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Post 0

Saturday, July 24, 2004 - 8:00pmSanction this postReply
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Iím curious if there are ethical impediments to Objectivists accessing the benefits of the Welfare State. I understand the reasons for objecting to welfare programs like unemployment insurance and Social Security, but when you live in a society that coercively takes your earnings for those purposes, arenít you morally entitled to the benefits, in the name of self-interest?





Post 1

Saturday, July 24, 2004 - 8:59pmSanction this postReply
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I would suggest that an Objectivist take the word of the welfare statists literally: don't touch the welfare unless you are facing a literal choice between the dole and starvation. In otherwords: show up the day after the money's gone and the larder is empty.

A standard such as this shames those who believe they have a 'right' to welfare. A  true mendicant is a real reproach to that type...

...and is very reproachful to the people who use government assistance to "maintain a lifestyle to which [they] have become accustomed to." 




Post 2

Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 5:30amSanction this postReply
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Larry, Daniel,

I'm generally sympathetic to Daniel, but the below elaborates my own views somewhat (it's an edited extract from a response I posted to a discussion on the SOLO Yahoo Forum, seems to be relevant here):

I'd say that generally successful people who pay taxes and then for whatever reason fall on hard times (b/c of an economic depression that is not their fault for example) do in that situation have a right to take whatever benefits they can get - they are in effect taking back some of what has forcibly been taken from them. Those who genuinely wish to improve themselves through further education do
have the right to take government support (i.e. student grants and/or government loans) - they will in all likelihood pay far more back into the system through taxation once they are working. However, I
do have a problem with benefits being given to those who are unlikely to pay much of it back, i.e. those with no drive or ambition and who are never likely to amount to much. I know that may seem
harsh, but the alternative is unfair not only to the tax-payers but also to those who may through no fault of their own have to use benefits but who do genuinely wish to succeed.

MH




Post 3

Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 6:18amSanction this postReply
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Hi Larry,

I have thoughts on this, but was actually thinking of writing up my thoughts/experiences into an article. I've just not had the time to do that recently. But, I think you've motivated me to go ahead with it, or else if I don't get to it shortly I'll post my thoughts here!

-Elizabeth




Post 4

Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 8:29amSanction this postReply
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Elizabeth,

Please do the article. It is a very important issue faced by real people every day. I would love to see your thoughts on it.

Regi




Post 5

Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 10:12amSanction this postReply
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Larry:
 
The welfare state frequently gives you no choice.  To the extent you are subject to its corruptions you need not deny yourself what it offers if doing so would be against your self-interest.  So call the city fire department when your house is on fire.  As for Social Security, don't worry.  The system will be bankrupt before you start drawing benefits. ;)
 
Regards,
Bill




Post 6

Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 5:49amSanction this postReply
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I'd say that generally successful people who pay taxes and then for whatever reason fall on hard times (b/c of an economic depression that is not their fault for example) do in that situation have a right to take whatever benefits they can get - they are in effect taking back some of what has forcibly been taken from them. Those who genuinely wish to improve themselves through further education do
have the right to take government support (i.e. student grants and/or government loans) - they will in all likelihood pay far more back into the system through taxation once they are working.
If you genuinely believe that, then you're at heart a New Deal liberal.

However, I
do have a problem with benefits being given to those who are unlikely to pay much of it back, i.e. those with no drive or ambition and who are never likely to amount to much.
What about their parents?

And: what if the alternative I sketched out above is cheaper than yours? That would imply that your alternative requires the forcible confiscation of more taxpayer wealth than mine.




Post 7

Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 8:36amSanction this postReply
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Daniel and Matthew,

The lines seem pretty clear in the instances of real need, and maybe even "giving something back," although I have other problems with the latter since its a commonly used justification for taxation.

But, take two more common instances where such a need is not so heavily involved: Education and Social Security.

In the case of Education, should Objectivists avoid sending their children to government schools, on that basis alone? There are, of course, a myriad other reasons to avoid those institutions. Then consider college. Most are also state-supported, and therefore, "welfare programs," like it or not. Do all Objectivists attend only private schools and universities, thus avoiding the public dole?

In the case of the Social Security Ponzi scheme that the US government is operating, the "contributions" are taken from workers' paychecks for a lifetime. There is no opting out. Some of that money is then returned on a monthly basis when the worker reaches the qualifying age in their 60's. Disregarding the person's financial status on retirement, is it morally acceptable for an Objectivist to apply for (it isn't automatic) Social Security benefits?

And lets not forget that the application for those benefits includes a mandatory participation in the Medicare program. Again, there is no opting out of Medicare without losing the Social Security benefits themselves. This has the effect, of course, of being drawn into an even deeper into socialist system.

Yet, as Matthew has noted, the money for those programs was taken from us through taxation. Once taken, has ownership of that money been rightfully transferred, or does it still belong to us?

Do we just shrug off a robbery? Or, do we make an effort to retrieve what was wrongfully taken from us?

Larry


PSóElizabeth, I look forward to your comments. I've read some of your other posts, so I know you're going to make it interesting.





Post 8

Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 8:39amSanction this postReply
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Rand wrote an interesting article that relates to this subject.  It is called "The Question of Scholarships."  It wasn't placed in any of the anthologies or her essays, but was published in The Objectivist in the June, 1966 issue, and is in the blue volume collecting the articles from that magazine.  Objectivists often overlook it because of the title, but it applies in many other contexts.

