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News ::
A call to Libertarian charity (english)
06 May 2003
Modified: 07 May 2003
We need to do more than advocate sound political theory; we need to show people that we really do care about the health, happiness, and success of our fellow Americans -- that we're not a bunch of cold, callous egoists possessing no regard for human frailty and misfortune.
A call to Libertarian charity
by Eric A. Bryant, The Forum, Libertarian Party (US)

Libertarians believe that the primary political vice is the initiation of force, fraud, or coercion to achieve political aims. As a result, we renounce the welfare state as an unjust system of forced charity. We do not believe (in terms of platform) that needy individuals have a right to be helped by the government or that other individuals have a political obligation to help them.

But does that mean libertarians should give to private charity? The answer is: Yes.

Libertarians should be charitable not because we have a duty to help those less fortunate than us. We should be charitable, ironically, for more selfish reasons. We should regularly give to charity in order to increase our membership and political influence, thereby bringing ourselves closer to the free society we want to live in.

How will mass libertarian charity further our cause?

Let's face facts. The majority of Americans -- whether liberal, conservative, or centrist -- support some kind of welfare state. They may differ on questions of size and scope, but the fundamental commitment to public assistance as such is still there. Many of these individuals believe wholeheartedly in freedom and support much of what our party stands for. But they are often put off when they hear our stance on eliminating the welfare state. Yes, they know the welfare state violates rights to liberty and property. Yes, they know that welfare promotes a "culture of dependency" among its recipients. Yes, they know that welfare programs are largely wasteful and ineffective. But unfortunately, these facts are not enough to persuade the average American to join us in fighting against welfare statism.

Why? I think there are a couple of reasons.

An American is a complex being in terms of social and cultural conditioning. On the one hand, he is a member of the most affluent nation on earth. He sees riches and abundance everywhere, and he knows -- at least subconsciously -- that America's prosperity has something to do with its free markets, its high degree of personal liberty, and the pride and innovativeness of its people.

This is the part that compels him to renounce welfare statism.

On the other hand, the average American also grows up in a culture with deep altruistic undercurrents which place a great deal of importance on taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Everywhere around him -- from the pulpit to the Pentagon -- he hears that his moral worth is inextricably tied to his efforts to help the less fortunate. This feeling is so entrenched in his psyche that -- though he doesn't feel wholly comfortable supporting government welfare -- he experiences a twinge of guilt for repudiating it (and often rationalizes that capitalism, at least in part, necessitates it).

This is the part that compels him to support welfare statism.

As a result, the average compassionate, libertarian-leaning American concludes that the Libertarian Party makes the most sense, but is chock full of heartless, selfish social Darwinists who'd let the poor starve in the gutters before violating the sacred principles of free market economics. Thus, our man maintains a secret allegiance to our ideals, but wouldn't be caught dead as a member of our (seemingly elitist) party.

So, if we want to further our cause, I'm convinced that we as Libertarians must be able to give an affirmative answer to the question: "If we got rid of welfare completely, who's gonna help the poor? Are you?" This is a legitimate question. And the cliched libertarian soundbite that private charity will do it sounds shallow and empty if the one making the claim does nothing to support private charity himself.

Libertarians should give to charity for the simple reason that people respond more attentively to actions than to coherent philosophical argument (although this, too, is important). We need to do more than advocate sound political theory; we need to show people that we really do care about the health, happiness, and success of our fellow Americans -- that we're not a bunch of cold, callous egoists possessing no regard for human frailty and misfortune.

If we do, more Americans will soften up to libertarian ideas, and we'll get that much closer to the libertarian nation we seek.

Libertarian Eric A. Bryant is a freelance writer in Austin, Texas
See also:
http://www.lp.org/lpnews/0304/forumapril_bryant.html
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Comments

Shades of Newt Gingrich! (english)
06 May 2003
Why is it that the preceeding post suddenly bought me whirling back to those heady days of Newt Gingrich, the Contract With America, and the "kinder,gentler" party that the Republicans were trying to ram down our collective throat?

Shine up the Poor Box kids, here come the generous, dewy-eyed, charitable Liberterians!

Any time a political party throws a bone of economic assistance be it government or "private", to the rest of us wage slave dogs crawling around under the table of plenty, you can be sure that it is for the advancement of the System that shoved us under the table in the first place.

If you want to change the welfare system, do it because it's the humane and just thing to do, not because it will buff up your image or shore up this top-heavy, rapacious and immoral economic circus we live in!
liberacci wore sequins (english)
07 May 2003
sadly, corporate welfare is never mentioned in this whole diatribe. Only paternalistic ranting and Libertarian Party recruiting. from state welfare to private charities, capitalism will always be a system of dependency. if you want to promote liberty and self-reliance; be charitable by giving your big buckaroonies toward ending capitalism.