m here to help. And, of course, mock.

  3. BEST article I’ve read all Year…. 100000000+ for Stossell!!!

    1. Yep. This goes in the “save this link” folder for later use whenever I get the “government needs to do this” argument.

    2. Government “charity” is clearly immoral and it’s not charity because the money is taken from workers by force to do it. It’s that simple.

      That it’s decided by a majority vote doesn’t make it fair or moral either, just like it’s not fair to the sheep to put it in the position where it and two wolves vote on what’s for dinner.

      Every time a politician promises someone something, people should ask who’s paying for it, and whether it’s a moral use of government (a necessary EVIL) or not. If it’s for other than protecting us from evil people who’d harm us, it’s not a moral purpose of government. And I’ll agree to local governments dealing with natural monopolies such as water supplies, sewer, and roads, when free markets can’t supply them.

  4. A better reason to get the government out of the ‘charity’ business is that it damages everyone. It hurts those from whom the money is taken against their will while salving their consciences, while making them more disdainful of those who receive the welfare. And it hurts the receivers of the welfare by making them dependent on the gifts and gives them a feeling of entitlement. Just as much it robs the giver of the satisfaction of seeing the recipients, which they would more likely do in a voluntary charitable situation. And it robs the recipients of the knowledge that specific persons are considerate of their well-being and actually care for them – it deprives them of this dignity. Dehumanizing charity dehumanizes the giver and the recipient.

    Happy Christmas!

  5. Private charity doesn’t work precisely because there is no force! It’s not fair if people have a choice! Why should I contribute unless everyone else does as well?!? Besides, private charity is mostly religious! Charity should only be done by force! That makes it fair! I wan it to be fayer! Fayer! It’s not fayer!

    1. ” Why should I contribute unless everyone else does as well?!? “

      I have heard people who call themselves progressives make this argument, in nearly those exact words.

      1. Well since not everyone tells the truth; I guess that’s their excuse for being compulsive liars too 🙂 I’m not going to tell the truth unless everyone else does first!

  6. Every left wing person willing to talk about this has no problems having the government take other people’s assets in order to fund programs. When I tell them that when they vote for that aspect of government, then they are responsible for taking other people’s assets – they simply don’t have a problem with that. So the real problem is at the morals level. Articles like this one assume people will have a problem with the moral dilemma of stealing other people’s assets – they don’t. Until we libertarians figure out how to fight this war, we will continue to lose the battles of logic and intellectual persuasion.

    1. People on the left have a single moral code: might makes right. They are full of envy and hatred, and as obsessed with fairness as the average two year old.

      Everything is emotionally based, so no amount of logic or reason will ever sway them.

      1. +1000, “a single moral code: might makes right” <- which actually is pure Democracy so their party name fits them well. A Republic rises above such mobster mentality and that's what the USA is.

  7. “NYT: Trump administration policy change limits penalties for bird deaths”

    You’d think the watermelons would be dancing in the streets; now their windmills can slaughter hawks with impunity.

    1. Our windmills harm fewer hawks than your carbon monoxide. Our birds are very susceptible to air pollution and have respiratory systems much like our own, sharing vulnerabilities to avian flu and other diseases. I doubt you will be happy to hear this so you are welcome to ignore it. You might want to insult me to make yourself feel better.

      1. “Our windmills harm fewer hawks than your carbon monoxide.”

        Luddites of the world unite!
        Fuck off.

          1. Merry Christmas retard.

          2. “Feeling better?”

            Much better after you fuck off, luddite.

      2. How many windmills do you own?

        1. One for each of my hawks.

          1. So none?

        2. I own one.. Owned it for 3-years. Spent $1000 on it; did all my own installation and mounted it with scrap material sitting around. It generates a power worth of $0.022 per day. YIPPIE!!! That’s $8/yr So it’ll only take 125-years to pay for itself… Oh whoops, nope; already had to buy another inverter for it at another $300..

          What a ECO-Scam!!! No wonder green-energy is subsidized to the bone… They’re nothing but unicorn statues funded by force.

          1. “I own one.. Owned it for 3-years. Spent $1000 on it”

            You can get a used hawk for a fraction of that.

            1. mtrueman|8.30.17 @ 1:42PM|#
              “Spouting nonsense is an end in itself.”

      3. Birds are dinosaurs, and CO2 (I assume you meant carbon dioxide, the so-called greenhouse gas) levels during their heyday were 3-4 times current levels.

        Some birds thrive in cities, where both CO and CO2 are abundant compared to rural areas.

        As usual, you spout a lot of words which just happen to sometimes make grammatically plausible sentences, but little else.

        1. mtrueman|8.30.17 @ 1:42PM|#
          “Spouting nonsense is an end in itself.”

          In a just world, he’d be freezing his ass off, gotten a lump of coal for Christmas, and had to find a way to light it with his windmill.