While the original question was about scholarships the question, "Is it morally proper for an advocate of capitalism to accept a government research grant or a government job."  Her original question was, "Is it morally proper to accept scholarships, private or public."  Her answer to both questions was "Yes" (italics in original.) 

She argued that as long as you continued to fight against the welfare state system and were prepared to give up the benefits of scholarships, jobs or grants should they be done away with in a change toward freedom it was appropriate to accept those benefits. 

Rand also said in her that accepting this money is a form of restitution and that, "Those who advocate public scholarships, have nor right to them; those who oppose them have.  If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral contradictions of welfare statism, not its victims."

I would apply this reasoning to the situation of accepting welfare and agree with Daniel and Larry on this issue.

Bill




Post 9

Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 11:43amSanction this postReply
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We're a bunch of Cynics with respect to this, come to think of it.



Post 10

Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 3:46pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

If you genuinely believe that, then you're at heart a New Deal liberal


Excuse me?? What I said isn't much different to Rand's views, nor is it all that far from yours - the money is being taken by force, so if an Objectivist is in a situation where they really need it, they should take it.
What about their parents?


Well the exact same bloody principle applies to them!

And: what if the alternative I sketched out above is cheaper than yours? That would imply that your alternative requires the forcible confiscation of more taxpayer wealth than mine.


I have no idea what that last statement is supposed to mean, and I can only think that you have misunderstood me somewhere - I pretty much agree with your so-called "alternative".  don't take welfare handouts unless you absolutely need them, don't take student grants unless you can't afford not to. But if you do need them, there's nothing wrong with taking them given that you are forced to pay for them. This does of course presume the present-day context where a welfare system does exist.

Bill,

Thanks for reminding us of Rand's own views, which actually turned me away from thinking that using welfare was never acceptable.

MH

(Edited by Matthew Humphreys on 7/25, 3:52pm)




Post 11

Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 1:04pmSanction this postReply
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Actually, "The Question of Scholarships" was published in The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought.  Good essay.



Post 12

Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 8:10pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,

Once again, you've come through for me. Rand's essay, "The Question of Scholarships" is exactly what I was looking for. The following quote from that essay really states it best, in my opinion:

"The same moral principles and considerations apply to the issue of accepting social security, unemployment insurance, or other payments of that kind. It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the 'right' to force employers and unwilling coworkers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money-and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration."

Daniel,

Thanks for pointing out that the essay also appeared in "The Voice of Reason," which was sitting on a shelf in my library just ten feet away from me.

What service!



Post 13

Monday, July 26, 2004 - 7:29amSanction this postReply
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Something I have experience with actually!

The company I was working for for five years went out of business abruptly. I was out of work for ten weeks before obtaining another job. For nine of those weeks I collected unemployment insurance (the "dole.") The dole check was roughly 1/4 of what I had been earning per week. It was taxed as well. Figuring out what I paid in taxes during my steady employment for the last 18 years, I see that I didn't take nearly enough back from the state. Am I still a moral person for collecting the dole. You bet!

Ethan




Post 14

Monday, July 26, 2004 - 8:12amSanction this postReply
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Hi Regi & Larry!

I'm working on writing up my thoughts as we speak. It'll give me a better chance of thinking things through, and maybe will bring up some additional points on this topic to discuss here! Look forward to keeping this discussion going!

-Elizabeth




Post 15

Monday, July 26, 2004 - 6:39pmSanction this postReply
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I could argue that going on the 'dole' is the only moral thing to do in this corrupt system. It strains the system and robs the robbers of some of their loot. It will be the action that eventually ends the corrupt system. By doing the 'moral and right thing' you are a victim. You sanction the theft and looting. You support the system by supplying its fuel.

No we should claim all the benefits going but at the same time not vote for them for that is the act of the looter and thief by proxy. Drain the system and produce nothing that it can take. Drop out and rejoice in the increase in your own freedoms (from no tax filing to increased leisure time etc ). And if your conscience is still troubled, see it as a down payment towards all the hidden taxes that you will still be required to pay.




Post 16

Monday, July 26, 2004 - 6:58pmSanction this postReply
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Elizabeth,

I'm really looking forward to your comments on this issue, despite having my main question answered.

Larry





Post 17

Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 6:25amSanction this postReply
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Elizabeth, Larry,

"I'm really looking forward to your comments on this issue ..."

Ditto,

Regi




Post 18

Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 10:40amSanction this postReply
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It might be dirty money, but if I have to pay into welfare, I might as well take back some of the money stolen from me if I'm unemployed. The only problem with doing that is that I'm not really taking back my money; the welfare check with my name on it is being drawn on taxes extorted from some other sucker.



Post 19

Monday, August 2, 2004 - 9:59amSanction this postReply
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hi all.

my view is the same as bill's:

it is not wrong to accept the benefits of government programs. it is only wrong to try and keep such programs going.

i especially like what ayn rand said, about it being wrong for people who advocate those programs to accept the benefits, but it's ok for people who oppose the programs to accept them

i don't quite agree though. the immoral action of those who advocate the programs is not the acceptance of the benefits. it is in their advocation of those programs.


as for those who believe we should not accept the benefits of any government programs (that, if we do, we are immoral), i ask: do you drive on public roads?



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