Of liberty, libertarians, and charity 0

A nice column by John Stossel at Townhall explains what a libertarian is/believes.

We think it likely that most of our regular readers are, like ourselves, libertarians, and need no such explanation.

Still, the column is a good read. Here’s a taste of it:

Libertarians want government to leave people alone — in both the economic and personal spheres. Leave us free to pursue our hopes and dreams, as long as we don’t hurt anybody else.

Ironically, that used to be called “liberal,” which has the same root as “liberty.” Several hundred years ago, liberalism was a reaction against the stifling rules imposed by aristocracy and established religion.

I wish I could call myself “liberal” now. But the word has been turned on its head. It now means health police, high taxes, speech codes and so forth. …

When I first explained libertarianism to my wife, she said: “That’s cruel! What about the poor and the weak? Let them starve?”

For my FBN [Fox Business Network] show tomorrow, I ask some prominent libertarians that question, including Jeffrey Miron, who teaches economics at Harvard.

“It might in some cases be a little cruel,” Miron said. “But it means you’re not taking from people who’ve worked hard to earn their income (in order) to give it to people who have not worked hard.”

But isn’t it wrong for people to suffer in a rich country?

“The number of people who will suffer is likely to be very small. Private charity … will provide support for the vast majority who would be poor in the absence of some kind of support. When government does it, it creates an air of entitlement that leads to more demand for redistribution, till everyone becomes a ward of the state.” …

David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, took the discussion to a deeper level.

“Instead of asking, ‘What should we do about people who are poor in a rich country?’ The first question is, ‘Why is this a rich country?’ …

“Five hundred years ago, there weren’t rich countries in the world. There are rich countries now because part of the world is following basically libertarian rules: private property, free markets, individualism.” …

Before the New Deal, people of modest means banded together to help themselves. These organizations were crowded out when government co-opted their insurance functions, which included inexpensive medical care.

Boaz indicts the welfare state for the untold harm it’s done in the name of the poor.

“What we find is a system that traps people into dependency. … You should be asking advocates of that system, ‘Why don’t you care about the poor?'”

I agree. It appears that when government sets out to solve a problem, not only does it violate our freedom, it also accomplishes the opposite of what it set out to do.

It should be taken as a general rule that everything government does it does badly. Even the one thing it alone can and must do – protect the nation and the individual – it messes up. The less we allow government to do, the better for all of us.

As for helping the helpless (other than privately), here’s an idea. Why not shift all responsibility for welfare on to the churches? After all, Christians claim that their earthly mission is indiscriminate loving, giving, caring. The churches will need much more money than their congregations willingly give, but they can easily raise it from liberals, from innumerable Bill Clinton types who say they feel the pain of others, from all who sigh for the poor because it makes them feel they’re good persons – ¬†a numerous crowd in every Western nation. Let the churches have the honor of being the soul distributors of such prospectively vast funds to those condemned to be, through no fault of their own, at the receiving end of charity; and also – because they’ll not be able to avoid it – to those who’ll demand a share whether they need it or not.