          1. “with his windmill.”

            Thanks to this windmill, on the first day of Christmas, a delicious partridge on the dinner plate. What did you manage to poison with your carbon monoxide?

            1. mtrueman|8.30.17 @ 1:42PM|#
              “Spouting nonsense is an end in itself.”

        2. “Some birds thrive in cities, where both CO and CO2 are abundant compared to rural areas.”

          Rats thrive in cities, too. So do cockroaches. Someone’s gotta clean up the mess we make, and I don’t begrudge our feathered friends their chance to feast on our discards.

          I agree we should be sending birds a message to buck up and not be so susceptible to things like car exhaust. The same message can apply to you dinosaurs.

          1. mtrueman|8.30.17 @ 1:42PM|#
            “Spouting nonsense is an end in itself.”

            Bullshit and sophistry is all you got.

            1. You’re not getting cheated. It’s more than you’re worth.

              1. mtrueman
                December.25.2019 at 9:21 pm
                “You’re not getting cheated. It’s more than you’re worth.”

                No, it’s not anything close to what I’m worth, but it’s the upper limit of what a bullshitter like you can deliver.
                Fuck off and die.

          2. Which category are you? Someone apparently forgot to clean up that category.

  8. If you think the government is stealing from you, then take the appropriate action. Giving yet more money to charity isn’t going to stop the thieving government.

    1. Because the government steals from me, I should stop caring about other people?

      Spoken like a true Progressive.

    2. Commit suicide?

      1. It’s all the rage these days.

        1. Please be an example to us all.

          1. Your puffing yourself into an outrage over windmills is example enough.

            1. “Your puffing yourself into an outrage over windmills is example enough.”

              It’s doubtful that a fucking ignoramus like you could ever learn tp post something which isn’t embarrassing to a 1st-grade kid.
              mtrueman|8.30.17 @ 1:42PM|#
              “Spouting nonsense is an end in itself.”
              Fuck off and die.

  9. Merry Christmas retards.

    1. Buck up, little camper. Those lumps of coal you got still have value.

  10. Why does John Stossel hate the poor? If giving to the poor is a priority, then surely it justifies stealing from the rich and wasting a ton of money to deliver the stolen loot to the needy, as well as establishing the principle that it’s laudable to do evil things as long as your intentions are good.

    1. “intentions are good” — Really the intention ends up being the punishment of all good things and the rewarding of all bad behaviors.

      I’m lazy, broke and can’t pay my rent — Say, I’ll just go get knocked up by some skezz, ignore and abuse the offspring and get a car, housing, food and cash… Sure beats having to find a job…

  11. Libertarianism or Bust!

  12. I am pretty naive politically; I hate them all, and anything which violates self-ownership is automatically so suspicious that I try to ignore it, falling back on sneers if necessary to get statists to go away.

    “Democratic socialism” is the typical political oxymoron which leaves me cold, and I had always treated it as just another slogan to delude the unwashed masses. But I just read something which caught me off-guard — that “true” democratic socialism means every business must be democratized so that the workers run the joint. No bosses, no owners (other than the workers themselves), just workers.

    Is this really what most democratic socialists envision? It’s like being dumped into somebody else’s surreal nightmare — I’ve worked a dozen or two small companies, and if all us workers had had to run thee company democratically, I’d have never done any actual productive work. The idea of voting on what products and services to sell, who to hire and fire, how much to invest in what, marketing campaigns, etc — I can’t believe any business could survive like that except a mom-and-pop corner store. Heck, no business could ever be founded under those conditions, and you’d never get even close to big enough for any real team work or any volume efficiencies.

    I don’t believe anyone who has ever had a real job could believe you could run any business by worker democracy. AOC’s bartending — does she think that business would have been better run by democracy? Chomsky — does he think a big university could be run democratically, and is he really so stupid as to think any university could ever get big enough to hire him for such an esoteric field?

    They are even dumber and delusional than I had thought; the leaders, of course, are just the usual lying collectivists, but there are a lot of followers. I can only assume none have ever had any job more complicated than gas station cashier.

    1. “But I just read something which caught me off-guard — that “true” democratic socialism means every business must be democratized so that the workers run the joint. No bosses, no owners (other than the workers themselves), just workers.”

      From Coyote Blog:

      Hanging out at the beach one day with a distant family member, we got into a discussion about capitalism and socialism. In particular, we were arguing about whether brute labor, as socialism teaches, is the source of all wealth (which, socialism further argues, is in turn stolen by the capitalist masters). The young woman, as were most people her age, was taught mainly by the socialists who dominate college academia nowadays. I was trying to find a way to connect with her, to get her to question her assumptions, but was struggling because she really had not been taught many of the fundamental building blocks of either philosophy or economics, but rather a mish-mash of politically correct points of view that seem to substitute nowadays for both.

