Capitalism Awareness Week: Q&A: Can the Entitlement State Survive? And Should It?

Sep 292011

The third event of Capitalism Awareness Week is tonight… and you can watch it live via streaming. Here’s the announcement:

Q&A: Can the Entitlement State Survive? And Should It?

Don Watkins, Analyst at The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights

It’s an open secret that America is headed for an entitlement crisis, with the U.S. government facing over $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Something is going to have to be done, but what? Some propose raising taxes. Others propose cutting benefits. Many propose a mix of both. The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights’ Don Watkins will explain why he thinks these solutions are hopeless. He will argue that eliminating the entitlement state will actually create a freer, more just, more prosperous nation. A brief lecture will be followed by an extended question and answer period: we invite you to come ask your questions concerning the history, the economics, or the morality of the entitlement state.

Thursday, September 29th
6:00 PM Pacific, 7:00 PM Mountain, 8:00 PM Central, 9:00 PM Eastern
University of California, Irvine and live streamed online worldwide

You can watch the event live from this page.

Remember, if you’ve not yet contributed to these awesome efforts by The Undercurrent but you’d like to do so… it’s not too late! Paul and I won’t be matching funds as with the first $2000 contributed, but your money will be well-spent!

To make a one-time donation, use this PayPal link. To make a recurring donation, visit TU’s donation page and follow the instructions for “Recurring Monthly Payments.”

Separation of Charity and State

Oct 082010

In a recent meeting of Liberty Toastmasters, I was asked a “table topics” question about what role, if any, the government should have in charity.

Of course, I’m not opposed to private charity and I donate money and volunteer my time for causes that matter to me. However, I reject any government charity as a violation of rights. Social Security and Medicare should be phased out, as should food stamp programs, government schools, and every other program that extracts dollars from taxpayers to redistribute them to the needy.

Unfortunately, that position is often taken as opposing all charity, wishing to grind the poor into the dirt, hating the children, etc. For many, to oppose government charity is to oppose charity per se.

Much to my delight, in the process of offering my answer, I realized that I could effectively communicate my view with the “separation of” formula. So I called for a “separation of charity and state.” That really resonated with the people in the group — and for good reason, I think. On further reflection, I only like it more, and I expect to use it regularly. If you like it, by all means, make it your own!

Healthy Diet on Food Stamps? You Bet!

Feb 042009

Ari Armstrong will prove that a person can eat a perfectly healthy diet of low-carb whole foods on a limited budget — contrary to demands to extract more heard-earned dollars from taxpayers for government welfare programs. Here’s his media release:

New Diet Protests Food Stamp Increases

A healthy diet is achievable on a food stamp budget, and Ari Armstrong plans to prove it, again. Armstrong, who previously spent a month eating for $2.57 per day — see — will spend February 4-10 eating a highly nutritious, low-carb diet for less than food stamps provide.

Armstrong said, “Not only has Congress increased the food stamp budget since my $2.57 per day diet, but the so-called ‘stimulus’ package calls for additional food-stamp funds. Enough is enough. I oppose any increases to the food stamp budget, and call for the program to be replaced with voluntarily funded food banks, which offer more nutritious food at lower cost.”

Armstrong’s new diet, unlike his previous one, will be low-carb, roughly following the advice of such writers as Gary Taubes and similar to “paleo” or “cave-man” diets. The diet will consist of meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, olive oil, chocolate, and spices. It will not contain any grains, vegetable oils, hydrogenated fat, potatoes, or processed sugar.

Armstrong will limit his daily budget to $4.74 per day, less than food stamps provide to a single individual. The Department of Agriculture — see — offers a family of four $588 per month, or $4.74 per person per day. (The food stamp allotment is reduced for those deemed able to fund some of their own food.) Armstrong will not accept any free food, and he will shop only at nearby regular grocery stores. He will track all his purchases and receipts at

“With the previous diet, my goal was to minimize daily expenses. With the new diet my goal is to show that a very healthy diet is possible on a limited budget. The cost of my diet will actually be inflated, not only because I’ll be eating no free food, but because a week’s diet is not able to take advantage of bulk purchases of sales items,” Armstrong pointed out. “I’ve been known to purchase 40 pounds of bananas, a dozen squash, or twenty pounds of meat when they’re on sale; obviously that’s not possible for a single week.”

Part of the motivation to track the new diet was a recent CNN report — see — in which a woman on food stamps complains, “We get like the mac and cheese, which is dehydrated cheese — basically food that’s no good for you health wise… Everything is high in sodium and trans fats… and that’s all we basically can afford. There’s not enough assistance to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight.”

Armstrong replied, “That’s nonsense, and I’m prepared to prove it. I’m frankly irritated that some food stamp recipients waste our tax dollars on overpriced junk food, then complain about their grocery budget. I’ll make the following offer. For anybody on food stamps who complains that they can’t afford good food, I’ll be more than happy to evaluate your entire monthly budget, including your grocery budget, and recommend judicious cuts, limited to the first five people who reply.”

Hooray for Ari!

Thoughts on “A Life of One’s Own”

Mar 052002

I’m in the middle of David Kelley’s short book on welfare rights, A Life of One’s Own. For some silly reason, I haven’t ever read it before. It is sheer delight. For example:

In the opening pages, DK contrasts our personal to our public sense of each person’s responsibility for his own life. In our private lives, we see supporting ourselves as our own responsibility. We have to find a job, show up on time, pay our bills, feed our children, and so forth. In contrast, as a matter of public policy, we expect the government to provide these good and services for everyone. The world does not owe us a living, but the world does owe everyone a living. DK then goes on to show that similar contradictions crop up in our personal versus public views about helping those in need.

(Sadly, that summary does not come close to doing the introduction justice. The point is that the introduction lays bare a very interesting and common contradiction between what we expect of ourselves and what we expect of others.)

In general, the book exhibits the same patience and fairness found in most of DK’s work. He clearly separates his discussion of the content of the opposing ideas from his evaluation. He presents those opposing views in their most plausible form. His analysis is slow and painstaking, but crystal-clear in the end. It was this patient and fair method that first caught my attention in reading Truth and Toleration (now The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand). As I said: sheer delight!

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