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Are Libertarians against the poor?

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purplemage Posted: Sun, Dec 23 2007 6:12 PM

 I heard someone say that since Libertarians don't support socialism, that we're against the poor.  The person said that if there was no welfare state, the rich will keep most of the money and hoard it, and that the poor will starve.  He accused Libertarians of wanting the poor to starve, and said it was good if the government took the money from the rich, and used it to help the poor.  Therefore, he claimed, Libertarians are against the poor. 

Something sounds wrong about this argument. 

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Matt replied on Sun, Dec 23 2007 6:28 PM

 

The only times in human history that man has escaped grinding poverty is in countries with largely free trade. If you look at the problems in the world like for example people starving in Ethopia... its is because of the government control in the economy. So in free markets you will have less poverty and starvation... Also its a question of ethics... is it ethical to non-consensually take from someone and give to another? Not at all.... That is why capitalist/libertarians promote philanthropy as an efficient and ethical way to provide for the poor, instead of using a Robin Hood syndrome.

 

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Stranger replied on Sun, Dec 23 2007 6:32 PM

We don't believe any man should be condemned to poverty when there are others who wish to exchange with him. So yes, we are against the poor. 

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If governments can eradicate poverty, then why are there still poor people in this world?  Ending poverty can't be done through socialism.  I suggest reading The Conquest of Poverty, by Henry Hazlitt.     

 

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It is a fallacy to say that because I oppose government intervention in the name of helping the poor, that I'm against helping the poor. Opposing one particular means to an end does not equate to opposing the end in and of itself. What I oppose is not the ends but the use of coercive means towards those ends. In opposing government welfare, I am not opposing the act of giving money to the less fortunate in itself, I am opposing the political means towards that end, which is the forced redistribution of wealth by the state through taxation. I fully support any individual's choice to personally give their wealth away to others or to voluntary form institutions to cater to the needy. What I oppose is the means of stealing from anyone else in order to do this. My opposition to government welfare says nothing about my personal willingness to voluntarily give my money away to or give help to poor people. So this common claim is simply horsepud and an unfair attack on the character of libertarians.

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Stranger:

We don't believe any man should be condemned to poverty when there are others who wish to exchange with him. So yes, we are against the poor. 

Don't know if you meant to be funny, but your comment appeared so. Not to mention informative.

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pairunoyd replied on Mon, Dec 24 2007 11:42 AM

Ya'll remember Hobbes and his Leviathan?

Concerning the 'winners' and 'losers' of a State state and a State-free state, you should delve into this philosophical piece. It uses computer simulations to test cooperation. It's very interesting!

Can Cooperation Ever Occur Without The State?

http://journal.ilovephilosophy.com/Article/Can-cooperation-every-occur-without-the-state-/1130

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JAlanKatz replied on Mon, Dec 24 2007 1:03 PM

In addition to the great points made above, I want to harp on my typical point - libertarianism is not about exactly the society we have today, minus particular examples of government intervention.  If we somehow pictured a world with eminent domain, with corporatism, and without welfare, yes, that would be a world far worse than ours for the poor.  But that is not what libertarianism is about, even though to our critics it might seem that way - and some libertarians don't do much to dispel it.  Yes, the poor will always be with us, but in a free society there's no reason to think that they'd be as numerous, or that people would become trapped in that category as they do now. 

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Another argument that he has is that the government should tax the rich because most of the rich just hoard their wealth and don't help the poor.  Then there will be a lot of poor people without the government pooling it into welfare.

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Sounds like Keynesian hogwash. How do they 'hoard' it?

 

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taormina replied on Wed, Dec 26 2007 10:46 AM

This argument is in fact an ad hominem bullying tactic. It assumes that a free market inherently drives the poor to starvation and that the welfare state is the only answer to poverty, then accuses us that we lack humanity for opposing the welfare state.  I recently saw a forum post on another site advocate shooting those who oppose state administered health care.  Socialism is such a weak and reactive view that its adherents frequently resort to emotive appeals to conceal deficient reasoning.

So I would answer this argument by saying that I don't want the poor to starve, I want them to prosper.  The welfare state patronizes the poor and perpetuates their poverty by creating dependence on the state.  High taxation stifles entrepreneurs from creating new opportunities for themselves and for potential employees, reducing opportunities for the poor to work their way out of poverty.  They will not escape poverty any other way. 

