There is a common belief that people need government to take care of the less fortunate. Some even argue that without government, or with limited government, people would not be able to get the help they receive. But the free market is full of examples of private charities and communities coming together to help those in need.
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- Bureaucracy: a system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by state officials rather than by elected representatives.
Here is the transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi Connor.
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: You know, Connor, you talked about a man who was one of your heroes on an earlier episode, and it gave me an idea for our chat today.
Connor: Oh, we would, We’ve talked about a lot of interesting people, So, which one did you have in mind?
Brittany: Arnold Abbott. And he was the man who, Yes, a man fed the homeless. And now the other part of that story said he kept getting arrested for feeding the homeless. And Well, we will touch on that in a bit. That’s not really why I wanna bring him up.
Connor: Okay. So lots we could talk about here. What in particular did you have in mind?
Brittany: So I keep hearing over and over again that without government and the taxes they take from those in society who need help, like the homeless, the poor, sometimes the mentally ill, they would be neglected. Nobody would be there to take care of them. In fact, many people kind of use this as an excuse to say, Oh, we need more government, or We need big government. And I think Arnold Abbott can actually help teach us a pretty important lesson, which is that that’s just simply untrue when individuals and even private organizations are allowed to, they take care of those who need help.
Connor: This is such an interesting story. I’m glad you brought it up to chat again. And for those who didn’t listen to that, I think that was one of our first episodes, right? Where we, I think it was, we talked about that. Such an interesting story. Arnold had been feeding the homeless with his wife for a long time in Florida, as I recall, right, Britney? Yes. And, his wife passed away. They were kind of older and he wanted to continue to honor his wife and, and continue the activity they had done together. So he would raise money and work with other volunteers, and he would go out and provide food to the homeless. He was genuinely trying to help those in need. But there were a lot of people at the city level who didn’t like it. They didn’t like the homeless congregating at a certain park. They wanted them to kind of go away and not be seen and, and disperse. And, you know, they, and so they, they couldn’t quite ban him. So they started making him, you know, Oh, you have to provide porta potties and you have to you know, prepare this in a commercial food kitchen and
Brittany: Have a license probably too.
Connor: Have a license. I’m sure that was one of the requirements. And, so here I, have, I think I may have mentioned him before. I have on my wall in my office, several photos of people I consider heroes, and I have Arnold’s photo up there. But what’s really interesting about this photo, if you can kind of visualize this in your mind, is Arnold this, an older gentleman, he is a little hunched over. He’s an older guy and he’s carrying this platter of food, right? He’s preparing to serve some people who are hungry. So he’s got in his hand’s food to handle to other people. And there are two police officers who are there, who are like trying to shut it down. You know, they had just arrested him the time before and they’re there to kind of, you know, shut this whole operation down. And it’s such an interesting photo to me because so many people feel like the government is there to help the government is there to take care of us. And here in this picture, you have this contrast, right? Yeah. Between someone who’s actually trying to help other people, and then the government who isn’t trying to help, they’re actually getting in the way and they’re preventing Arnold and others like him from helping other people. It’s always struck me as such an interesting image.
Brittany: And that’s exactly kind of what I wanted to talk about today is, well, first of all, if we can kind of talk about other people who are helping without the government, right? Private organizations, individuals, and why maybe more aren’t helping. And you kind of hit on one of them is you try to help and sometimes you get arrested. It’s nuts.
Connor: There’s another one I wanna share, Brittany, And, and when we’re recording this actually just yesterday I was reading a book about this exact topic, and it was a book talking about groups of people about a century ago. So before the kind of progressive era in the early 19 hundreds, if you think about that time, there was a lot of immigration, especially from Europe and other countries, a lot of Italians and Germans and others, right? And they would kind of come to America because they wanted to succeed. They wanted to work hard and build a life for themselves and their family. And what happened was a lot of these people were very poor, right? They, scrounged up as much money as they could for the boat ride, right? And they land in America, and you’ve heard these stories, right? About
Brittany: Probably didn’t have a lot of money. Yeah.
