Whence Cometh My Help
A couple of weeks ago, I got pulled into a wall war on social media. Actually, I jumped in, and quite foolishly, but I was between one and [number redacted] bourbons, a bit bored, and couldn’t stand seeing this group of six or seven liberals unopposed and congratulating themselves on their progressivism.
One guy and I in particular sparred, and sparred well, running the full gamut of free-market versus socialist thought. It was a fantastic exercise. He was an intelligent guy; I think it’s important that we recognize that attribute in our opponents. He said that “taxes are the glue which holds society together.” I didn’t address this at the time, as it was a sidenote to a much larger argument, and neither of us could be bothered with it. Now that some time has passed, I want to think back on it.
On principle I disagree, along with all libertarians who believe free and voluntary association and contract to be the basis of community, and interaction in general. Society is creatively anarchic by nature and is not something that should be artificially engineered by a coercive government force.
These taxes, which this man says are the glue, he assumed were redistributed as entitlement or welfare payments, which is wrong. And many on the Left also think libertarians are upset that so much of our tax dollars helping poor people, but that’s not quite right, either. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that of all the things that the Feds spend money on, a puny 5–10% of my federal income tax is spent on poor people, making it the least of my concerns. Man, if only it was being responsibly spent on less fortunate people, I wouldn’t care so much (the forcible seizure aside). I might even be happy to think the government is efficiently using my money to help the poor.
It’s unfortunate to see how the Left has bought into this fantasy that the government is using most of our tax dollars to help poor people and that those of us who dispute this narrative hate the poor rather than the government’s out-of-control spending. This is a toxic framing of the argument. A false dichotomy of the highest sort.
Speaking of this 5–10% though, I’m sure there are some who genuinely see it as a benevolent use of government rather than a deliberate means of creating state-dependents. But despite good intentions, tax-funded entitlements and welfare have led to a disruption of the community rather than any sort of “glue” effect.
The well-intentioned welfare narrative fits eerily into the state’s plan for social engineering, as it seeks to create more dependents who will, in turn, relinquish their autonomy for entitlements. This exchange of freedom for economic safety (or mere comfort) is a rising trend. This, too, acts as a solvent for communal ties. Rather than being forced to turn to the community for assistance, an individual instead turns to the state, the disembodied faceless state that demands no real loyalty or accountability as a community would impose, yet exalts itself as a god and savior. The individual has no feelings of reciprocity or investment, or debt towards the faceless government, as he would towards members of his own town, since the narrative is that the tax revenue was owed to the collector or was taken from some unknown undeserving rich person and rightfully given “to each according to his need”. The entitlement mindset engenders no sense of community—no “glue”—because the person in need only has to entreat a disembodied government, rather than his friends or family with all the expectations of the individual that would bring. In this way, the government keeps the individual dependent upon its blessings, never allowing communal ties to grow too strong.
When the government intervenes this way in the community, it disincentivizes natural social cooperation. Humanity’s innate instinct to help each other in times of turmoil is extinguished by this government intrusion. But it cuts both ways because when we neglect our communal ties, we give the state a plausible justification to expand its power under the guise of benevolence, and further divide our communities till there is only a collection of unrelated individuals who commune only with the sacred state rather than each other.