I want to be wrong about this. I don’t want to see it for what it is. I want to see it some other way. Yet I can’t help but draw rational conclusions, because I am, tragically, a rational human being.
Try to follow my logic, and tell me where I’m going wrong:
Logical statement #1: Something is “yours” — belonging to you, and nobody else — if you own it. You own it if you have ownership of it; a synonym of “ownership” is “property.” It is yours if it is your property. You might come to own something — making it your property — by earning it, buying it, growing it, cultivating it, producing it, making it, constructing it, or trading for it.
Logical statement #2: “Stealing” is “taking what isn’t yours without permission, especially by force.” If you come to possess that which is another’s property, without his or her consent or choice, you have stolen it. You have, by any definition, “taken” what is not, in fact, “yours.” That’s stealing. That’s how any sane person would define stealing.
Agreed? I thought so.
Logical statement #3: If you employ a third party to carry out the act of forceful taking — or “stealing” — and then that third party hands the ill-gotten gains over to you, you are still guilty of stealing. Much like a husband who hires a hit-man to kill his wife is still guilty of murder.
Agreed? Of course.
So, with all of these statements in mind, how is the Welfare State NOT a giant machine of theft and redistribution? Yes, yes, I know. I’m a heartless SOB for asking the question. I’ve never struggled to feed myself (even though I have), and I’ve never been “low income” (even though I have), and I don’t care about poor people (even though I do, and deeply so). I get it. I’m a cold blooded scoundrel, I hear ya. Fine. But can you answer the question? If statements 1, 2, and 3 are all accurate, how does welfare manage to fall outside of these parameters? How is welfare not stealing? How, exactly?
It seems to me that there can be only one answer: It’s OK because the government is doing it. This is America now. This is what it’s come to. It’s OK because the government is doing it. And how far can that principle be stretched? And how many horrendous atrocities can be justified by this logic? If the government can erase any concept of private property on a whim, and defy every moral law against theft by simply calling it a “program,” what else can it do? If you’ve ever read a history book, you already know the answer. If you pay attention to the news, you’ve already gotten a glimpse. If you neither know history nor the news, you’ll find out eventually. And you won’t like it when you do.
That “Logical Statements” bit wasn’t supposed to be snarky or glib. I wrote all of that out because I truly believe many Americans haven’t connected these dots. I don’t think most people on some form of “entitlement” (what a horrendous word, given the context) think of themselves as “stealing” from their neighbor. Our collective ethical sensibilities have become so deluded in gray that many of us truly can’t identify north or south on the moral compass. Just look at what happened with food stamps over the weekend.
A “glitch” in the EBT system left many people with cards that didn’t show any limits. For those who aren’t familiar, the EBT card allows you to spend a certain amount of your neighbor’s money on groceries. Once you’ve reached the arbitrary threshold for the month, you have to wait a few more weeks for the card to be restocked with some more of your neighbor’s cash. But something happened at the EBT Command Center on Saturday, and the “limits” were temporarily deleted.
Some shoppers at Walmarts in Louisiana responded by stocking up grocery carts full of food and taking as much as they could before the limits were restored. After several hours of an all-out free-for-all, the system was back on line. At that point, many of them abandoned their full grocery carts in the middle of the store, leaving the employees to put everything away; a chore that took several hours.
In the movies, the looting usually starts weeks into a zombie apocalypse. In reality, it happened 20 minutes into a temporary food stamp malfunction. That’s no surprise, I suppose. We are, after all, the country where people get trampled to death during Black Friday TV sales and iPhone roll outs.
Nanny State apologists will be quick to point out that the thieves at these Walmarts don’t represent the majority of EBT recipients. That’s probably true, but still, they represent something, don’t they? Even more disturbing than the felony theft that occurred at these locations is the reaction by the public. I’ve seen interviews and read comments from people who, somehow, don’t consider it stealing to go on a “shopping spree” with a limitless EBT card. KSLA in Louisiana quotes one man in a Springhill Walmart as saying this was all a very “human reaction.”
Apparently anticipating my inevitable rant on this subject, a woman emailed me this morning to insist that these looters weren’t “technically” stealing because they did have EBT cards.
They had EBT cards, which mean they possess a mystical “entitlement.” And this entitlement allows them to take other people’s property, so why should this be any different? Right?
Yeah, actually, I agree. If you’re allowed to get 200 hundred dollars worth of stuff with another man’s money, why not 250? Why not 400? Why not 1,000? The government has said stealing is OK in some circumstances, so why not this circumstance?
Middle class families are forced to watch as food is taken from the mouths of their children and given to others, in an elaborate political scheme to breed dependence and ensure a loyal voting base. If we’re OK with that, why shouldn’t we be OK with what happened at a few Walmarts this past weekend? Sure, YOU can’t walk into your local supermarket and take things off the shelves, but YOU aren’t entitled. Only certain people are entitled, and the government decides who those people are. Don’t you get it?
