The question of welfare is really one of how to best help those “in need” of it; i.e., those who cannot help themselves in a certain way. To best help someone who claims that he is one of these, it would be beneficial to know what, exactly, the claimant’s problem is. It usually also helps to know the claimant himself better.
Often the claimant feels that he “needs” money. Well, don’t we all? So should we just give him money? People can live for a long time as long as they have enough money to pay for the food and other needs they have. We would have to give the claimant quite a bit of money if we were to support him financially for the remainder of his life. But even though he stated that he needed somebody to give him money, is that really true? Put another way – does he really know what the best answer to his own problem is?
What is it that he really needs? It’s this kind of question that should be considered when we try to determine exactly what his problem is. Does he need money…or a way to obtain money? I can’t afford to give him, or anybody else who is not an employee of mine, money for the rest of my life; it sure would be nice for me, and for everybody else, including himself, if he could go get his own money without having to beg it off me.
A: Good heavens, buddy. All he wants is a few bucks for food. Don’t tell me you’re one of those miserly tightwads who can’t bear to part with any of his money.
B: I’m not really talking about a one-time deal like that. I’m talking about something more chronic. Please notice that I’ve said before that it’s our moral obligation to help others. But “helping others” and “giving them money” are not necessarily the same thing. Indeed, you may be doing another a great disservice by giving him money. Some are addicted to spending money on unwise purchases: for instance, an alcoholic may be so addicted to alcohol that the first thing he does every time he gets his hands on some cash is go out and buy a six-pack. An acquaintance of mine in fact died because his family members gave him some money once and he went out and drank himself to death, and yet he’d been able to avoid alcohol for the previous several months when his finances were taken care of by a responsible friend who knew better than to ever give him money.
So let’s dissect a hypothetical claimant’s problem. What is his problem, anyway?
A: He needs money.
A: Because he needs food, of course.
B: Why doesn’t he get money for himself?
A: He doesn’t have a job.
B: Why doesn’t he get a job?
A: He’s not educated.
B: Why doesn’t he become educated?
A: He needs money for education, ya goob.
B: Why doesn’t he get one of those jobs that don’t require much education? Like flipping hamburgers, stocking shelves, etc.?
A: He’s disabled.
B: Is he so disabled he can’t work?
B: Why doesn’t he get help from family and/or friends?
A: They help, but not enough for what he needs.
B: Why doesn’t he ask some philanthropic organization?
A: He doesn’t know any.
B: Well then let’s tell him about ‘em!
There are quite a few solutions to common welfare issues proposed in the preceding dialogue. Those who cannot be helped by any of those solutions are extremely few in number, if there are any at all. In fact, if government welfare did not exist, philanthropic organizations would be more in number or possess more funds and therefore ability to help others.
A: What about times of national emergency, such as a natural disaster or economic failure? Those organizations can’t support the entire nation and its needs.
B: That may be true, but why should anything be able to in their stead in such a situation? The government could only do so insofar as it dips into the wealth it’s gathered from its people through taxes. If the government had never accumulated that wealth, it would be in the hands of the people – i.e., the same amount of wealth would be distributed among the general public. With that extra wealth in the hands of the people, it’s possible (at least in the case of economic failure) that the disaster never would have happened at all. But even if it did, at least the people would thus be more able to take care of themselves and others. Excess resources would be in the hands of the rich, but people are generally compassionate enough – yes, including even the wealthy – to help others in times of great need. In the end, the people would be just as capable as any government would be in handling a widespread catastrophe.
Furthermore, is it really the best thing to simply give people money? By having them earn the money themselves, they appreciate and learn the value of hard work and generally feel better about themselves – who wants to be known as somebody who cannot provide for himself and contributes nothing to society, only consuming instead?
In summary, people would be much happier and have more freedom if they would seek to support themselves and not look to the government for handouts. If they can’t support themselves they should look to family, friends, and/or private organizations. If there was no government welfare, why couldn’t there be plenty of charity money to (more efficiently) help those (relatively few) who cannot support themselves? In any case, a government-sponsored welfare program is not generally needed, if ever at all.