Or if you prefer, "How Liberals are Wrong, and I'm Right". Please note that I will not make the classic Libertarian argument in this post about the need for personal responsibility. This is about how Libertarianism encourages benevolence (while Liberalism discourages it), something which is diametrically opposed to personal responsibility. Strap yourselves in folks, this is going to be a long post.
Lately, as I've become more vocal among my family and friends about my Libertarian beliefs, I've run into the entire spectrum of reactions. Since I have both very liberal and also very conservative friends and family, it tends to puts me on an island of belief. On the one hand are my conservative friends and family, who think I'm liberal, since I believe the Drug War has failed and should be stopped, that people ought to be able to gamble their lives away, that pre-maritial sex is perfectly fine, and that many of the more religious conservatives are trying to use government to their advantage to make social policy (and worse yet, law) based on beliefs that are not shared by everyone.
My liberal friends and family, who think that I'm conservative, mostly come at me with the general argument that I must be an uncaring robot who wants to abandon society for my own personal greed. I can deal with the Conservatives who think I'm a heathen. It's the Liberals who view me as heartless that tends to really get to me. And to be fair, my liberal friends know I'm not heartless... quite to the contrary. Most of them simply don't understand why I'm a Libertarian given that I'm as generous as I am. And as it turns out, that misunderstanding is at the core of my belief structure, and also why Liberalism not only fails to help society, but actually helps to destroy that which it works so hard to save.
Because I understand that very few of you will actually take the time to read everything in this post, I'll put the crux of my argument right towards the top. Liberalism fails because it forces people to be disinterested in the individual outcomes of those it tries to help. Put another way, Liberalism outsources all benevolence to a large government body, and takes away the ability of individuals to help other individuals. People today are forced to only care about themselves, and it's all the fault of caring liberals. The reason is simple. Taxation is a very poor way to create benevolence, and takes away all the extra money that people would use to be caring towards others individually. Not only that, but it's faceless, nameless, and allows people to be disconnected from the intended goal. Finally, it allows the recipient of that benevolence to be disconnected from those who have provided much needed help, and removes incentive to do something useful with that gift.
I truly believe, in my heart of hearts (however cold and small you may think it is), that people are, by their very nature good, and when faced with someone in need, they want to do everything they can to help them. However, people also have limited resources with which they can provide that help before they themselves will require assistance from others. So, as rational animals, we are very picky about who we give assistance to. We help our families, our close friends, and those we love first. After that, we give other money in directed ways in our communities, whether that be in our neighborhoods, through religious groups, or service organizations. They do this because not only do they give of their money, but they also give of their time, so they can watch (and monitor) how their money is being spent and also be involved with it in some positive fashion. That is how people want to help others. They want to see the good that their effort, and their money, is doing on a personal level. Seeing some crime report go down, or some newspaper statistic about how poverty decreased 1% is not satisfying, and people simply don't connect their dollars with those statistics. This of course also acts as a guardian to make sure that the money is being used wisely. People have a natural fear of wasting money, and by watching over it's use personally, they will feel more confident in giving more later.
On the other side of the coin, when the face of the giver is shown to those who receive assistance, I believe that it creates an incentive to do more with that gift than they might normally do with it. When you know the person who gave you help, and build some sort of bond (or that bond already exists through love), then you work harder to make that dollar do more, because you don't want to let down the person who helped you. Beyond that, I believe the help is more meaningful to the recipient, and they feel more important because someone has taken a personal interest in their life. If someone simply receives that money from the government in a big fat check, then to them it's a paycheck. But what did they do to earn that check? And why should they want to get off the payroll? This is one of the reasons why low or zero interest loans are far superior to grants in effectiveness. The fact that you have to pay that money back adds extra incentive to actually do something with it, rather than simply blowing it on something high risk.
Of course, all of those things are effects that happen individually. But what does it do to our larger society? First of all, if we force people to give of their disposable income through taxes, that decreases the pool of money that they have to give individually. As a result, many people who might otherwise be inclined to give money and time don't, because the resources to do so have already been taken by the government. The effects of that can be seen nationwide. Service organizations, like the Lions, Jaycees and even Scouting, are in sharp decline. While regular church attendance may not be directly affected by this, the amount of personal benevolence given through churches is also declining (and I measure this in time as well as money given). This results in a general disconnection of individuals from the society at large. People tend to have less connections even with their immediate neighbors. Part of this is a desire not be drawn into the affairs of one's neighbors, often times because people are simply less likely to be able to provide the assistance they used to.
This has also created a general feeling that it's no longer our job to help those who are around us. We've outsourced so much of our community to government, that people won't help those in need when they see them. That's not "our job", it's government's job. This ranges from ordinary community policing, to helping your neighbor in need. This isn't just due to taxation of course. Much of it has to do with bureaucracy that comes with government. People are scared to help others, because they fear, rightly in many cases, that if they do something wrong, they'll actually get in trouble for their good intentioned efforts.
I could go on, but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying. The solution of course is fairly obvious. We need to get the government out of the business of "wealth redistribution", and allow the bonds of community and family to strengthen once again, so that people are able to turn to those they love for help, instead of having to "love" the government.
The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent
my employer's view in anyway.