Why are benefits better than food banks?

Some things never change and, given the Labour front bench is run by the very same people it was under Gordon Brown, it’s hardly surprising the spin machine is as busy as ever.

The coining of fallacies such as ‘bedroom tax’ have been as successful as they are deceptive in turning people against what ought to be a compassionate and ‘progressive’ cause – namely making more efficient use of the social housing stock.

Most recently Dan Jarvis, Barnsley MP and shadow culture minister, has written to the Prime Minister to do something about what he calls an alarming number of people using food banks due to having their benefits cut.

While praising the men and women who give up their time and money to run food banks for the disadvantaged, Mr Jarvis nonetheless adds that ‘no individual should have to rely on charity to feed themselves and their families’.

This is a bizarre thing to say as it appears to infer that living off the state is preferable to living off the charity of others. This is undoubtedly an assumption many people share but that’s probably because they don’t give too much thought to how the state’s coffers are filled.

Mr Jarvis is right to praise those who run the food bank. For someone to give up their own time and earnings to help those less fortunate than themselves is one of the greatest of all human endeavours and the sign of a healthy society. And whether through philanthropy, small change, or participating in mutual societies, charity is a voluntary exchange between individuals.

Welfare benefits, however, are collected coercively by the state using the threat of force. Nobody has a choice whether they choose to pay taxes or not and, apart from this being a great evil on the part of government, ‘vicarious giving’ through taxation also removes the all-important element of compassion from the equation.

As Enoch Powell once said, ‘The Good Samaritan would have lost all merit if a Roman soldier were standing by the road with a drawn sword, telling him to get on with it and look after the injured stranger.’

The bottom line is, of course, that in an ideal world no-one should have to live off the industry of others – whether the products of this industry are confiscated or given freely. But in a less than ideal world, Mr Jarvis should not be advocating an immoral form of dependence over a moral one.