A Sad Story isn’t an Excuse for the Welfare State

Leftists have a tactic that is often effective in generating support for their policies. They tell a really sad story, sprinkle in some horrifying statistics, and then evade relevant facts. A story about the eviction crisis illustrates this tactic.

The article begins with a story about Samantha, a mother who worries where she and her six children will sleep every night after being evicted from their apartment. Unable to find a job, she depends on welfare and charity to sustain her family. Her children have developed physical and development problems from their housing instability.

And Samantha’s family is not alone, the article tells us. Between 2000 and 2016, more than 61 million eviction filings were made in the United States. And today, nearly 18 million households have little or no confidence that they can pay the rent. Not surprisingly, the article calls for more government programs to prevent evictions and secure affordable housing for all Americans.

No decent person would find any pleasure in the plight of Samantha or the millions facing eviction. However, a sad story is not a valid argument for more government programs. More importantly, a sad story is only a part of the story. And the rest of the story is what Leftists don’t want us to hear.

For example, the article doesn’t explain why Samantha has six children that she can’t support. Apparently, the author doesn’t consider that important or relevant. We are supposed to ignore details and simply feel sorry for her. While going on for seven pages about the difficulties faced by renters, nothing is said about the landlords who are being forced to provide free housing to non-paying tenants. Instead of addressing all of the relevant facts, the article considers the eviction crisis in isolation—out of context.

Of course, considering the full context would require an objectivity that Leftists seldom exhibit. If they presented the full context, we might not feel so sorry for Samantha and the millions facing eviction. Motivating us to feel sorry for the poor and down trodden allows the Leftists to cash in their trump card—the widespread belief that we have a moral obligation to serve those in need.

If serving others is a moral imperative, then the reason for an individual’s suffering is irrelevant. Whether his plight is the result of years of self-destructive choices or an isolated misfortune doesn’t matter. His need is the only fact that must be known or discussed.

If we want to defeat the Left, then we must reject both its methods and its premises. We must consider the full context, including the past choices that individuals have made. More importantly, we must reject the premise that we have a moral obligation to serve the needy. Until we declare that our life is ours to live as we choose, rather than in servitude to others, the Left will continue its endless parade of the indigent.

Brian Phillips is the founder of the Texas Institute for Property Rights. Brian has been defending property rights for nearly thirty years. He played a key role in defeating zoning in Houston, Texas, and in Hobbs, New Mexico. He is the author of three books: Individual Rights and Government WrongsThe Innovator Versus the Collective, and Principles and Property Rights. Visit his website at texasipr.com.

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