How Entitlements Crowd Out Private Charity
Suppose I were a billionaire and I decided to spend my fortune supporting people who would otherwise have to rely on Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.
So I set up a trust fund for as many of them as I can afford to support in perpetuity. I tell them that they can draw on the fund for medical and basic living expenses, as long as they don’t become a drain on the U.S. government. No government checks for them.
My guess is that no one would applaud me. “Monstrous,” I can see the left-liberals saying. “You’re making them personally dependent on you, and that’s terribly undignified.”
The left-liberals would be sort of correct here, with two very large caveats.
First, I don’t find dependence on the government even a tiny bit more admirable. If anything, it’s worse, because I personally am not putting any strings on my offer, and because I do see a corruption of our political process in the pandering done to get entitlement recipients’ votes. Making a person dependent on the will of one other person may be undignified (although, if we’re honest, we will readily recognize that we always are, to some extent). Making a person dependent on the incoherent (and rarely and imperfectly expressed) democratic will of several tens of millions isn’t a clear improvement. Neither is making them dependent on the political means or the perverse internal logic of bureaucracies.
Second, the left-liberals forget — rather conveniently — that these people would be indigent in any case. I would not be the one creating the problem, but rather the one solving it, at least insofar as a solution exists. Someone should, right? And I would be doing so, if anything, in a manner that they ought to support, namely by drawing on the private funds of rich citizens like myself. Which again the mysterious touch of the state doesn’t really ennoble.
The conservatives would hate me for a different reason: “You’re really not doing very much except to enrich the government by other means,” they might say. “Those people were going to get help no matter what you did. All you’re doing is reducing the budget deficit.”
The whole scheme is so annoying that I am suddenly motivated to earn several orders of magnitude more money.