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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Faith in Coercion or Faith in Freedom?

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Why not immediately repeal Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, food stamps, foreign aid, and all other welfare-state programs?

While welfare-statists won’t state this directly, the following describes their attitude toward the American people:

You are a bad people. You are selfish, self-centered, and greedy. You hate the poor generally and you hate people who are in need. If someone needed assistance to survive, you would ignore them and let them die. You cannot be trusted with freedom. You must be forced to be good, caring, and compassionate. One of these days, maybe — just maybe — you will be a sufficiently good people that we can free you to make your own charitable decisions. But we are a long way from there. If you were freed right now to make your own decisions with respect to charity, the fact is that you would never help your parents, the sick, pro-U.S. dictators around the world, the needy, and others who depend on U.S. government welfare. If the welfare state were repealed, I would be good but none of the rest of you would be.”

We libertarians, on the other hand, believe in ourselves, in freedom, in free markets, and in others. We have no doubts that most people in society do care about themselves and about other people. You don’t need to force children to honor their mother and father through the payment of Social Security taxes. Most children will be there when their parents are sick or dying or just need help. And in those cases where they’re not, there are relatives, friends, neighbors, church groups, or private organizations ready to do so.

We libertarians have no doubts that if all welfare-state programs were repealed today, everything would not only turn out fine, it would be significantly better. People would now be retaining all that tax money, enabling them to have a larger pool of income and savings with which to help others when the need arose. Moreover, the entire welfare-state bureaucracy would be dismantled, relieving the country of that huge burden on the citizenry.

The biggest difference between libertarians and statists though is over the concept of freedom itself. We libertarians believe that freedom entails the right to so “no” to charitable giving. Choosing what to do with one’s own money is essential to the concept of freedom. If a person isn’t free to say “no” to someone’s request for assistance, then that society cannot be considered free. Or to put it another way, if people are free only to make what society considers is the correct choice, that is not a free society.

Statists, on the other hand, believe that people should be free only to make the correct choices. Thus, they see no violation of freedom when the state forces people to give to the elderly, the poor, the needy, or some pro-U.S. foreign dictator because, for them, that’s the correct choice anyway. In the mind of the statists, being prevented from turning one’s back on one’s neighbor by the state is perfectly consistent with living in a free society.

Finally, statists believe that the state makes people more compassionate and caring through welfare-state programs. Libertarians believe that genuine compassion and concern for others can only come from the willing heart of the individual, not the coercive apparatus of the state. We libertarians believe that coercion stultifies conscience while freedom of choice strengthens it.

Who will win the battle between the statists and the libertarians? That depends on the American people. As long as Americans look upon themselves as the statists see them, statism will continue prevailing in America. But once the American people begin to see themselves as libertarians see them — and, more important, realize that they have a God-given right to freedom — libertarianism will reign triumphant.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.