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Food Stamps

Recently Newt Gingrich accused the Democrats of being “the party of food stams.”  A comment which Nancy Pelosi quickly denounced before adding that

It is the biggest bang for the buck when you do food stamps and unemployment insurance — the biggest bang for the buck.
You see, according to Pelosi every dollar the government spends on food stamps “puts $179 into the economy.”  This of course is nonsense.  It may be true that if you print a dollar and spend it on food stamps it increases GDP by $1.79 but this statement and the economic theory that motivates it conveniently ignores the question of where that dollar and the supposed added production actually comes from.  But I don’t want to spend an hour debunking Keynesianism right now, I want to make a quick statement about values.
 
When you hear things like this you have to ask yourself how we got here.  The answer is that we let ourselves believe that we could exist without a set of values.  To see what I mean consider two sets of values, one like the one I described in “The Conscience of a Libertarian” which holds that everyone owns their own life and the produce thereof and nobody (including the government) has a right to take it against their will for any reason, and another set of values which holds that the government should do whatever it can to maximize GDP (or any other measurement of collective wellbeing like “total utility”). 
 
When someone who subscribes to the second set of values hears a claim like the one above about food stamps they say “great let’s do that.  In fact let’s do that ad infinitum and we will all have infinite amounts of wealth and there will be no scarcity…”  When someone who subscribes to the first set of values hears something like that they say “that’s interesting but it doesn’t matter because such a strategy involves stealing from someone in order to carry it out and that violates my system of values.” 
 
So how did we get here?  We refused to adopt either set of values.  So they came to us and said “if we do this, it will improve the economy and it will only infringe on people’s individual property rights a little bit so it’s worth it.”  And we weighed the imagined benefits against the supposedly minor assault on property rights (most likely on someone else’s property rights) and we decided it was worth it.  Then that becomes normal and later they say “ok we just have to compromise individual property rights a little bit more but it’s worth it because it will help the overall economy.”  And we do the same thing and decide it’s worth it so we go along with it.   And this pattern continues until we find ourselves in our current situation.
But where does this pattern end?  I think the answer is obvious.  We have to realize that we can’t just persist forever in some kind of limbo between two value systems.  The only way to live in an individualistic society is to value individualism and to draw a line in the sand that you refuse to cross no matter what tasty treat someone dangles in front of you on the other side. 
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