Penn Jillette On Government Aid For The Poor

I don’t think anyone really knows how to help everyone. I don’t even know what’s best for me. Take my uncertainty about what’s best for me and multiply that by every combination of the over 300 million people in the United States and I have no idea what the government should do.

President Obama sure looks and acts way smarter than me, but no one is 2 to the 300 millionth power times smarter than me. No one is even 2 to the 300 millionth times smarter than a squirrel. I sure don’t know what to do about an AA+ rating and if we should live beyond our means and about compromise and sacrifice. I have no idea. I’m scared to death of being in debt. I was a street juggler and carny trash — I couldn’t get my debt limit raised, I couldn’t even get a debt limit — my only choice was to live within my means. That’s all I understand from my experience, and that’s not much.

It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.

via I don’t know, so I’m an atheist libertarian –

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6 thoughts on “Penn Jillette On Government Aid For The Poor”

  1. You know, I think it’s just as evil that those same benefits that poor people get are often what keep them poor. I’ve argued with plenty of liberal people who can easily dismiss that argument by saying that we’re just being selfish, and we somehow owe this money to the poor because of some unwritten societal contract. I can only surmise that this is because, to them, the ends justify the means. They don’t see the moral contradiction.

    It’s much harder, however, to argue against the fact that the true immorality of handout programs is that they (always) harm the very people that they’re designed to help, and keep them dependent on government assistance. In every case that I’ve encountered, the incentives are HUGELY against people working to help themselves.

    For example, in New York we have plenty people living on welfare in poor neighborhoods. If you go into their homes, you see nothing but milk crates for furniture, yet they’ll have a really fancy car in the parking garage. Yet they have no incentive to go off of welfare. Whatever job they could get would pay less than the welfare checks, yet they lose the welfare checks as soon as soon as they start working.

    Likewise with health insurance. Again, here in New York, affordable policies have been priced right out of existence. Only through a program called “Healthy NY” would I be able to get an affordable/cost-effective policy like an HDHP with an HSA. However (gotcha!), I only qualify for Healthy NY if I make less than $30k a year, which is below the poverty line for New York City, as far as I’m concerned.

    As you can imagine, the list goes on, yet the above are mentioned far less often than the moral and philosophical objections to these socialist policies. In short, we’re not arguing effectively. If we want to win over our opponents, they need to see the harm they’re doing by creating perverse incentives.

  2. Nate, your anecdotal accounts and theoretical musings do not appear to conform with the statistical data, which clearly demonstrates a significant, consistent decrease in poverty immediately after a nation implements government welfare.

  3. One must wonder, among other things, if the statistics showing success are generated by the same organizations implementing the programs.

  4. I wish- But many are not in fact compassionate. And then what? It is hard to be compassionate when you don’t know what others experience- are desensitized to it.

    Having worked in shelters for years- and opened bags and bags of donations of dirty broken toys- given at christmas time- sometimes wrapped. Having had numerous church groups say- they would like to come “watch the children open their gifts” I question even the generosity- .
    Having been forced as a child to go to a church service for a religion that was not my own in order to recieve a donation of food because my parents lost their jobs due to “regan” deregulation-
    thank you but I would rather get my help from a government that is neutral- that I have paid into- that does not care if I am black, white ,hispanic, gay , christian, jewish etc.

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