The National Center for Policy Analysis and Debate Central would like to congratulate the winners of the 2013 Young Patriots Essay Contest! The top three essays (out of hundreds of entries) are posted below the fold! These students earned more than $10,000 in college scholarship money for their compelling, well-researched work.
These winners were selected by a panel of NCPA experts, including Director of Policy Research Joe Barnett, Legislative Director Brian Williams, Senior Publications Manager Courtney O’Sullivan, and Director of Youth Programs Lauren Sabino.
First Place, “Where to Find Help: The Hope of the Private Sector,” by Isabelle Wilson of Mount Vernon, Ohio
It was a sad day when we were told that the mother of a family attending our church was stricken with cancer. She had young kids and an active life, but the cancer proved to be fatal. Through the entire ordeal, however, kindhearted individuals in the area and church stepped up to the responsibility of caring for her and her family. Meals were brought to the house continuously, prayers offered incessantly, and friends acted as household caregivers throughout the week. It was a tragic situation, but it was eased, to the extent it could be, by loving individuals surrounding the stricken family. This is the most efficient and effective manner of administering social justice: at the level closest to the problem. The government will never and can never exceed the efficacy and affection of the local philanthropist. History and current evidence indicates that the government should leave the care of the needy to the care of individuals, churches, and private organizations.
Social Security is an excellent example. Started by President Roosevelt, it sounded like a good thing—self-sustaining and beneficial for everyone, but time has shown it to be a failure. The plain truth is it is running out of money. In 2033, beneficiaries of the social security program will “face a painful 25 percent benefit cut.” (Congressman Paul Ryan’s Office) The plain truth is—Social security has failed.
Let’s look at another social program to see if perhaps the government is successful in addressing other social needs. Medicare is a popular program with Americans and not without good reason. Everyone wants Grandma and Grandpa to have adequate health care, but it is exactly this fact that makes Medicare unnecessary. People will care for the elderly whether the money passes through the hands of the government or is given directly to the person in need. Medicare merely takes the money from the taxpayers and eventually gives some of it back to the elderly, but only after much waste has occurred. According to the Heritage Foundation, Medicare is so inefficient that it pays “as much as eight times what other federal agencies pay for the same drugs and medical supplies.” (Heritage Foundation, 2005) This waste is not helping the elderly, it is not helping the taxpayers, it is not helping anyone.
The government’s attempts at disaster relief are also notably flawed. Hurricane Katrina is one of the most memorable of these instances. According to the Heritage Foundation, the fraud relating to Hurricane Katrina is estimated to be above $2 billion dollars. (Heritage Foundation, 2009) This is just one more example of the government attempting to do something good, something important but not having what it takes to do it efficiently.
The wastefulness has its root in the fundamental problem of the government assisting in social programs. The government is not accountable to anyone and is not always operating from motives of the heart; not that the government is evil, but simply that it is large. A small, community organization that is founded, funded, and run by philanthropists is going to save every penny, meet people on an individual basis, and do their best to help people come out of the program a healthier, happier person. Although the public social programs fail in helping people actually establish themselves as productive and happy members of society, private organizations do an excellent job with this.
Take the Christian Woman’s Job Corps for instance. This organization’s work in Nashville gives individualized attention to those struggling financially. The organization “offers computer and GED classes, job skills counseling, one-on-one mentoring, Bible study, and childcare to women struggling with difficult circumstances, including addiction and poverty.” (Dean, 2012) Does the government give such attention and help to people? It is certainly unable to do so. Women who come to the Christian Woman’s Job Corps learn how to take care of themselves, while all the government can do is give them money.
Another example of a community reaching out to the needy is the WorkFaith connection “a Houston-based group that helps some of the city’s least employable men and women find jobs.” (Dean, 2012) This organization helps people to actually get on their own feet again instead of becoming reliant upon government checks.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. The self-evident wisdom in this age-old phrase sheds a good deal of light on the debate over whether private or public organizations are a greater help to the poverty-stricken. The Christian Woman’s Job Corps, WorkFaith Connection, and numerous other organizations like them teach people to “fish” for a lifetime while the government simply gives people the food for today.