Wealth is only created by free individuals investing and producing valuable goods and services.   Redistribution of wealth does not create wealth, it penalizes productivity and rewards idleness.  It may be claimed that this is "social justice" but in fact redistribution affirms and legitimizes the inequalities it seeks to rectify.  It can do nothing else without destroying wealth and its sources.  

Another flaw in this argument is in its characterisation of "the rich."  This is not an empirical observation, it is a Marxist myth.  While individuals may seek to "hoard" wealth at times, in practice, wealthy people tend to save and invest wealth.  Saving and investment make capital available for the creation of more wealth.  Taxation liquidates capital and converts it for immediate consumption, reducing the potential for creating new wealth and new employment.   

In sum, the best way to help the poor is to increase their opportunities to work, save and invest.  It is the free market that provides those opportunities.  Hence libertarians are the greatest advocates for the poor--and for everyone.  

"I know a little"
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purplemage replied on Wed, Dec 26 2007 11:31 AM

taormina:
It assumes that a free market inherently drives the poor to starvation and that the welfare state is the only answer to poverty, then accuses us that we lack humanity for opposing the welfare state.

That pretty much sums up one of the main things this person was trying to convince me of, and he even yelled at me that I did not believe this.  He ranted that liberterian and republican ideas that wanted the end of the welfare were wrong since it helped the rich but it harmed the poor.

taormina:
High taxation stifles entrepreneurs from creating new opportunities for themselves and for potential employees, reducing opportunities for the poor to work their way out of poverty.

So true.  I guess that is the irony of the welfare state, that by increasing the price of owning a business, it reduces the amount of businesses and the demand for workers.  According to the law of supply and demand, when this happens, the compensation a worker is paid for their work goes down.  Hope this reinforces your argument.Wink

taormina:
Another flaw in this argument is in its characterisation of "the rich."

Agreed.  The person thinks that most of the rich are greedy since they don't "give back" to society and they hoard all of the wealth for themselves.  Then, he argues that since this is true, they should be "forced" by the government to give up some of their wealth to help the poor.

 

 

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purplemage replied on Wed, Dec 26 2007 11:34 AM

Inquisitor:
Sounds like Keynesian hogwash. How do they 'hoard' it?
 

 

By keeping all of their money and never giving it to the poor.  According to him. 

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Money is always held with a purpose in mind, namely present or future consumption. If by 'hoarding' saving or investment is what is meant, then anyone levelling this accusation is an economic illiterate whose opinions deserve little attention. It certainly isn't characterictic of the majority of the wealthy that they lock their money up in some vault and never, ever use it.

 

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pairunoyd replied on Wed, Dec 26 2007 7:54 PM

Inquisitor:
Money is always held with a purpose in mind, namely present or future consumption. If by 'hoarding' saving or investment is what is meant, then anyone levelling this accusation is an economic illiterate whose opinions deserve little attention. It certainly isn't characterictic of the majority of the wealthy that they lock their money up in some vault and never, ever use it.

 

Also, it seems that by assuming someone isn't going to SAVE their money properly he's exceeded redistributionist proclivities and has devolved into full-fledged communism.  Isn't his net wealth testimony about the extent to which he meets his fellow man's demands? Free men seeking to satisfy their demands via other free men cannot be replaced by the decrees of a moralist. If he thinks he deserves to be steward of great wealth then he must prove himself to others by creating something of value via voluntary excanges and not by physical force. He must accord his neighbors the right to make the same decisions he's trying to usurp. It's intellectual sloth to appeal to coercive entities (the State) to do your bidding rather than relying upon industry and ingenuity to create something of value for his fellow man. He thinks his desires trumps those of everyone elses and any means he can employ to satisfy those desires, whether immoral or not, are justified. It's much easier to vote compassion rather than practice it. You can't dupe the laws of nature. He is deceived into believing his way is the right way because he can't see beyond the effects of his single act. All he sees is his compassion taking a dollar from a rich man and giving it to a poor man. He's like an animal, only seeing the effects A has on B, forgoing the energy and rationale required to see the full effects of his actions. Ignorance is bliss! He should see his principles universally applied in places such as North Korea, China and the former USSR.

 

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Arvin replied on Wed, Dec 26 2007 8:37 PM

Mattes:

 

The only times in human history that man has escaped grinding poverty is in countries with largely free trade. If you look at the problems in the world like for example people starving in Ethopia... its is because of the government control in the economy. So in free markets you will have less poverty and starvation... Also its a question of ethics... is it ethical to non-consensually take from someone and give to another? Not at all.... That is why capitalist/libertarians promote philanthropy as an efficient and ethical way to provide for the poor, instead of using a Robin Hood syndrome.

