Recently I’ve become rather encouraged with how much I’ve been learning about Austrian economics. I know I’ve a long way to go yet. Some of the articles I read are so far over my head that I give up, skim through quickly and then delete. But, on a foundational level, I’ve really started to feel like I’m getting it. Through discussions with others I’m realizing that my answers are getting clearer. I can see the logistic fallacies in the way so many of us think. But, as often happens, I was humbled today. When I read a Mises Daily article from a few days ago, written by David Greewald, I was reminded that I still have a lot to learn. After reading this, it all seemed so simple. But it had never crossed my mind.
You know how a good movie often has a plot that sort of blindsides you? You might have an idea of where it’s headed, then something emerges that you had never considered before. That’s what happened when I read In Defense of the Market’s Worst Producers. And this is a lesson I hope to never forget.
If you’ve been a Regular Joe for long, then you are aware of some of my thoughts on helping the helpless and those who are down-and-out. I’ve shared before how our social welfare system rapes the country of resources and contributes to the poverty of the nation as a whole. It’s counter-productive on many levels, for everyone involved. However, this isn’t because I don’t think we should help those in need. It’s because I don’t think the state should be at the center of such efforts. When the state gets involved it must use force to accomplish its ends. There is no other way for it to implement its programs. This use of force almost NEVER decreases. Rather, it grows and becomes more draconian in time. We’re witnessing this today in western societies on a gargantuan scale.
Furthermore, by robbing the haves in order to provide for the have-nots we are enabling the have-nots, giving handouts, while punishing the haves for their efforts. It’s a lose/lose proposition, ultimately. This erodes the economy of any society in which it’s implemented. Again, we don’t have to look far to see how true this is.
For those who are truly down-and-out, there are God ordained means by which they can receive provision. The family is the first line of restoration of anyone who’s faced hard times. It is our responsibility to provide for our loved ones. If our children find themselves in trouble, we help them. We shouldn’t give them a free ride. But we should provide them with shelter, food, clothing and give them an opportunity to pursue some sort of productive activity to help promote their circumstances. We are to honor our parents, which includes taking care of them when/if they can no longer take care of themselves. And it is our hope that our family will care for us in this way as well. We’re never promised tomorrow. All that we have could be gone in a moment. And when that happens it may be that family is the only place we can turn. We SHOULD be able to turn there readily.
The other source of charity should be the local church. Again, we don’t want to enable people to continue living irresponsibly. But helping someone get on their feet through food, shelter, clothing and maybe the provision of a job or training, can all go a long way toward helping them to become a productive member of society. Things happen that we cannot control. Houses burn down. Businesses go under. Illness comes. Calamity strikes in a number of ways. Our church family can be a great blessing in helping us to get going again in time of need.
I thought I had this figured out. It makes sense. It’s still clearly true. But there was an element of it that I had never considered. It just wasn’t on my radar.
There are those who really struggle in life, have no family and no real career to pursue. Sometimes it’s because of their entrapment in drugs. Sometimes it’s because life has knocked them around so much that they’ve simply checked out, desiring to live as simply as possible. You might be surprised at how many “homeless” people have more money stashed away than you do. And there are those who just need to get by. They don’t care about adding to their material treasures. They just want to get along in life and mostly be left alone. Where do such people turn? What can they do?
This is where this article just reshaped my thoughts. Of course, usually we can find something to do. But most of the things we’d find would take initiative to start pursuing. We could rake leaves. We could mow lawns. We could pump gas. Oh, wait, nobody pumps gas any longer. It simply isn’t worth it to pay minimum wage to have a person man the pumps. The same goes for mowing lawns, raking leaves and any number of other jobs we could do. But, even if minimum wage wasn’t there, why would we bother? We can get more sitting around the house drawing food stamps and welfare checks. But what if those options were gone as well?
This is where Mr. Greenwald opened my eyes to the beauty of Austrian economics in regard to poverty. There’s always something that can flourish at a low income level. And such enterprises need employees. They can’t pay much, but they can pay something. Something is better than nothing. And the more people who are able to produce something, the better off a society is. But by providing welfare we are taking away the ability for the impoverished to produce anything of value. There is no incentive. So the lower rung of business options deteriorates into either non-existence or illegal existence. They can’t afford to operate legally. That’s getting more difficult even for more lucrative endeavors. So to operate successfully they have to pay wages below legal levels. Perhaps they’ll pay under the table, so the employee can keep on receiving social aid.
If the laws imposed upon us were removed then this would all change. There would be very inexpensive housing for the impoverished. Abandoned buildings might be cleaned up just enough to start housing the poor. But it would provide a place for them to live. It would also provide jobs, since such a place would require some form of management and upkeep. Their conditions might not be as good as they currently are, but they would be able to provide for themselves in such a situation. In fact, many who currently cannot provide for themselves, due to minimum wage and welfare, would readily find work available. The low paying jobs would open up all over the country, from the fields to the slums. Opportunity would arise for every rung of the ladder. And those who find themselves on the lower rungs would finally be able to conceive of a way to climb.
Such thoughts are distant to us in our society of socialist programs. It’s hard for us to think this way. But, whether it’s hard or not, we must seek after the truth. It matters not that we’re uncomfortable or that such thoughts seem so hard to understand at first. What matters is the truth. Understanding the truth will free us of the social indoctrination we’ve all received from state institutions. It will free us from many of the self-imposed restraints that serve only to inhibit us. With this in mind I encourage you to read this article. It serves nicely to help us in our current study of economics.
And as we discuss truth, I would be remiss if I did not remind you again of the greatest freedom we can know. It is not the freedom of the lies of politics and economics, though they certainly are part of the challenge. But this is the great truth that frees us from our most oppressive master, sin and the death that comes because of it. Jesus said that the truth will set you free. The truth of Christ will certainly free you of the shackles of sin. May you receive this precious and merciful truth.