The debate over whether the government should be helping with social programs is not a question about whether those struggling financially, physically, emotionally, or in any other way should be helped, it is a question over what is the most effective way of giving them aid. Wisdom from the past and examples from the present prove that the people are best served when the government keeps its distance from social programs.
One need only look through the past and study current social policy to come to the conclusion that the government’s place in social services is nonexistent. Time and time again, the private sector has proven it has the energy, passion, and ingenuity to get the job done, where the government is simply too large and cumbersome to act in the same effective manner as the private sector. It is not that the government is bad or utterly incompetent; it merely needs to recognize its limits. The purpose of the government is to protect and serve its people and when it is unable to do so in a particular instance it should stop attempting it. If the government would stop its spending on social programs and instead cut taxes so people could take care of the needy with their own money, the nation would run much more smoothly. Government assistance only works in a perfect world where waste does not exist and, unfortunately, we do not live in one. It is time for the government to begin allowing the private sector to care for the needy—friends caring for friends, churches caring for society, and communities binding together in mutual help and love. The bottom line is this: give it to the private sector and they’ll make it work; give it to the government and they’ll make it fail.
Second Place, “Where Welfare Fails,” by R. E. Potter of Delaplane, Virginia
The question to which this essay is an answer read in the following way: What is the proper role of government in insuring people against major social risks? Those social risks mentioned were outliving assets, dying and leaving dependants uncared for, becoming disabled and unable to work, and the risk of becoming unemployed. All these are real in any nation, but all, significantly, revolve around one thing — money, or the lack thereof.
In the earlier days of our American government, the founding fathers were looking for a new kind of society. They took their ideas from the governments of Greece and Rome and sought to hand the power to the people. Thus, they made America a democracy and placed the power of handling such social issues as mentioned above into the hands of the majority — those who would, in the end, be affected most by that power. These men were driven by a desire for a government that would care for the rights of the individual. But they realized the dangers government posed. They had seen how it could be corrupted. George Washington said “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” He realized that government can easily sink to despotism or something as unpleasant. But he believed, like Thomas Jefferson, that “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” It would seem, however, that in the earliest days of our country, social welfare — care for the poor, aged, orphaned, or handicapped — was neglected. There was no tax-funded welfare system. Such a thing would have probably been hailed as an infringement of individual rights, or at any rate a huge digression from the purpose of the Federal Government. Political Philosopher Murray N. Rothbard claims that the origins of the welfare state were in the 1830s. Where, then, did the aid for the poor come from before that time?
In order to get any good understanding of the answer we must, of course, look mainly at the formation of society during the time before the 1830s. Though there were orphans in good quantity, along with widows and the aged, there were not a very great number of unemployed, able-bodied workers. The huge availability of land meant that any man with a mind to work could fairly easily attain a job in any rural area with very little skill. Most women married early. The widows and the orphans were generally cared for, not by the government, but by the churches. Most Christians believed charity to the poor a duty and responsibility. Often, they would help orphans or widows to get work to support themselves. In those times, providing for oneself was an honor and an assumed way of life, not an evil.
Murray N. Rothbard points out the fact that the poor American today is wealthy — not by American standards, but by the standards of most of the world’s populace. Surely there have been times when many Americans did not have enough to eat and no place to live — the Great Depression was not so long ago in our history as to be quickly forgotten. But now, the poorest people in the cities (those without homes) often own cars and are perfectly able-bodied. Some beggars beg only as a profession and earn more than minimum wage. Most of them do not work because it is harder to find and do work than to live off tax-funded welfare or beg for money. By saying this I do not intend to say that there are no truly needy people. But I do intend to shed a brighter light on the people to whom tax-payers’ money is going. Lord Acton, an English politician, historian and writer, said
Property is not the sacred right. When a rich man becomes poor it is a misfortune, it is not a moral evil. When a poor man becomes destitute, it is a moral evil, teeming with consequences and injurious to society and morality.
