Sunday, November 16, 2008

Will we continue to be able to say “being born an American is to win first prize in the lottery of life?”

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, when “the sun never set on the British Empire”, Rudyard Kipling noted that "to be born an Englishman is to win first prize in the lottery of life." Americans could say the same thing for centuries but will that continue to be true in the future?

Everyone can decide for themselves what will be the cause of Americans inability to consider having won the first prize in the lottery of life but for me it will be the growing demand for social justice.

Gary Demar wrote that the concept “social justice” means different things to different people. Justice is often equated with social equality, a mistaken notion if there ever was one”. The reason the idea of social justice is fallacious is that it does not fit in with the human condition and merely provides a false sense of fairness. Demar cites sporting contests as examples.

“Rarely are teams equal in ability. This is especially true with the younger age groups. What if umpires had the jurisdictional authority to level inequities at the request of a manager who believes that the opposing team has better players? Both teams know the rules going into the game. Umpires are present to ensure that the rule book is followed to the letter. As long as the players and coaches follow the rules and umpires enforce the rules, justice prevails even if there are inequities. It is not the job of an umpire to eliminate disparities. Who would ever want to play the game if the rules always change at the discretion of an umpire?”

In our country the demand for “social justice” is really a plea for the government to do something to fix perceived inequities be they economic or relational without any regard to the principle of justice. If justice is described in social rather than legal terms we are persuaded that national problems can only be fixed by a government with enough power to enforce its policies. The result is that advocates of “social justice” believe that the government plays the major role in rectifying so-called social problems because they are national in scope. Author Antonio Martino has pointed out however, that “the expression social justice . . . owes its immense popularity precisely to its ambiguity and meaninglessness. It can be used by different people, holding quite different views, to designate a wide variety of different things. Its obvious appeal stems from its persuasive strength, from its positive connotations, which allows the user to praise his own ideas and simultaneously express contempt for the ideas of those who don’t agree with him.”

“Anyone who criticizes policies that carry the label ‘social justice’ is immediately considered to be callous, insensitive, uncaring, and lacking in compassion.”

However those who oppose this definition of “social justice” policies are not against treating people in a just way; they just believe that most if not all social justice policies that involve the government are wrong and do more harm than good in the long run. Attaching the “social justice” label to a program does not make it a just program any more than attaching a label of a higher priced product to an inferior one makes it better.

As Demar also notes “Confiscating trillions of dollars in taxes from one segment of society and redistributing the collected revenue to another segment of society and calling it “social justice” does not mean that it is in fact the just thing to do. “Social justice” is not in operation when the State takes upon itself the right to confiscate so-called excess capital from the rich to care for the poor … confiscatory taxation and such policies do not work.”

In the 1960’s President Lyndon Johnson declared “war on poverty.” In the end poverty grew in numbers and trillions of dollars spent did nothing more than enlarge government. As has been reported: “Overall, civilian social welfare costs increased by twenty times from 1950 to 1980, in constant dollars and during the same period, the United States population increased by half.”

In 1965 the Food Stamp Program began with 424,000 people (statistically less than 9,000 people per state, a manageable number which private welfare agencies could have handled). At the end of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency in 1968, participation increased to 2.2 million. The number doubled during the first two years of Richard Nixon’s presidency (1969-70). By the end of Nixon’s first term in 1972, the number of food stamp recipients had increased five-fold. “By 1980, more than twenty-one million people were receiving food stamps, fifty times more people than were covered during the Johnson presidency.”

Using the government to satisfy a concept of “social justice” does more harm than good because it entices people into programs which make them dependent upon government. Of course there are people who are poor and need help but creating a government program in attempt to satisfy the need merely expands government and does not solve the problem anyway. We should keep this in mind as President Barack Obama institutes his policies to “spread the wealth.”

It is clear that America’s fight against poverty involved enormous overhead costs in the past and similar programs advertised to help the middle class will do the same. Most of the tax dollars collected in these efforts end up, as Thomas Sowell notes, “in the pockets of highly paid administrators, consultants, and staff as well as higher-income recipients of benefits from programs advertised as anti-poverty efforts.” I believe the real beneficiaries of liberal social programs are not the poor and disadvantaged but the members of the governmental bureaucracy who administer the program.

Those who administer these programs have a vested interest in their survival and expansion. Winning the war on poverty is not the goal, perpetuating the programs is. “Less than 25 percent of all the tax dollars allocated to fight poverty at every level of government reaches the poor. The other 75 percent goes to pay overhead.”

Here are some statistics that prove the point.

“In 1982, the total U.S. welfare bill at all levels of government (federal, state, and local) came to 403 billion dollars. If we take figures from the Bureau of the Census (August 1984) which state that the number of people living in poverty in the U.S. was 15.2 percent of the population or 35.3 million people, an amazing fact emerges. Had we simply divided the 403 billion dollars this nation spent on poverty at every level of government among the estimated number of poor people, each poor person could have received $11,133. For a family of four, this would have totaled $44,532.” Since the official poverty level per family for that year was $9,287.”

As I said it is clear that America’s fight against poverty involves enormous overhead costs. If that same money and the revenue lost in overhead expenditures that never reach the poor were saved, invested, and spent in our free market economy instead of taxed, many more people would benefit, and we would have fewer dependent on the government. But that’s not what Democrats and liberals want; they achieve and maintain power by increasing the number of social-welfare slaves who then become the dominant voting block.

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