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.

  • @chrisf91

    “Why are benefits better than food banks?”

    Its really rather simple, because the right of the poor and vulnerable to live their life with dignity and not be forced to beg, is more important than your right to feel good about yourself.
    And for the record, if you require an Enoch Powell quote to defend your position, you’re on shaky ground at best.

    • Do you find the theft of other people’s property dignified? In that case, one party commits an immoral act while the other is aggrieved. In the other, one party is the recipient of human kindness while the other benefits morally from exercising it. Which do you consider the more callous? An ‘out of sight, out of mind’, vicarious ‘compassion’ or genuine concern and sacrifice for another human being? Charity is enriching to both parties and to society, taxation and welfare debases all three.

      • @chrisf91

        Do I find theft dignified? What a ludicrous question. Patently not. Bearing in mind burglary is something that disproportionately affects the poor.
        But thanks for bringing me onto my main point, allowing people to know in advance that will possess the basic amenities of existance, rather than waiting for the good will of a chosen few rich people reduces the risk of desperation amongst the poor and therefore reduces crime.
        Clearly robbery is undignified, the welfare system seeks to lower the risk of it happening.

        • Thank you for bringing me to my main point – what is taxation if not legalised robbery?

          • @chrisf91

            Again my friend, its a very simple concept.
            Taxation is a like membership fee to live in civlilised society with modern amenities, (housing, healthcare etc) The coercion you speak of is no different to the demands made of club members to pay for the upkeep of said club. You are hardly held to ransom, no one is making you live on this island in particular there are plenty of libertarian paradises you’re free to move to. I hear Somalia is nice this time of year.

          • Ah yes, the Somalian stock response. Which, funnily enough, accurately illustrates one of the very few justifications for taxation – i.e. the very foundation of liberty – which is the keeping of law and order, the maintenance of the rule of law and protection from foreign invasion. Somalia not have at least two of these and is, therefore, about as far as you can get from a libertarian paradise. Anarchist, maybe.

            I would dispute state-provided housing and healthcare is the mark of a civilised society, this being a relatively recent phenomena and civilisation going back some 5,000 years. And this is apart from the fact that the private sector is far superior at providing both of these, as you will find in most European countries.

            But this is all academic because the bottom line is it’s unaffordable. This country is now more than £1trillion in debt with each government in the last 30 years alone spending more than it has earned in taxation every year. The only exceptions have been 1988, 1989 and 1998-2001. In each case the surpluses were minuscule in comparison to the debt accrued in previous years.