Connor: Yeah. My, grandfather came to America with $8, right? And so we hear these stories and, and so what was really interesting to me, and this Brittany gets at the question that you were asking about these people who have helped. One thing that especially poor immigrants did very, very common is they would gather together in what was called a fraternal society. And this was basically a group of people, like-minded people who would basically share their burdens together. So imagine, I’ll use an example. Imagine it’s a bunch of Italian immigrants and they live near one another, and they’re all members of this organization, and they kind of pledge to help one another out. And so they would say, Oh yeah, I’m gonna pay a little bit every month, kind of like insurance. This is kind of the way insurance works. I’m gonna pay a little bit every month.
And you know, if other people need help, they’ll be able to get help if they lose their job or they need healthcare, you know, or the, the parents die and now there are orphans, right? And so we need to have like an orphanage and so forth. And then if I’m ever in trouble, then I can get the help I need. And these organizations were so common. They were, prevalent, They were everywhere throughout America where you would have these fraternal societies, groups of like-minded or, or similar similar people, and they would help one another. And it was amazing. Now, a lot of our listeners might be thinking, I’ve never really heard of anything like that. Like, sure, maybe insurance, but insurance, you don’t really know who all is paying. Whereas in these societies, it was a very kind of close-knit group, right?
They would have activities together, right? And it was kind of this social thing where they could make sure that one another was like, you know, doing the right thing and we’re not supporting lazy people, or we’re not supporting people with a drug habit that they were able to kind of police themselves, if you will. Whereas we don’t really have that today. Well, getting back to your question, Brittany, the reason why we don’t really have this today is that the government got involved in welfare. In helping poor people. They passed the new deal is what, what, which this package of policies was called. And over time they created more and more government policies to help poor people. And what that means is, imagine Brittany, if you have an organization where you wanna help poor people. And so you have to raise money, you have to get people to, support this organization and help the poor. Well, a lot of those people who would give you money are gonna feel like, Well, you know what? I’m taxed already, right? I already,
Brittany: Why would I hope? Yep
Connor: Why, why would I give even more money? I’m already taxed. Now, let me ask you a question, Brittany. Do you think our tax money the government is using wisely to help poor people?
Brittany: No. And there are a few reasons for that. I think it’s because they have to pay themselves, right? So somebody is collecting that money, somebody’s organizing where that money goes. And so the, it’s called like admin fees, right? The people who are actually in charge end up taking a pretty big chunk of their own salary. Where when you have a private community, no one’s really doing that, right? You’re pulling together and then you’re kind of using those resources, but you’re doing it as a community and you know what the community needs. So somebody who’s sitting in a big building in Washington doesn’t know what Yukon or Utah needs. They don’t know. So if something were to happen to you, they’re just gonna give you whatever they think is right, but they’re not even gonna know. So it’s, it gets really murky. There’s a word bureaucracy that we’ll probably dive into at some point. And I’ll put in the show notes that kind of explains that, right? When things get too big and you have to go through too many channels to get something approved or to give out money, then things become twisted and tangled, and it doesn’t become effective enough, right? And we see that happen all the time.
Connor: All the time. And another thing we see all the time is the inefficiency of money. That’s a big word, but you think of the word efficient, as something that works well, it works smoothly, it’s very efficient, like a car engine, right? It just runs. Whereas if it’s inefficient, it’s like, what are those like Rube Goldberg machines? Is that what they’re called? Where like, things are kind of clunky and they’re falling down the balls, like going through a trap and then it, Right? You can think of that as maybe an inefficient system, right? It’s got all these hurdles it has to jump through. And that’s how the government is this bureaucracy. And why do I say that? Well, Brittany, when when I come to you and I ask for your money, I ask for a donation, and you are going to be very discriminatory. You are going to discriminate.
