In the book Does Your Bag Have Holes?, Cameron C. Taylor, in addition to financial and spiritual topics, highlights a number of points regarding the foundations of society, the intent of the Constitution and the role of government in the welfare of its people. I’d like to talk about the last point because Taylor opened my eyes to “the other side of the argument” about social welfare and who should take care of the poor and unfortunate.
The Intent of the Constitution
In the book, Taylor discusses about 2 dozen “myths” about personal finance and how God, government and our own free will play a big role in each. One of the myths reads:
Government has a responsibility to provide for the poor and needy
Well, that was always my assumption because why else would the government have instituted welfare programs, social security, or giving money to other countries to help in crisis situations? Who else would do it?
But that’s the author’s point. It’s NOT the role of the government to hand out money because it’s not the government’s money to give. It’s the taxpayer’s money and the money should be used to support the citizens’ basic rights like security and infrastructure.
The original authors of the Constitution and other major documents that formed our nation were quoted as saying that forcing taxpayers to give the government money, and then handing that money over to other citizens for free is hurtful to the country.
Why is Welfare Bad?
You often hear the following quote, and it applies perfectly to this argument against social welfare:
Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.
It’s quoted so many times because it’s true. How can you learn how to do something for yourself if someone is just providing for you for free? Better yet, why would someone bother to work for something when they know they can get it for free?
I know that not everyone is lazy. Before writing this article, I conversed with my coworker and she brought up about those many individuals who are very industrious, but perhaps misfortune seems to find them anyway. Shouldn’t people who work hard get rewarded by some sense of security? Sure they should, but it shouldn’t come from the government.
Where Should We Turn for Security?
My own idea (as I haven’t gotten this far in the book) is that we rely on 2 places for a sense of financial security when we run into some bad times:
- Your own savings
- The goodwill of others
Through proper planning you can achieve what the government is offering via welfare and social security, and probably a whole lot more. By creating an emergency fund, you’ll prepare yourself for short-term problems. And through retirement savings, you’ll prepare yourself for your golden years. And to protect your family, you can purchase life insurance. And to achieve all of this, you just need to set up and stick to a budget.
For bigger catastrophes, like natural disasters and disabling accidents that aren’t covered by insurance, then you can call upon the charity of your neighbors or society at large. The point is that government shouldn’t act as a charitable institution. It’s up to you to contribute to society so that when you need it, society can contribute back to you.
Although there are always gray areas in any argument (at least I think so), I’ve always felt that welfare was not good for the country, based on my own personal experience with fellow family members and how they abuse it. Sure, my grandma couldn’t support herself without social security since her stroke, but again, it’s not the role of the government to provide for her. It’s her family’s responsibility to support her and help her to help herself as much as she can.
Since I grew up with the idea of social security and welfare surrounding me, I’ve come to appreciate it, but not because it has enabled me to be a better citizen. Rather, social security and welfare have enabled me to care less about my fellow citizens and even my family. I take it for granted that it will always be there for them and I can go on my merry way, earning my own dollars and spending it for myself. However, my family is my responsibility, as well as all of society’s, not the government’s.
So you should look out for your own welfare by being an industrious citizen and charitable giver, while the government should look out for our security and protection. The government should enable us to be industrious, not support idleness.
My two cents.