Friday, June 15, 2012

Food is a necessity.

Friend raised a lot of questions on my recent blog. I'll just deal with one at a time.

She wrote: Food is not a right. . .  It’s a necessity. Housing is a necessity. Education has to happen if you want to survive. It doesn’t matter if the constitution or the delectation of human rights considers them ‘rights’. . . Without food, you die. Without water, you die. Without housing, you are exposed to the elements and have no real security . . .  and you will probably not live long. So there is what do people deserve and what people need in order to live.

No doubt that food is a necessity. Even Buddha discovered as much when he almost died on his diet of 1/2 of a grain of rice a day.

Some people have too little food to eat. Some of this is unnecessary. We have stockpiles of food that are being kept off the market to prevent prices from falling. Distribution of this food to the peoples of the world should be an important initiative.

Going back to the fact that some people have too little, we have a number of alternatives. One is do nothing, another is to have the government give them food (or teach them to fish), and a third is rely on charity to feed (or teach) those unable to feed themselves.

Doing nothing is not a good option. Just from a selfish standpoint, I or my children could be without food at some point in our lives. I would not want to live in a society where help was not available. The libertarian asks whether this is a role of government or whether private citizens (most charity comes from individuals, not businesses) could take care of the hungry.

1 in 3 Americans helped charities in 2005, giving 260.3 billion dollars. I understand that when we had less welfare than we do now, an even greater percentage of our income went to charity. A good way to wean the government off the feeding of the hungry is to have an option on our taxes to get a tax credit (not a deduction) when we give to charity. That way the charities could compete for dollars. Those with the best record for giving (most of their money goes to the hungry, not to administration) could get the most dollars to give.

This is not a simple or easy problem. Sometimes not giving is the best gift. But sometimes it is not. What I don't think we need is coercive taxing to feed the hungry. Through voluntary giving we not only solve the problem but we create a world village.


Anonymous said...

The difficulty with dependance on individual giving is that doesn't seem to cover the need. It is better if people can feed themselves, but often doesn't work and that is when government needs to step in. H.

Anonymous said...

Kim: The libertarian asks whether this is a role of government or whether private citizens (most charity comes from individuals, not businesses) could take care of the hungry.

Me: The government is (in theory) private citizens organizing together in order to more effectively conduct business. I would very much like my government to take care of the hungry. I would be more than happy if my tax dollars went to this. Or to education. Or to healthcare. Or to certain other services.

I remember when Katrina happened and somebody said to me (not Mr. Kim) that it was not the role of the government to have to save people or get them water. If that’s true, then I’m ok with eliminating all government. In my mind, the government should exist to take care of people and for no other reason. I am ok with coercive taxing if those tax dollars are used to get people water when they are trapped at a stadium during a flood, or paying fire fighters to try to curtail flames ravaging whole neighborhoods, or getting people shelter after the tornado or earthquake destroys the town. This should be the role of government.

So the question shouldn’t simply be if it is a matter of if government or charity should feed people. It’s a matter of getting the government to do what we want with the coercively tax income.

Someone (not Mr. Kim) recently complained to me about how much of our tax dollars when to school lunch programs and what a waste that was. What percentage of tax dollars goes to funding war or the preparation for war? What percentage goes to school lunch programs? Why this person was focusing on school lunch programs as the tax drain is completely beyond me. And this to me is why one ought not depend on charity as a sole solution to feeding the hunger or helping the poor. Humans are not always kind or charitable. Often the poor are blamed for their condition.