You’re, you’re going to focus on, well, is this a good organization or a bad one? You’re not just gonna give your money to whoever asks you, this is your hard and earned money. You’re gonna make sure it’s, it’s being spent wisely, right? So you’re gonna make sure it’s given to a cause maybe to Arnold right, to his organization or someone else. Whereas if you just pay taxes and we all have to then pay taxes, and these bureaucrats, these government workers are in charge of spending the money. They are not as efficient with money because it’s not their money. They don’t care where it goes. They might pay, You’ve heard these stories, Brittany, where the government will pay like, you know, $10,000 for a toilet that costs like $150, right? Or, you know, they might have,
Brittany: They were a study. My favorite thing is they spent, I think it was millions of dollars on a study to see if you could walk with coffee in your hand and not spill the coffee. Why? This has anything to do with anything nobody knows. But this was a study that like wasted, you know, millions of taxpayer dollars. So again, you don’t know where this money is going.
Connor: And so these people spending the money, they have no incentive to be efficient. They’re, not motivated to be efficient with the money cuz it’s not their money. They don’t care. They have to spend it. And so maybe to help the poor, maybe they’re gonna pay a company to, to, you know, create food. But maybe it’s their friend’s company, right? And so they’re gonna hire their buddy’s company who’s gonna charge way more. Cuz hey, it’s the government and they got all kinds of money. So rather than a dollar a sandwich, I’ll charge $2 and 50 cents a sandwich and make a lot of money. And so when the government is involved, you have a lot of these inefficiencies in helping the poor. And that’s, that’s unfortunate because we’re all being taxed to help the poor, but not a lot of that money is actually going to help the poor. It’s, it’s getting drained in this system by all these bureaucrats and all these people trying to take advantage of the process.
Brittany: Well, and like you said, if you’re already giving your money in taxes, people are going to be less charitable by default. Not only just because they’ll probably be a little bit resentful that they’re already being taxed for that money, but they don’t have more money to spend somewhere else. Think if we weren’t being taxed so much, then people could, like you said, find a charity or find an organization that they really believed in that was doing a lot of really good work for their community and they could give to them instead. But we don’t have that opportunity right now. And so a lot of people just kind of assume like, all right, well I’m already being robbed, so to speak, so I’ll just let them do that. But that’s why it’s so important that we have these private charities.
Connor: So let me ask you a question, Brittany. I’ll play devil’s advocate a little bit. If we were to abolish the welfare system, this government system where they’re taking care of the poor, or at least shrink it down to be teeny, teeny tiny. So this, there’s this idea called the safety net, right? For people who are really in need and don’t have, they’re not members of a church or they don’t have family, right? There’s someone, who’s fallen on hard times. And so if we shrunk down the welfare state, the government role of charity down to this teeny tiny role, or got rid of it completely, wouldn’t their people be dying? Wouldn’t there be people dying in the streets? Wouldn’t there be people suffering? To get to the question of this podcast, let me now ask you straight up, Brittany, without the government who would take care of people, would, would sick and suffering people actually get the help that they need?
Brittany: Well, there was always, and I wanna say a disclaimer before I get into my, my long explanation, and that is that there are always going to be people who slip through the cracks. And that’s not good, that’s not something we wanna think about, right? But there’s always gonna be someone that maybe doesn’t ask for help or maybe doesn’t seek help, right? So we’re not going to ever be able to help everybody because to an extent that would mean forcing them to get help. That being said, there are always communities that are willing and organizations that are willing to help out. And that doesn’t mean, churches, for example, it doesn’t mean you have to be a member of that church to help. There was a church, I can’t remember where I wanna say it was Pennsylvania. Every winter they open up their pews in the middle of the night and they let homeless people sleep there.
So just little things like that. And the homeless people don’t have to go to church on Sunday. They don’t have to do anything. They don’t have to pay tithing, They don’t have to give some of their income to the church cause they don’t have income. But they just show up and they have a meal and they have somewhere warm to sleep for the night. So I think we think really terribly of people when we say, Oh, if they, you know if we didn’t have a law mandating that you have to take this taxation, that you have to pay for this, that nobody would be helped. And I think we already see that, like with Arnold Abbot and with other people. People have good hearts and there are people who want to help. They just don’t wanna be forced through taxation to do it.
Connor: I think another interesting thing, Brittany, is to imagine if we changed the law so that people could decide where their tax dollars would go. So that
Brittany: Would be an improvement for sure.