There are indeed people who need help, but there are many who need it less and get it more. What mistake is government making?
Welfare fails today because too much aid is given to those who do not need it as much. Though unemployment is and always has been a problem, it may be that the majority of the unemployed simply can’t find a job good enough for their taste. It is, after all, much easier to take government doles. More effort, and, if necessary, money should be spent on raising employment than on giving doles away. In the words of cartoonist Al Capp, “Anyone who can walk to the welfare office can walk to work.” It is not government’s role to make sure that each citizen is as prosperous as the others. In a free enterprise economy, each individual has a right to work for themself — to have, or to have not. It may be a misfortune when he has little, but it is not government’s place to give him somebody else’s possessions. Government was designed to guard over the rights of the individual, to protect him or her from outside foes, to judge between one person and another, and to enforce law and order. It was not designed as a parent, who must make sure that everything is divided fairly. Each individual may have a responsibility before God to share his wealth, but he has none before the government. A society that forces one person to give money to another all too quickly sinks to socialism, and “Socialism,” as Lord Acton says, “Means slavery.” It takes away a person’s right to pursue his or her own happiness and own his or her own property. Welfare for the poor should be made, but we should enable the poor to work for what they get.
Such things as compulsory military or civil service may seem more like a punishment than a welfare system, but there is no reason why a person receiving money from other people should not give something back in return. Government by the people is not a group of people voting up a committee to handle things for them and washing their hands of it. Such a thing would be irresponsibility by the people. A democratic society can only flourish when the individual realizes his primary responsibility is to care for himself and see that his neighbor is taken care of as well. People who have special needs due to loss of job, loss of parents, age, or injury are best helped by the people around them, not some branch of the Federal Government. Welfare fails when it is institutionalized — it succeeds when it is taken into the hands of the people.
Third Place, “Government,” by Adam Loga of Fayetteville, Georgia
Government is unique in that it not only protects people, it also forces people to seek protection from it. As such, whenever feasible, the government’s power should be limited in order to protect the general populace. That is not to say that anarchy is a better option, rather that government is only necessary to a certain point. The protection of government can only extend so far before it intrudes upon the necessary liberties of the populace. The problem with protection against social risks is that many people do not just want a “safety net” of sorts to ensure financial security, they want the government to cater to their every whim, and are willing to sacrifice the freedom of others to safeguard this arrangement. While a government should take steps to prevent social ills from occurring, it should not be the only way that people get by when their luck turns sour.
When a government is used to pay the living expenses of those who cannot or will not find employment, it is forced to take more money from those who earned it legitimately. This is a very socialistic policy that is nobler in theory than in practice. In reality, socialistic policies incite laziness and low-quality work in those who are actually working. This is because people are, by nature, unwilling to exert themselves unless there is what they see as a worthy reward at the end of their efforts. Paying the rent for someone else is not usually seen as a worthy reward for their efforts, so they exert themselves as little as possible. Hence, the selfishness of a few coupled with socialistic policies instituted to protect against true social risks causes a national decrease in productivity.
Now, there are individuals who have legitimate problems and require assistance, such as the disabled and the misfortunate. The problem stems from the large conglomeration of people who choose to leech off of the system designed to help those in need. Governments needs to not only assist those who truly need it, they also need to establish penalties and checks for those who would misuse the system. It is necessary for all government to keep a close watch upon both itself and those who would exploit it for themselves.
The role of any government is not to be a reason for individuals to avoid legitimate employment. Instead, it should be to assist the needy for as long as they truly need help. However, as many would ride this system for their own gain, the role of government needs to expand slightly to include the job of reasonably monitoring those who apply for its aid.