 

 

 

You forget that what Robin Hood did was not "stealing from the rich and giving to the poor", he stole back the taxes that the peasents were forced to pay, and gave the taxes back to the people.

So really, Robin Hood was kinda libertarian in many ways... 

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JimS replied on Wed, Dec 26 2007 9:47 PM

What's the meaning of "the rich will keep most of the money and hoard it"?  If the hypothetical rich is not spending the money, there will be less money chasing the goods available on the market place, so even the poor will be able to buy more goods at lower prices. 

 The more likely scenario is for the so-called rich to invest the money in new methods of production . . . which means more goods down the road and more workers employed and paid to buy the goods.

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pairunoyd replied on Thu, Dec 27 2007 10:24 AM

How propitious, the Daily Article at Mises.org addresses this very thread! It talks about Keynes' claims that saving is the cause of a nation's economic woes. What timing! ;)

http://www.mises.org/story/2803

Here's a snippet:

That word — insolvency — was to have no longer any meaning for a sovereign government. The balanced budget was a capitalist bogey. Deficit spending was not what it seemed. It was in fact investment; and the use of it was to fill an investment void — a void created by the chronic and incorrigible propensity of people to save too much. "There has been," he said, "a chronic tendency throughout history for the propensity to save to be stronger than the inducement to invest. The weakness of the inducement to invest has been at all times the key to the economic problem." By investment he was supposed to mean the use of capital in the spirit of adventure.

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Bostwick replied on Thu, Dec 27 2007 11:37 AM

purplemage:

Another argument that he has is that the government should tax the rich because most of the rich just hoard their wealth and don't help the poor.  Then there will be a lot of poor people without the government pooling it into welfare.

 

Thats nonsense. The poor benefit when the rich hoard gold.

If people are earning money, they are adding goods and services to the economy. If they are not spending that money, they are not taking goods and services out of the economy. 

If rich people hoard gold than the cost of goods will decrease, benefiting the poor. However, people do not hoard wealth in a vast vault like Scourge Mcduck, they invest it. Saving and investing is the only way to increase capital, and thus improve standards of living. 

Governments cause poverty by taxing and counterfeiting and regulating and killing. They can not end poverty because poverty is not a natural phenomenon, it is a symptom of government. Using government to combat poverty is not only useless its counterproductive.

Peace

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Bostwick replied on Thu, Dec 27 2007 11:44 AM

Arvin:

Mattes:

 

The only times in human history that man has escaped grinding poverty is in countries with largely free trade. If you look at the problems in the world like for example people starving in Ethopia... its is because of the government control in the economy. So in free markets you will have less poverty and starvation... Also its a question of ethics... is it ethical to non-consensually take from someone and give to another? Not at all.... That is why capitalist/libertarians promote philanthropy as an efficient and ethical way to provide for the poor, instead of using a Robin Hood syndrome.

 

 

 

You forget that what Robin Hood did was not "stealing from the rich and giving to the poor", he stole back the taxes that the peasents were forced to pay, and gave the taxes back to the people.

So really, Robin Hood was kinda libertarian in many ways... 

 

True. And since free enterprise does not exist today people who are rich today are so because of taxes and government intervention. The banksters are just as guilty as the politicians.

 

Peace

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pairunoyd replied on Thu, Dec 27 2007 12:40 PM

JonBostwick:

True. And since free enterprise does not exist today people who are rich today are so because of taxes and government intervention. The banksters are just as guilty as the politicians.

 

I think that's a preposterously bold statement. Is it 'guilt by association'? How much guilt? How much association?

Maybe there's not nor never will be absolutely free enterprise, but I don't think you can say no free enterprise exists today.  How can you broadly condemn the subjects of a system? How can you know what portion of one's riches are from free enterprise and what portion is from non-free enterprise? So the remedy for government intervention is government intervention? There can be no ownership within a system tainted by non-anarchic tendencies? It'd be quite easy to rationalize any actions if your only appeal is to the purity of the present system.  

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Bogart replied on Thu, Dec 27 2007 1:44 PM

I love this question as it strikes at the core of what makes a free and prosperous society.  You have the socialist/welfare/statists vs the liberty loving capitalists, lets see who wins:

1. Redistributionist State vs Liberty: The two largest and best funded redistribution schemes are in order the Federal Reserve followed closely by Social Security.  Neither of these are nice to the poor. 

