A new policy paper from my colleague Michael Tanner analyzes the growth in the American welfare state and concludes that “throwing money at the problem has neither reduced poverty nor made the poor self-sufficient.” Michael makes an important point that—in my experience—most journalists don’t seem to appreciate:
In addition, whatever the intention behind government programs, they are soon captured by special interests. The nature of government is such that programs are almost always implemented in a way to benefit those with a vested interest in them rather than to actually achieve the programs’ stated goals… Among the nonpoor with a vital interest in antipoverty programs are social workers and government employees who administer the programs and business people, such as landlords and physicians, who are paid to provide services to the poor. Thus, anti-poverty programs are usually more concerned with protecting the prerogatives of the bureaucracy than with actually fighting poverty.
That’s one reason why you have federal officials actually celebrating the fact that more and more Americans are signing up for food stamps. Sure, adding millions of people to the food stamps roll is good for the Department of Agriculture’s budget, but is it good for the country? Perhaps if one thinks that government bureaucracies are ideally suited to provide for the less fortunate. However, that’s a tough claim to make given the fraud, abuse, and wasteful bureaucratic overhead costs associated with the government model. And let’s not forget that the government is not a charity; rather, it must resort to compulsion and force in order to carry out its politically-inspired objectives.
Instead of celebrating government dependency, we ought to be celebrating those private charities that are effectively meeting the needs of the less fortunate through voluntary donations. For example, Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) recently went to the House floor to laud a private charity called Convoy of Hope. From Paul’s speech: