Charity vs the Welfare State

By: Thomas E. Brewton

Religion and morality command every individual to do the right thing by helping people who have fallen upon hard times. But charity is not the same thing as decreeing that such people are entitled to an equal share of everyone’s wealth.

Liberal-socialist-progressive critics charge that questioning the welfare state amounts to a mean-spirited policy of dumping the needy into the streets to provide funds for tax-cuts that benefit only the wealthy.

Such questioning, however, is mean-spirited only if one assumes that the Federal government is the sole source of charity.

In fact, from 1620 to 1933, all public welfare activity was at the state and local levels, primarily through churches, local charity groups, immigrant societies, and fraternal organizations like the Elks and Shriners. Those groups operated hospitals and schools for the disabled and the sick. For a few cents in weekly dues per household, they provided social insurance to support widows, orphans, and the disabled. Members in good standing with their fraternal and sisterly organizations would be cared for and supported by them in times of difficulty.

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal deliberately pushed this great network of mutual-help organizations into oblivion by more than tripling taxes and forcing everyone to join Social Security. In contrast, present-day private organizations like the Salvation Army are far more effective and much less costly than any governmental programs, Federal or local.

Killing the private mutual-support network was part of the plan, announced in Roosevelt’s first inaugural address, to implement Mussolini’s brand of socialism: Fascist state corporatism.

In order to do so, it was necessary to render nugatory the 9th and 10th Amendments of the Bill of Rights. Political power was stripped from the states and local governments and collectivized at the national level. In 1933, when FDR took office, more than 70% of all governmental taxation and spending were at state and local levels; the New Deal reversed that position.

The national emergency requirements of World War II, coming on top of the New Deal’s explosion of regulation and direct control of the economy, left us with the greatest centralization of Federal control in history. Politicians reveled in the immensely enhanced power they wielded. Tolerance for regulation became addiction in the Cold War, when for the first time in our history we maintained a large military establishment in peacetime.

Before the Depression, socialistic states like Wisconsin and New York were the innovators whose social programs became models for the New Deal. Devolving the welfare state back to the states would eliminate the “one-size-fits-all” approach inherent in Federal administration. If New York City prefers to fund a local socialistic state, let its citizens do so. But don’t require everyone else in the nation to do the same.

Devolution of Federal power to the states would return us to the original Constitutional structure, with state powers again an important part of the political checks and balances.

Arising in the New Deal was so-called pluralistic democracy, the concept that the role of the Federal government is to collect all the wealth of society and dole it out to interest groups according to bureaucratic schemes devised by state-planners to achieve social justice.

Pluralistic democracy brings out the lowest level of greed and selfishness in society by making the Federal government no more than a registration facility for competing special interests ranging from the needy to big business. Government becomes solely a naked power struggle among interest groups whose limitless demands presumably equal the general welfare.

When everyone is a fool not to scramble for a place at the public trough, acting with self-restraint for the common good becomes impossible. If you hold back and don’t grab what is available to you under Federal programs, that won’t reduce the cost of government. Someone else will take what was intended for you.

Theoretically, socialism satisfies real human needs. However, as the French learned in the first decades after their 1789 Revolution, it is human desires, not needs, that drive the welfare state. In practice, because there is no limit on human desires, Federal centralization becomes a one-way ticket to deficit spending.

Just as there is no limit upon human desires, there is no inherent limit upon the collectivized power of a socialistic political state. Socialism in the real-world has repeatedly employed political force to suppress dissenters.

Napoleon’s imperial military conquests brought most of Europe under the thumb of socialist administrators in Paris. Soviet Russia, one of the most barbaric regimes in world history, liquidated tens of millions in the name of socialistic collectivism. Hitler’s National Socialists continued the carnage. After the end of World War II, the USSR enslaved all of Eastern Europe, and Mao’s Communists liquidated additional tens of millions of people in Red China.

In short, liberal-socialism-progressivism is inherently a religion of repression that creates a servile society. Liberalism’s professed concern for the little guy is at the cost of trampling upon individual liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Liberals will solemnly proclaim allegiance to the Bill of Rights while simultaneously asserting that the collective good of society (defined by them) outweighs individual rights.

In our Depression, farmers were jailed when they planted food for their families that was not allowed by Agricultural Administration regulations. Federal judges today order states and cities to raise taxes, in violation of their constitutions, to satisfy social-justice decrees. It is now a crime to express one’s political views with advertising at certain times during election campaigns. Judges and legislatures are forcing hospitals funded by churches to violate their religious beliefs regarding abortion. Parents in some locales are compelled to bus their children an hour or more away from their neighborhood schools in the name of diversity and affirmative action. If the price of a commodity like oil jumps because demand outstrips supply, planners threaten private businesses with excess profits taxes or price controls.

There is no end to such regulation under the nanny-state. A Congress that doesn’t impose new regulations, create more welfare benefits, and drive the nation deeper into debt is regarded as a failure. But what does this obsession get us?

After the triumph of collectivized state-planning under President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, crime rates soared, illegitimate births and single-parent families increased to levels never before seen in any civilized society, education fell apart, inflation wiped out the value of life-time savings, and living on the public dole became a permanent way of life for generations of families. Life in our inner-cities became what Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan pictured as the original state of nature: a war of all against all, in which life is nasty, brutish, and short.

On the other hand, more than two thousand years of history demonstrate the opposite result from spiritual religion. Every aspect of human dignity and individual rights that we value today is the product of the revelation that the individual human soul, not the political state, is the connecting source and the driving force for a better social and political order.

This religious philosophy was preserved in the uniquely English and American idea that individuals have inalienable, natural-law rights to life, political liberty, and private property, ordained, as Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, by “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

A society based on inalienable individual rights requires that every citizen know and follow the precepts of morality. Those precepts of morality are taught by spiritual religion, which reminds individuals of their moral duties and chastises them for their transgressions in weekly worship services and daily Bible reading.

The first written constitution guaranteeing individual political liberties was produced by Puritans in the Connecticut colony. The first publicly-funded education was instituted in Puritan Massachusetts.

Beginning with the English and American Puritans in the early 17th century and coming to full force with the English Methodists in the 19th century, it was religion that brought the weight of society and public opinion behind the traditional virtues of charity toward the less fortunate, and honesty, faithfulness, courage, loyalty, friendship, and fair-dealing with everyone. It was the Abolition movement organized by Protestant ministers forty years before the Civil War that freed the slaves. It was the Bible that was the power behind Reverend Martin Luther King’s civil rights crusade.

The welfare-state of the amoral, collectivized, secular religion of liberal-progressive socialism, on the other, produced the 20th century, the most savagely bloody and oppressive period in world history.

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.

His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776

About The Author Thomas E. Brewton:
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.

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