      I picked up a handful of sand, and said “this is almost pure silicon, virtually identical to what powers a computer. Take as much labor as you want, and build me a computer with it — the only limitation is you can only have true manual laborers – no engineers or managers or other capitalist lackeys”.

      She replied that my request was BS, that it took a lot of money to build an electronics plant, and her group of laborers didn’t have any and bankers would never lend them any. I told her – assume for our discussion that I have tons of money, and I will give you and your laborers as much as you need. The only restriction I put on it is that you may only buy raw materials – steel, land, silicon – in their crudest forms. It is up to you to assemble these raw materials, with your laborers, to build the factory and make me my computer.

      She thought for a few seconds, and responded “but I can’t – I don’t know how. I need someone to tell me how to do it”

      And that is the heart of socialism’s failure. For the true source of wealth is not brute labor, or even what you might call brute capital, but the mind. The mind creates new technologies, new products, new business models, new productivity enhancements, in short, everything that creates wealth. Labor or capital without a mind behind it is useless.

      1. Don Boudreaux (Cafe Hayek) likes to say the ONLY natural resource is the human mind; all those things which are dug up and drilled for are useless in their natural state, and only become resources when the human mind has been applied to them.

      2. “Labor or capital without a mind behind it is useless.”

        Not just a mind, but an educated, inquisitive mind. ” I need someone to tell me how to do it” Your friend had a mind, she just lacked the education to do it. And the challenge to build a computer manually is ridiculous. The chips are built to such exacting standards that a manual worker couldn’t possibly replicate the tolerances demanded.

        1. See “I, Pencil” for that whoosh you missed.

          1. Pretty sure it was some idiot (trueman? JFree? Could well be either luddite) who claimed that there was a fixed amount of land, and therefore the total wealth was actually fixed.
            I pointed out that irrigating the CA central valley turned what was a sort of a desert into one of the major US ag producers; the square mileage may be fixed, but the value certainly is not.
            Seems there was no reply…

          2. Making pencils manually is not such a great challenge. It was how pencils were made before the industrial age. Computers are a whole different field due to the exacting tolerances I mentioned previously.

    2. ” AOC’s bartending — does she think that business would have been better run by democracy? ”

      It might be a good idea to let the bartenders themselves to work out things like scheduling rather than have management dictate who works when. What’s expedient for the management may not be best for business or the workers.

      1. “…What’s expedient for the management may not be best for business or the workers…”

        Pretty sure the management and not some bullshiter here is best qualified to decide that, bullshitter.

        1. Hard to imagine but some businesses are poorly managed. Sorry if that offends you.

          1. Under democratic socialism, just like under any socialism, they’d all be mismanaged.

            The difference you missed is who is held accountable when the bar goes out of business? Can’t be the owners — they don’t get fired or lose any money, so there’s no accountability in that direction. Can’t be the State, cause without prices, they wouldn’t have any lessons to learn. Can’t be the workers, cuz they are also the owners, and get paid by the State no matter how poorly they do their job.

            1. “who is held accountable when the bar goes out of business?”

              I don’t see why letting bar tenders doing their own scheduling would lead to the bar going out of business. Would you stop frequenting your favorite hangout if you discovered that it wasn’t management but the bar tenders who were doing the scheduling?

          2. “Hard to imagine but some businesses are poorly managed. Sorry if that offends you.”

            Stupid reply, but that’s not hard to imagine.
            You want poorly-managed businesses? Hand them over to some co-op, you fucking idiot.
            Oh, and fuck off and die.

            1. “You want poorly-managed businesses? ”

              If I’m in a bar, chances are that I want a drink.

  13. Discuss this article on Quora:

    If you aren’t familiar with Quora, it is a vibrant community where everyone must use their real names and a “be nice, be respectful” policy is strictly enforced.

    1. Quora?? lol… The 2-Star user-rating for having such a liberal-biased moderation. I think everyone but liberals got blocked, banned or compulsively had their work removed from Quora.. I’ve yet to find anything worse than Quora short of independent liberal blogs..

    2. I bet “respectful” has about as much meaning at Quora as it does in academia; it means believe the self-professed victim, believe the self-taught enlightened student; don’t you dare believe anything truthful!

    3. I believe quora started out as a question and answer site and expanded into blogging later. Either way I am certainly not going there.

    4. Neutralmikey is pushing quora on multiple articles. Lefties unite!

  14. The solution is simple, prohibit government from initiating force.

  15. Thanks for sharing such a valuable piece of information Sarkari Job Alert.

  16. Stossel still allowed here?

  17. All true, but we need to be getting the word out better to at least keep up with government run schools who work very hard to indoctrinate the other viewpoint.

    Maybe a nice year-end contribution to Reason????

    (I’m not paid to say that, it’s just that today is the day that I’m writing out all of those checks, so this was particularly timely.)

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