I’ve been wrestling with myself all week. I think the more left-wing folks would call it “conscience”; the right-wing folks would say “common sense”; the cynical kids at the back of the class would say “white middle-class guilt.” Here I am getting ready to have a really nice vacation. I live in a nice house and have good medical coverage, plenty to eat and drink, clothes that have to be washed on the Delicate cycle (in a washer and dryer I own) and a computer on which to type a blog entry. I’ve been very blessed and I’m very grateful. I would trot out the old saw that says my husband and I have worked hard for what we have, and while that is true I also know that he and I had opportunities a lot of folks just never got because they were born to different people in different circumstances.
Hence all the internal wrestling.
We’ve been talking on Bridgett’s Facebook about the role of Charity in society this week, as she discussed Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” (1630) in her class.* In that document, Winthrop proposes that God will evaluate a state based on the charity it extends to its less-fortunate members. Bridgett in turn urges our current leaders to see this document and realise that charity has always been part of the government’s call.**
So that has lead us to discussions on subsidised housing, food stamps, Social Security and all the rest.
o Should Food Stamps be limited in the items that people can purchase?
I personally think so. WIC has limitations, and I think that it’s entirely fair to say one can’t use food stamps for candy bars, cakes, sodas and other ‘luxury’ food items. Although when I’ve brought this up before I was told that it’s none of my business what people do with their food stamps. After all, those in adverse circumstances deserve treats too. (We’ll discuss the word “deserve” another time…)
o Should those in HUD homes be forbidden to smoke inside their own home?
This is a super-tricky one for me because it involves “inside the home” and privacy and government intervening in privacy. And smoking regulations, which I think are a lot of bunk, generally speaking. Still I do see the philosophy behind it, that being if we are going to pay for your home we don’t also want to pay your cancer bills.
o Should Fast Food be disallowed for Food Stamps?
I know I’m tempted to say “yes”, but frankly I’d rather see the poor kids get a hamburger every now and then instead of being forced to live on Mac and Cheese, spaghettios and other low-income diet staples.
It’s just so hard because I know that I’m blessed. My husband and I have been able to make it thus far without claiming the Social Security Disability benefits to which I am legitimately entitled. We’re libertarians and the idea of taking that money goes against everything we stand for. And then again, I did work and pay into the system from the ages of 16-36. So I have a sound basis on which I can say “it’s my money anyway.” See? All these dilemmas!
And while I’d like to remain thoughtful and kind and keep the ideals of charity in my mind at all times it’s really hard to watch a woman complain about being evicted from her Section 8 housing (the government underwrites $1100 of her $1500/month rent) while still having a playstation, a computer, a flat-screen tv, several iPods, an iPad and $5000 worth of designer clothes. That’s when I start to feel like we, a country in massive debt, are being gulled by chiselers.
*Bridgett is a professor of History
**I hadn’t read the Winthrop document for 20 years. In rereading it in preparation for this article I see that that Winthrop was proposing a Christian state to be governed by the church, not unlike England. Which, for the time, was pretty much what people knew. He was sort of saying that he wanted to set up another church-state combo that would be more generous to the poor than England had been. As a Mennonite Christian libertarian I think he was completely wrong about the structure he wanted.