Friday, November 22, 2013

Rights vs. Need: Who Determines How Much Food Aid is "Enough"?

As Congress considers some relatively minor cuts to food stamp spending, the NJ Star-Ledger editorialized that "Charity can't pick up the food stamp slack." Therefore, the editors argue,  any cuts to food stamp funding—whether the Democrats' $4 billion dollars worth of cuts or the GOP's slightly larger $40 billion cut (out of an $800 billion program)—is too much. 

The editors write:

    Charity can’t be a long-term replacement for government safety nets. . . .
    Food banks are built to help solve temporary emergency hardships such as job loss or illness. Should they be expected to fill in when the government decides to save money by letting people go hungry?

I left these comments:

The editors claim that private food banks can't provide enough aid to the hungry, so the government must step in and take over the primary role. Who's missing from the equation? The Forgotten Man of the welfare state; the self-supporting productive individual who is forced to pay for the government's largess.

Each individual has a fundamental, inalienable right to live by his own judgement, in pursuit of his own goals, values, and happiness, but only in voluntary association with others. This right includes the freedom to decide who, when, and in what capacity to help others, based on his own values, affordability, and personal circumstances.

The morals inherent in the statement that the "government safety net" supersedes and replaces private charity are inverted. Private charity is the only morally legitimate food "safety net," or safety net in general, because only charity is based on voluntary giving of time, merchandise, and money. The government's SNAP program is illegitimate because it is based on the opposite of voluntarism; forced redistribution of wealth, which is essentially a form of legalized theft. (Government food "donations" to private food banks are not morally legitimate either. Nevertheless, the essential nature of private charity is voluntarism.)

The critics of congress's meager SNAP cuts—including the GOP's mere 5% cut—have no standing to decide what is "enough" funding for food aid. Who has a right to decide for another person how much giving is "enough," and then force their values on him? Those who are "needy" have no right to decide what is "enough" to give, and then demand the productive give them more. Power-seeking politicians do not have that right. Do-gooder fellow citizens do not have that right. Only the person who earned the money in the first place has that right. What's enough? Whatever the voluntary giver, each within the context of his own life, says is enough.

There is a self-fulfilling cycle at work. As the burden of paying the bill grows, more and more people are driven into poverty. As poverty expands, need continues to expand exponentially, along with the power of the state to expropriate and redistribute wealth from a shrinking productive group to a growing needy group. The last 10 years proves the point. The same inverted morals led to the housing bubble, financial crisis, and Great Recession, which in turn ballooned the food stamp rolls.  The housing bubble has its roots in the politicians' "affordable housing"—read sub-prime lending—crusades, an altruistic attempt to get people too "poor" to afford homes into homes they couldn't afford. The resulting collapse is what fed to the surge in demand for food stamps. This is the economically downward cycle at work.

As long as need, rather than rights, continues to be the standard governing government policy, the ranks of the needy will continue to swell and the "social safety net" will continue to expand as the country moves toward the ultimate logical outcome; universal poverty governed by an authoritarian state.

Related Reading:

SNAP Ends Don't Justify the Immoral Means

Senator Menendez Dishonestly equate Private Food Bank with SNAP

GOP SNAP Cuts: Little Difference Between Democrats and Republicans

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