Tag Archives: welfare

Something to keep in mind when thinking about welfare rights and abuse

A friend of mine posted an article the other day which declares “Minnesota Republicans To Outlaw Poor People Having Money”. In the ensuing discussion I made the following observation:

There is a fundamental fact that keeps getting overlooked when we talk about the issue of welfare. And that is that the money in question is not theirs. It was not earned. It is a gift, given by taxpayers. One might even consider it to be a loan, an investment into their, and by extension, society’s, future. And just like any other loan, the borrower, that is the taxpayers in this case, have a right to make sure it is being used for its intended purposes.

Take a home loan for instance. A bank generally expects the money it lends be used for the express purposes outlined in the agreement. In fact a lawyer is usually required to be present to make sure all parties understand their legal obligations. If a person were to take that money and do something else with it outside of the purpose the bank lent it for, the borrower would be guilty of fraud.

That’s the basis for the claims, justified or not, of institutional welfare fraud. Its not that the people are operating outside of the system as it currently exists per se but that the people are doing things with the money given to them by the public that runs counter to the purposes which it was given for.

So when people speak about rights with regard to the poor we need to speak about the rights of all parties involved. The right of the poor to seek improvement for their station in life, the right of the lenders to have accountability for the money they entrust to the poor, and the right of the government personnel to uphold the agreements made by both parties.

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Shouldn’t all Christians be socialists?

A brother of mine recently wrote the following by way of advocating the position that “all Christians ought to be socialists”:

Acts 2:44-45 “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need’

Acts 4;32b, 34-35 “..neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

That’s all well and good, but that only applies to Christians, not society in general. The reason that works with Christians is that we are endowed with the Holy Spirit as a guide and restraint so that we aren’t governed by our evil desires which tend toward excess.

Notice the terms; “everything in common”, no posessions were personal, distributed to everyone as they had need.

Is this more like capitalism or what critics would call “socialism”?

PS…. it is biblical!

Here’s my response:

Most people forget that it was Christianity that actually gave birth to capitalism1 because, while it is not perfect, it does the best of any economic system out there to be fair when it comes to the unequal distribution of goods and services that exist and it also does the best job of restraining people’s natural desires to hoard wealth since one of the basic tenets of capitalism is to reinvest into one’s business.

Capitalism also tends to value social programs to a degree, it is a misnomer to think that capitalism is inherently opposed to a concern “for the good of the people”.

The problem we have is when we try to take an amoral system (amoral meaning neither good nor bad) and start attaching moral significance to it.

At the end of the day, an economic system is neither good nor bad but can be considered wise or not based on whether it sustains and helps prosper the people in it.

Socialism is not concerned with the production of wealth but rather the distribution thereof while capitalism is more concerned with the production of wealth. In the end, capitalism is in a much better place to provide hope for lifting people and nations out of poverty than socialism is.

A good case-in-point is the amount of resources capitalistic nations like the US (barely) are able to bring to bear in crisis situations like the present one in Haiti.

Also, for an excellent and concise definition of capitalism I feel the need to include the following definition borrowed shamelessly from Rodney Stark’s book Victory of Reason:

Capitalism is an economic system wherein privately owned, relatively well organized, and stable firms pursue complex commercial activities within a relatively free (unregulated) market, taking a systematic, long-term approach to investing and reinvesting wealth (directly or indirectly) in productive activities involving a hired workforce, and guided by anticipated and actual returns.

  1. Two excellent books on this subject are Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark and The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber and Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem by Jay Richards []
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