One of the downsides to socialism is that it inculcates a mindset of dependency on government largess not only within the minds of dole recipients but also among other people. This is particularly true when the generations living at that time have been born and raised under socialist programs. When libertarians propose the repeal of these socialist programs, people get scared to death that the dole recipients are going to end up dying in the streets.
The best examples of this dependency mindset, of course, are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Since most Americans have been born and raised under these socialist programs, there is a deep-seated fear that if they were to be repealed, seniors and poor people would be thrown under the bus, just left to die of starvation and untreated illnesses in the gutters and alleys of America.
That’s what socialism does. It damages people’s faith in themselves, in others, in freedom, and in God. People end up placing their faith in the coercive apparatus of government because they are convinced that a society based entirely on freedom, voluntary charity, and free markets simply cannot be trusted to work.
Now, consider an article from today’s New York Times entitled “To Fight Coronavirus, U.K. Asked for Some Volunteers. It Got an Army.” It’s about England. The government there recently asked for 250,000 volunteers to help seniors during the Coronavirus crisis. Since people have been told not to leave their homes, many of the elderly, consisting of around 1.5 million people, have no way of getting their groceries and medicines.
Enter younger people, on a purely voluntary basis. Take a wild guess at how many younger people volunteered to help out those elderly people.
750,000 volunteers! Yes, three times the number requested! The Times writes that the government was “forced to temporarily stop taking applicants so it could process the flood.”
But that’s not all.The article continues: “In addition to the national program, hundreds of community aid groups have sprung up around the country, enrolling tens of thousands of volunteers.”
One of those volunteers, Kate Sellers, whose luxury travel agency has been put on hold as a result of the crisis, is one of those people who are now delivering groceries and picking up prescriptions for seniors. Last week, she carried two bags of groceries to the home of 73-year-old Garth D’lima. Sellers stated, “It’s just heartbreaking not to be able to help him carry his groceries up the stairs. We can’t go into people’s houses because that would put them at risk.”
Now, imagine instead that the government had decided to conscript (i.e., force) those 250,000 young people into mandatory national service. Or that the government had taxed everyone and used the money to purchase the services of 250,000 people.
You see the difference? How much meaning would there be in such coercion, compared to the deep meaning in life that comes with helping out people on a purely voluntary basis?
Yes, I know what the skeptics will say. They’ll say, “Jacob, that spirit of voluntarism only applies to the British, not the American people. Younger people here are bad people. Unlike those British young people, American young people could never be trusted to help out the poor and the elderly, including their parents and grandparents. American young people need to be forced to do the right thing.”
Nonsense! When left free, Americans are the most charitable and giving people in the world. In fact, a society based on voluntary charity is our heritage as Americans. Don’t forget, after all, that Americans lived without mandatory charity for more than 100 years. During that time, people were free to keep everything they earned and decide for themselves what to do with it.
The result was not only the most prosperous society in history, especially for the poor, but also the most charitable society in history.
It would be no different if America’s mandatory charity programs were abolished today.
For one thing, a genuinely free society doesn’t force anyone to help out others. Freedom entails the right to make that decision, each in his own way. Sure, some will say no, which is their right. But others—lots of others—would say yes, enthusiastically, just like those British young people.
But we can also be certain that if Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid were abolished today, we could count on younger people to rally forth and help those in need, including their parents and grandparents, just like those British younger people are doing. All it takes is a faith in ourselves, in others, in freedom, in free markets, and in God. All that we need is faith the size of a mustard seed, and support for America’s massive, dysfunctional, immoral system of coerced charity will disintegrate.