The Ideology of Handouts

This another fantastic article from that we thought you should see! It has been edited by, but it retains its brilliance!

The Statist premise is that poverty is a purely economic problem: the needy simply lack the material resources to lead productive, happy lives (to be accomplished by taking money from the tax payer and giving it to the tax receiver or so-called needy), and anyone who opposes this redistribution is selfish and insensitive. Supply these resources, the theory runs, and you will have solved the problem of poverty.

The overall effect of handouts has been to “train” participants in irresponsibility: they learn that the world (statists) will keep rewarding them even when they don’t live up to their obligations.To put it another way, handouts that are not tied to an appropriate behavior end up reinforcing bad behavior.

This simple economic theory of poverty led to a single underlying principle for welfare programs (redistribution). Since, according to the Bleeding Hearts, the needy just lacked goods and services to become productive members of the community, it followed that all you had to do was give them these things (redistribute wealth from the makers to the takers). You didn’t have to see that they stopped engaging in the behavior that plunged them into neediness. You didn’t have to ask them to apply themselves, or to work, or to save, or to stop using drugs, or to stop having babies they couldn’t support, or to make any other kind of effort to improve themselves. In other words, the welfare programs that the war-on-poverty activists designed embodied something-for-nothing giving, or what we usually call “handouts.” In other words, the Bleeding Hearts reward (reinforced) bad behavior.

The Healthy Way to Give

 Charity leaders of the nineteenth century had lived with the poor and had analyzed the effects of different kinds of aid. They discovered that almsgiving (handouts)—that is, something for nothing—actually hurt the poor.

First, it weakened them by undermining their motivation to improve themselves.If you kept giving a man food when he was hungry, you undermined his incentive to look for a way to feed himself.

Second, handouts encouraged self-destructive vices by softening the natural penalties for irresponsible and socially harmful behavior. If you gave a man coal who had wasted his money on drink, you encouraged him to drink away next month’s coal money, too.

Finally, the nineteenth-century experts argued, handouts were self-defeating. People became dependent on them, and new recipients were attracted to them.So this type of aid could never reduce the size of the needy population. With handouts, the more you gave, the more you had to give.

The correct way to help the needy, they said, was to expect something of recipients in return for what was given them. Instead of giving poor people what they needed, the charity leaders organized programs that enabled the needy to supply their own wants. They weren’t given money, but were counseled to find employment; they weren’t given apartments, but were rented, at cost, healthy dwellings managed by charities; they weren’t given food, but learned to grow their own food at garden clubs developed for that purpose. The great English charity leader Octavia Hill, who worked all her life among the poor, summed up the nineteenth-century social workers’ position on handouts: “I proclaim that I myself have no belief whatever in the poor being one atom richer or better for the alms (handouts) that reach them, that they are very distinctly worse, and that I give literally no such alms (handouts) myself.”

I recently asked my friend’s daughter what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President some day.

 Both of her parents, liberal Democrats (socialists), were standing there, so I asked her, ‘If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?’ She replied, ‘I’d give food and houses to all the homeless people.’ Her parents beamed with approval.

“Wow…what a worthy goal,” I told her. “But you don’t have to wait until you’re President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I’ll pay you $50. Then I’ll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house.” 

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Why doesn’t the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?” “Welcome to the Tea Party.”

While the state of neediness we call poverty does involve a lack of material resources, it also involves a mass of psychological and moral problems, including weak motivation, lack of trust in others, ignorance, irresponsibility, self-destructiveness, short-sightedness, alcoholism, drug addiction, promiscuity, violence, and most important of all risk factors-intelligence (or the lack thereof). To say that all these behavioral and psychological problems can be “abolished” is a denial of the common-sense facts.

“It is easier to believe a lie that one has heard a thousand times than to believe a fact that no one has heard before”

(Unknown, but brilliant)!

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