Connor: Yeah, So rather than the bureaucrats getting to decide, we still control maybe the government’s like, Look, we’re gonna make everyone donate a thousand dollars a year or whatever. And, but you know, here are these pre-selected charities from which to choose, and we’ve partnered with them and they’re gonna be, you know, doing the orphanages or caring for the elderly or the job less or you know, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And so if we had a list to choose from what would happen, it’s like probably like getting an Uber driver, right? Yeah. Or going to a restaurant, you’re gonna look at the ratings, you’re gonna be able to do some research and say, Ah, this one isn’t that good, but these guys are way better because they hardly spend any money on salaries for the people working there. A lot more of their money actually goes to helping people in need. And, that would, I think, create a lot better of a situation to make sure that people are getting the help they need but not, you know, abolish the system entirely. It would certainly be, I think, a little bit of an improvement over what we have now.
Brittany: You know, Amazon lets you do this and it’s a little different. I understand that, but you don’t have to opt into this feature. But Amazon lets you pick a charity to donate whatever, like some, whatever you order. Some of the proceeds, some of that money goes to a charity and you get to pick where that goes. And so I’ve always thought that’s interesting because I’m not obligated to do that. No one is making me do that, but I always make sure that I am, for me, it’s my church that I give it to. So I make sure that every time I buy something on Amazon, which is usually every single day, some of that money is going to a charity of my choice. And I, every time I do that, I think, Oh, if only the government worked like this,
Connor: You know to the question of who would take care of people. It’s so interesting, again, to look back at history before the government got involved because, you know, there were churches that had their own hospitals. Some still do, but when the government has gotten so involved in healthcare, the prices have skyrocketed. It’s very expensive to have healthcare now. And because taxpayers are kind of covering the costs and, and funding for everything, it’s very hard for those churches to raise enough money and charge enough money to maintain their hospitals. But, you know Ron Paul, for example, we’ve talked about him before. He was a congressman, but he was also a doctor for his whole life. And he would talk about how medical care back in the day, right? No one was dying in the streets, no one was neglected. Everyone who needed help found a way to get help. Hospitals would routinely waive costs like giving free healthcare to people.
Brittany: And It was easier for them to do it because there weren’t so many regulations. So they had the option to give to charity.
Connor: Yeah. There wasn’t a lot of, we call it red tape, a lot of paperwork and government documents and stuff. And, healthcare was cheaper, right? So hospitals weren’t having to miss out on as much money because everything was a little less expensive because the government wasn’t so involved. But it’s not like people have this notion of, Oh, if it weren’t for the government, then all these horrible atrocities would happen. But that’s never really been the case. And, it’s so unfortunate to think of how much better we could be helping people in need if people like you and me and organizations could be doing more of the work rather than the government.
That’s true. And there’s, so there’s a gentleman named Murray Roth Bar, He’s not alive anymore. He was an economist, but he talked about the LDS church and they, that’s another org like where you live in Utah, there’s a lot of LS people and they have their own welfare system that actually works much better than the government does, and it’s more effective. And that’s always kind of shown me that we already have these things and imagine how many more we would have if we didn’t have all these regulations.
Connor: It’s a, it’s an interesting thought to think of and, for those interested in the book I mentioned, we’ll be sure and link to that on the show notes page for today as well as some of the terms that we’ve talked about. So make sure you head over to tuttletwins.com/podcast. Find the episode that we’ve been sharing today. Make sure you share it with your friends. This is a super important topic. I think Brittany, because there are so many people in need right now in the world, right? There always have been. There always will be. And it’s important I think, to find the best and most efficient way to help them. And I think as you and I have talked about the best organization to help them probably isn’t the government.
Brittany: Nope. In fact, that might be the worst way
Connor: And yet it’s the most popular perhaps. So we’ve got work to do. Thanks for listening guys. Make sure you are subscribed, tuttletwins.com/podcast to find the links to share with your friends. And Brittany, I’ll talk to you next time.
Brittany: Talk to you next time