  • The worst is the Fed.  It steals money from the poor by NOT INCLUDING ENERGY and FOOD in their computations of inflation.  It just so happens that the poor spend larger amounts of their incomes buying these two things.  Furthermore the Fed gives their money to banks which are controlled by rich stock holders.  These banks get to lend the money before the poor gets to use it and we see the result: Housing Price Boom, Savings and Loan Crisis, and now Sub Prime Mortgage Crisis.
  • The other scheme that hurts the poor is Social Insecurity.  This is less hideous as it takes their income directly instead of of stealing it through higher prices on things.  Still it bestows its goodness on the rich and somewhat rich stiffing the poor who get stuck with the return on social security around inflation plus 2% or worse.

2. Police State vs Liberty: This is easy.  The Government rarely harasses the rich, sure there are rare Michael Vicks and Martha Stewarts, but for the most part the government arrests, detains and persecutes the poor a lot more for rather stupid things like public intoxication, smoking, dope use, etc.

3. But we get welfare and health care vs Liberterian Nothing: The poor never seem to get enough of these.  Amazing how little these programs help the poor.  Liberterians help everyone by stopping licensing and regulation.  This helps the poor by expanding their choices of providers and by lowering the price.  Is plastic surgery less expensive than heart surgery?  That is a big yes!!!!!

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JAlanKatz replied on Thu, Dec 27 2007 1:44 PM

pairunoyd:

I think that's a preposterously bold statement. Is it 'guilt by association'? How much guilt? How much association?

Maybe there's not nor never will be absolutely free enterprise, but I don't think you can say no free enterprise exists today.  How can you broadly condemn the subjects of a system? How can you know what portion of one's riches are from free enterprise and what portion is from non-free enterprise? So the remedy for government intervention is government intervention? There can be no ownership within a system tainted by non-anarchic tendencies? It'd be quite easy to rationalize any actions if your only appeal is to the purity of the present system.  

We're talking about bankers.  Bankers do their jobs knowing full well that there is a central bank, that they are charging interest on non-existent money, and that they are engaged in fraud.  They have enough education to know that you can't have withdrawal on demand, with interest, and not be lying.

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JAlanKatz replied on Thu, Dec 27 2007 1:44 PM

pairunoyd:

I think that's a preposterously bold statement. Is it 'guilt by association'? How much guilt? How much association?

Maybe there's not nor never will be absolutely free enterprise, but I don't think you can say no free enterprise exists today.  How can you broadly condemn the subjects of a system? How can you know what portion of one's riches are from free enterprise and what portion is from non-free enterprise? So the remedy for government intervention is government intervention? There can be no ownership within a system tainted by non-anarchic tendencies? It'd be quite easy to rationalize any actions if your only appeal is to the purity of the present system.  

We're talking about bankers.  Bankers do their jobs knowing full well that there is a central bank, that they are charging interest on non-existent money, and that they are engaged in fraud.  They have enough education to know that you can't have withdrawal on demand, with interest, and not be lying.

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billott1:

 

1. Redistributionist State vs Liberty: The two largest and best funded redistribution schemes are in order the Federal Reserve followed closely by Social Security.  Neither of these are nice to the poor.

 

Wait, I think the reason they do this is to create a demand from the poor for social services.Smile  And to give to the rich.

billott1:
2. Police State vs Liberty: This is easy.  The Government rarely harasses the rich, sure there are rare Michael Vicks and Martha Stewarts, but for the most part the government arrests, detains and persecutes the poor a lot more for rather stupid things like public intoxication, smoking, dope use, etc.

Keep in mind that government steals from the poor whenever they do this.Smile

billott1:
But we get welfare and health care vs Liberterian Nothing: The poor never seem to get enough of these.  Amazing how little these programs help the poor. 

But it is amazing how much it helps the government.Smile

 

billott1:
Liberterians help everyone by stopping licensing and regulation.
 

Wait... you are not helping the government by doing that,  But then again, the government should be banished from the land.  Even if it is a democracy.

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Niccolò replied on Thu, Dec 27 2007 5:15 PM

purplemage:

 I heard someone say that since Libertarians don't support socialism, that we're against the poor.  The person said that if there was no welfare state, the rich will keep most of the money and hoard it, and that the poor will starve.  He accused Libertarians of wanting the poor to starve, and said it was good if the government took the money from the rich, and used it to help the poor.  Therefore, he claimed, Libertarians are against the poor. 

