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More on Welfare

Posted by Chance on June 6, 2006

This is a response to the article linked to in my last post from holisticpolitics.org. The truth is, I may not have a lot to say. Welfare is an issue that I am currently uncertain about. I suppose if I was a true libertarian, I would believe in the abolition of welfare altogether. However, while I believe the majority of charity should be voluntary, it’s just hard for me to believe in ending welfare altogether. It’s hard for me to say that the truly poor and needy are just out of luck. How do I know that some voluntary charity will take care of them. I know voluntary charity is better, but what if there is not enough volunteers out there to pick up the slack?

However, I realize that any type of welfare is a slippery slope. The nice thing about the libertarian view of government is that it sets concrete, qualitative boundaries for government. The idea is that government only exists for protection. Concerning how far the government should go when it comes to protection…that is the purpose of the Constitution. Once the door of government is open to provide goods and services to people, well, that door just swings wider and wider, and we have the system we have today. I would like it much better if government did indeed help out primarily the poor and needy. But so much of this money is doled out to special interest groups, farm subsidies, and corporate welfare. A baseball team can hardly exist today without asking for huge handouts from a local or state government.

So, perhaps in my own mind, I should just focus on the idea that welfare does exist, and since it does, what is the ideal welfare system. This is what Milsted does, by looking at the Mosaic law. Now, Israel was a theocracy, in a time where people have a direct pipeline with God, so it is unclear how much of Israel’s form of government we can apply to our democracy today. However, Milsted admirably attempts this feat, not only in the area of politics, but in morality as well (which I have not read at depth yet and am unsure of all the ideas put forth).

So, in summary, Milsted suggests a 1) tax rate on property, so that those who have natural resources (land, broadcast rights, etc…)above the average pay in taxes proportionally, and those who have less would actually get money back. 2) More difficulty in filing bankruptcy in addition for lower interest rates from lenders, and those with less-than-average access to natural resources could get their dividends from 1) prematurely. 3) Finally, do various things such as paying the poor to clean up trash and providing extra hunting and fishing rights to those using primitive sources of technology.

1) Property taxes. I like the idea of property taxes in general, because they are much easier and less invasive to collect, as opposed to sales and income taxes, as the author states. Sales taxes involve record-keeping for most transactions, and income taxes, well, it involves the IRS. However, the bad thing about property taxes is that they are levied, regardless of the person’s income. Libertarians philosophically have an issue with property taxes, but from that end, I still see them as preferable to sales and income taxes. Milsted mentions that even though land is purchased today, at one point land was either conquered or stolen, and issues of “unjust distribution” existed at the time land was put up for sale.

Concerning the manner that Milsted suggests taxing the land, I am unsure about. I don’t believe that everyone who owns less than the average share of land should actually get money back for their property. However, a normal property tax may still work, simply because most of the poor do not own a large amount of land, but there is still the problem of someone who happens to own much land but has little income. I do not agree with the idea that everyone deserves an equal share of resources (or a monetary equivalent). The fact that the Israelites had an equal share of land is a convincing argument, but I believe that it was the only logical way for the Israelites to split the land they had just recently conquered, and the Lord wanted to make sure that all of the Israelite descendants had a piece of the land.

However, Milsted’s idea is worth considering, and it could be tweaked to be a suitable form of a taxation system. There are some aspects of the idea that I like. It would take a whole long article in itself to discuss this further.

2) The idea of low interest loans is something to consider, and as the author states, is implemented in college student loans and the GI Bill. As Milsted states, people are less likely to frivolously spend loan money that they have to pay back. Perhaps more government handouts could be replaced by loans to help people get back on their feet. This would be fine from a government lender for certain purposes. However, I adamantly disagree with requiring a merchant to have a certain interest rate, as Milsted implies. While interest rates are somewhat regulated today, I believe the free market should regulate interest rates, and that the government should not set prices for a service, including loans.
3) Milsted has some good ideas here. Since I believe in the government taking measures to protect the environment, perhaps hiring the poor to pick up trash is not a bad idea. However, I think such a job would be affordable at rates lower than the minimum wage, which is fine with me, its just a matter of working around that. While I am talking about the minimum wage, I think the abolition would make it easier for the homeless to find random jobs. I do not know enough about hunting and fishing rights to even comment.

In summary, I think Milsted is on to some good ideas, and he has obviously thought about this issue much more than I have. I like how he applies Mosaic law to the society of today, and I think he does it well. As mentioned in several places, I take issues with some of his ideas, but if there must be a welfare system, I think we could possibly use some of his ideas, which sound preferable to the system we have today.

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4 Responses to “More on Welfare”

  1. Lee said

    My general opinion is that sometime in the sixties, welfare went from being the domain of widows and orphans into the domain of the healthy and the of age to work.

    Paul, while talking about charity among the faithful, also said that someone who does not work does not get bread. That seems about right.

    How it applies to modern day reform, so slow, but target those who can work. With unemployment at this low level, there is really no excuse for a healthy person to not be able to earn their bread after searching a few weeks.

  2. Lee said

    My general opinion is that sometime in the sixties, welfare went from being the domain of widows and orphans into the domain of the healthy and the of age to work.

    Paul, while talking about charity among the faithful, also said that someone who does not work does not get bread. That seems about right.

    How it applies to modern day reform, so slow, but target those who can work. With unemployment at this low level, there is really no excuse for a healthy person to not be able to earn their bread after searching a few weeks.

  3. The Prophet said

    We hear all the time about the slippery slope theory.

    I have a fence theory. Maybe you’ve heard it. Here it is.

    Sometimes people are so afraid of going down the slippery slope that they set up a fence right next to it. I don’t have a problem with this necessarily.

    What I do have a problem with is people looking at the first fence and thinking, “Hmmm… someone’s going to jump that fence if we don’t build a bigger, larger fence in front of it.”

    The religious denomination I grew up in doesn’t allow ministers to be licensed if they’ve been divorced. Why???

    Only because they know that if they don’t put their fence on the divorced minister issue, pretty soon the homosexual minister issue will be on the table.

    Good post, Chance.

  4. Chance said

    lee ~ I guess I really did not cover who should get the welfare, but mostly how. I think you are right about the change of welfare in the 60s, and I think it was mostly LBJ’s war on poverty that changed alot. It seemed that in the New Testament Paul focused a lot on helping those who could not help themselves, namely, the oprhans and widows. So, perhaps the biggest problem is not how but who.

    Josh ~ yeah, a slippery slope theory can only go so far at times. While the government welfare system is a huge bureacracy, it does not mean that welfare should not exist in the first place. Your example of the divorced/gay minister scenario reminds me of the Nazarene church (who have about the nicest people by the way), which disagrees with drinking alcohol at all due to the obvious slippery slope there. Sometimes people, for right or wrong, just don’t want that door open.

    On a remotely related topic to church policy and slipery slope, there’s an interesting discussion on mycropht.blogspot.com about the possiblity of the legalization of gay marriage leading to the forced marriage ceremonies on the part of different churches.

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