I don’t think we really have the right to be permissive of the Welfare State in general, and then selectively outraged by the “abuses” that come with it. If you accept the Welfare State, you accept the government’s right to take from one, by force, and give to another. Once you’ve bought into that, how can you pretend to have scruples about how the Legal Theft Machine operates? In fact, you’ve acquiesced to the State’s godlike power to invent exceptions to moral laws that have governed Western Civilization for thousands of years, so who are YOU to question how these exceptions are granted?
That’s why I have a good chuckle when I hear someone say something like: “I don’t mind the food stamp program, but I DON’T THINK THEY SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO BUY JUNK FOOD!” That’s a pretty odd place to draw your ethical line. That’s like if you came home one day to find a burglar in your bedroom stealing jewelry, and you proceeded to have this conversation:
“HEY! You can’t take that! That doesn’t belong to you! You’re going to just go pawn that for drugs, aren’t you?!”
“No, I was thinking of trading it for a treadmill.”
“Oh. OK. Well that’s healthy and constructive. Carry on, sir.”
I’d like to at least believe that our tolerance for Welfare stems from some sort of charitable feeling. That still wouldn’t make it right, but it would make it perhaps more palatable. Yet, I know this isn’t the case. I believe strongly in giving to the poor, and my wife and I do just that. Anyone who wants to GIVE, and GIVE FREELY, is more than able to do so. It doesn’t, therefore, make sense to support the Nanny State simply because you wish to help the poor. You could help the poor without the government, and you know it.
On the contrary, I think most of us submit to and accept Entitlements because we lack the moral or mental energy to oppose them. We accept it because it is, and for no other reason. We’re like little Trumans, in our Truman Show bubble world, surrendering to the charade and the lies simply because it’s unpleasant and troublesome to question it all.
Many of us also lack vision. These entitlement programs are morally objectionable, unconstitutional, expensive, cumbersome, inefficient, rife with corruption, and they give politicians a profound ability to manipulate and blackmail the population, but we can’t think of a better way to help the poor and the downtrodden? Really?
I’ve got an alternative suggestion: Restore private property and liberty; let families care for their own first with the money they have earned, and that will put them in a better position to reach out to others in their communities. Put the ‘charity’ back in Charity. Let neighbors take care of each other out of their own freewill and kindness. Encourage families to stick together. Support your churches and soup kitchens.
Love and compassion. Family. Sacrifice and charity. Not to mention ambition and hard work. These are the ingredients for peace and prosperity — not a perfect peace and a perfect prosperity, but better than what we have. Bureaucracy, force, theft, and government expansion have never made anyone’s life better, and they never will. Just look at any inner city anywhere in America if you need evidence for that assertion.
This is where some Christians go off the rails completely. They make the wild claim that the Welfare State is in keeping with Biblical tenets. Nonsense. Utter, total, ridiculous nonsense. Jesus calls us to GIVE and to LOVE, and welfare has nothing to do with either of those concepts. Where did Jesus give anyone permission to take anything from anyone else by force? Where? Give me chapter and verse, please. Where’s the “if you don’t have it — take it” verse? Did he say it during the Sermon on the Mount? I’ve read the Sermon a thousand times and never seen it. Was it redacted? Jesus calls us to give. GIVE. Welfare doesn’t count because you don’t have a choice. And why are we supposed to give? Is it because we need to “eradicate” poverty and make everyone middle class, or some such drivel? Or is it the enlightening power of love that can be felt and experienced anytime someone freely gives of themselves?
If it’s the former, Welfare still doesn’t make the cut. If the latter, it definitely doesn’t. Government redistribution schemes are not forces of charity and love, and that’s evidenced by the fact that they don’t breed an attitude of humility and gratitude. I’ve put money into a homeless man’s cup on many occasions, and never once has he yelled at me for not giving him enough. That’s because he’s grateful and thankful for what he’s received. Yet anytime you suggest reasonable and necessary cuts to entitlements, you’ll be greeted with anger, vitriol and hatred. That’s because entitlements encourage people to buy into the illusion that they are “owed” other people’s money. Far from engendering gratitude, they blatantly and explicitly encourage feelings of entitlement, which is the opposite of gratitude. Is that what Jesus wanted?
For that matter, is this what our Founders intended?
Is this what any American should want?
I’d say ‘no,’ on all counts.
***Addendum*** Because this always comes up, I thought I’d address it ahead of time: I don’t include veteran’s benefits in this conversation at all. Those are a good example of a true “entitlement,” as in, the people who receive them ARE actually entitled to them. They served their country, potentially sacrificing life and limb, and these benefits ought to be part of the deal. They earned it, same as I earn my paycheck. The government might put VA benefits under the “welfare” banner, but I don’t. It’s an entirely different thing, obviously. A veteran earns certain benefits from the taxpayer. It’s outrageous to think that I can walk into a government office and claim “benefits” for doing nothing, whereas veterans are sometimes denied their rightful benefits, even though they served and sacrificed.
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