by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Government creates loyalty in the minds of citizens by pretending to be Santa Claus, doling out gifts and favors. Politicians claim they help those unfortunates who aren’t helped by coldhearted capitalism.
The truth is, government gets in the way of charity, making it harder for people to help others and for the poor to help themselves. It also gets in the way of commerce, which is what really makes people better off.
When I was in college, President Lyndon Johnson declared “an all-out war on human poverty. … For the first time in our history, it’s possible to conquer poverty.” I believed him. But then I watched government poverty programs fail. America spent trillions of your dollars on the poor, and the poor stayed poor.
Actually, the poverty rate did fall after the “War on Poverty” began. But it had already been falling prior to initiation of welfare. Sadly, the poverty rate stopped falling about seven years after Johnson’s programs began, mostly because government handouts encouraged people to be dependent.
Simple capitalism does much more for poor people. …
… But even those who don’t understand markets should open their eyes and acknowledge its benefits: World-wide, wherever economic freedom is allowed, millions of people have lifted themselves out of stoop labor and miserable poverty.
Of course, not everyone can reap the benefits of markets. The sick, the mentally ill and other truly helpless people need a hand.
But why assume government must provide that help? Government doesn’t do anything very well. Why not let private charity handle it?
I once assumed there was too much poverty for private charity to make much of a difference. But now I realize there is plenty of money, and private charity would do much more if government didn’t discourage it.