Something sounds wrong about this argument. 

 

Leave the poor for the Church to help.

Leave judgment for God to make.

Leave the state for the reaper to collect. 

The Origins of Capitalism

And for more periodic bloggings by moi,

Leftlibertarian.org

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Bostwick replied on Fri, Dec 28 2007 6:37 PM

pairunoyd:

I think that's a preposterously bold statement. Is it 'guilt by association'? How much guilt? How much association?

Maybe there's not nor never will be absolutely free enterprise, but I don't think you can say no free enterprise exists today.  How can you broadly condemn the subjects of a system? How can you know what portion of one's riches are from free enterprise and what portion is from non-free enterprise? So the remedy for government intervention is government intervention? There can be no ownership within a system tainted by non-anarchic tendencies? It'd be quite easy to rationalize any actions if your only appeal is to the purity of the present system.  

Where did I advocate government intervention?

Are you saying that people who own patents have no idea that they are benefitting from a government monoply? You think the owners of the Federal Reserve have no idea that they are largest counterfitters in the world? 

The fact that there is no obvious solution does not diminish the reality of the problem. 

Lockheed-Martin and all the other corporatist entities of the military-industrial complex have no legitimate claim to their property.

However, there will be free enterprise some day.

Peace

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Matt replied on Sat, Dec 29 2007 4:14 PM

Arvin:

You forget that what Robin Hood did was not "stealing from the rich and giving to the poor", he stole back the taxes that the peasents were forced to pay, and gave the taxes back to the people.

So really, Robin Hood was kinda libertarian in many ways... 

Haha very true... Its just a catch phrase I like to throw around... but I might stop using it now ;)

 I always feel like its a telling sign where the poor are better off when you hear about refugees from North Korea and Vietnam attempting to immigrate into Hong Kong... there are reports of Vietnamese building rafts made of bags of ping pong balls trying to float to Hong Kong... Or another example of this behavior is the Cuban refugees who float on any thing possible to get to America.... In countries that claim the ideals of socialism and communism that claim to be populist and more caring of the poor its a telling sign when you have the lower classes of its country attempting to make it to Capitalist countries in droves in the most desperate ways possible....

 That being said I think we would be even better off if we had more free market thinkers running the show

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CShirk replied on Sun, Dec 30 2007 7:02 PM

First, whoever said that is a total idiot.

Second, the Aspect of Opportunity:
   In the welfare state, the income of employers are garnished (taxed) to be redistributed amongst those who are able to work the system to convince others that they are poor when, in fact, they are not. Thusly, there is less employment opportunity for the poor. Thusly, the poor are, in fact, hurt by the welfare system. After all, the wealthy are the ones who have the capital to be able to employ the person, thusly allowing the poor person to keep food on their table. The poor person is then allowed to eventually gain skills which make him (or her) more productive and eventually allow the poor person the opportunity to find better, higher-paying jobs based on their skills and possibly to end up becoming an employer themselves, thusly creating more jobs for the rest of the poor. If, however, you steal from (tax) the rich to "redistribute the wealth", then you accomplish nothing more than to deny the capital needed to gain employment, skills, and eventually profitable employment to the poor. (It's a rough theory I'm working on regarding the welfare state, so please pardon me.)

Third, the Aspect of Morality
   Regardless of who is doing it, stealing is still stealing. The fact is that you are still forcing one person to give up what they often times worked their rear ends off to get - and according to some philosophies therefore taking a part of their lives. No matter where it goes, how is this just? How is this right? How can anyone argue that it is okay for anybody to violate your privacy (which is exactly what tax information does), and use force or the threat of force to forcibly remove property or money from that person. For anyone else that is robbery.

Fourth, the Aspect of What the ****!?!?
   First, the truly rich don't pay that much in taxes. A person who gets their funds off of a trust fund pays next to nothing. The people who are hit hardest by taxes are the middle classes. Quite flatly put, welfare does nothing more than to keep the poor the way they are and allows socialists an avenue to conduct their war on the middle class. (Just my opinion.)

 

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the beauty of liberty and the free market is that it is both just and efficient. whoever made that statement regarding the rich has no clue about economics...well, no wonder that person is a socialist. the key question to ask is - how did the rich guy get rich? once you answer this question the refutation of this argument will be self-evident...and the answer to this question is precisely what economics teaches us!

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