Monday, April 17, 2006

The Separation of Charity and State

by Jacob G. Hornberger, Posted April 17, 2006

The primary function of the federal government these days is to help out others with federal welfare assistance. The assistance is dispensed in a variety of ways — directly, in the form of a money payment (Social Security); indirectly, by helping people with payments to third parties (Medicare and Medicaid); subsidies to government entities and private organizations (grants to public schools or corporate welfare); and in-kind benefits, such as housing or food. After the recent Hurricane Katrina disaster, federal officials even went so far as to disburse bank debit cards to hurricane victims.

Federal welfare assistance to Americans has become such an ingrained part of our lives that most Americans hardly give it a second thought. While “waste, fraud, and abuse” have become a standard part of the welfare-state lexicon, the answer for many is simply, “The system needs reform.”

Yet when recommended reforms are instituted, “waste, fraud, and abuse” inevitably rear their ugly heads again, which then generates the call for new reforms, perpetuating an endless cycle of problems and reforms.

All this fiddling avoids the central issue: Why not separate charity and the state, in the same manner our ancestors separated church and state? Why not get government totally out of the charity business? I’m suggesting that we do much more than simply repeal all welfare-state programs. I’m suggesting that we go further and elevate our vision to the same level as that of our American ancestors when they separated church and state. I’m suggesting the following amendment to the Constitution: “The federal government shall not provide any subsidy, grant, welfare, aid, loan, or other special privilege to anyone.”


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