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Recently, I heard conservative radio talk-show host Michael Medved interviewing, with considerable patience, the director of a national advocacy organization that benefits the homeless (I’ll call him John). John was full of righteousness about the necessity of supporting his organization via Your Tax Dollars because his work was so important.

While I admired John’s passionate dedication to ending homelessness, he seemed unaware of the connection between homelessness and government dependency. And he was vocal about a whole new set of “rights” that I never knew existed.

A homeless person, apparently, has a right to a home. And food. And medical care. And transportation. And a (public sector) job. It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t earned these things. As long as he’s homeless, he’s entitled. Naturally, these “rights” are provided at the point of a gun by you and me, the overburdened taxpayer.

Medved tried to steer John into a better understanding of the limitations of government involvement in individual hardships, to no avail. Any criticism of his cause was dismissed as heartless. Medved asked whether any of these homeless people ever became independent private-sector employees. The answer was, essentially, “No.” But to John, that was OK. His program to “end” homelessness succeeded as long as people were off the street, living in government-subsidized housing, working at low-paying government jobs, and receiving government-funded health care and food stamps. Forever. No wonder his organization needed more funding.

About now some of you may be wondering what kind of heartless monster I am. After all, there are a lot more homeless people now than two years ago. In this economy, millions are just one paycheck away from living on the streets. Surely I could loosen my moral compass just a little and agree with John that the homeless have a right to all these things?

No. A thousand times no.

Statism’s illogic exposed for all to see in F.A. Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism”

Remember this clear and easy definition of what constitutes a right: Rights don’t cost anyone anything. They are not achieved by picking someone else’s pocket. They are not granted by government largesse through entitlement programs.

If a government program operates under the principle that the homeless have a “right” to food / shelter / jobs / education / transportation / medical care / etc., these can only be obtained through our tax dollars. With few exceptions, government-funded solutions do not allow people to become contributing members of society independent of government assistance. It merely creates a perpetual dependent class receiving endless “rights.”

It’s the ol’ “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime” syndrome. Government entitlements hand out fish galore, but it doesn’t teach anyone to fish. Almost by definition, it can’t.

Whereas private charities can.

I had a delightful chat with a man named Dave Wall with the Union Gospel Mission in Spokane, Wash. This particular branch of Union Gospel Mission has been around since 1950 and is 100 percent privately funded. It takes no government money whatsoever. Aside from private donations, they operate thrift stores that provide transitional training and employment to their clients as well as fund their mission work.

They minister to the homeless through a three-tiered program: Rescue (emergency needs), Recovery (12 to 18 months of treatment and counseling to overcome the issues that brought them to the Mission) and Restoration (integration back into the community and becoming contributing members).

“Government money always comes with strings attached,” Mr. Wall stated. “There are always conditions. It fosters dependency and sustains the poor lifestyle choices that led toward homelessness.”

The Union Gospel Mission’s goal is to help people through their brokenness. “We understand what brings them here,” Mr. Wall says. “They’ve been wounded, damaged, misdirected, or made poor choices that led them to the streets. Sometimes it’s through no fault of their own, and sometimes it is. But it takes more than just rescue. Rescue merely enables.”

The government-funded group provides false “rights” (entitlements) by forcibly removing money and resources from one segment of the population and distributing to another. This enslaves the first segment by not allowing them to keep the rewards of their hard work; and it enslaves the second into eternal dependency.

Groups like Union Gospel Mission provide assistance to those in need through voluntary donations, bestowing people with dignity and providing them with the skills and resources necessary to become independent, contributing citizens.

A number of readers will doubtless misinterpret this column to mean I’m coming down on those who are unemployed due to the economy. Please, folks, you should know better. The unemployed aren’t the ones involved in a lifelong dependency on government (cough) “rights” – they’re just trying to find another job and get back on their feet.

And progressive readers are now reaching for their keyboards to tell me why I’m a cold-hearted witch who wants to see homeless people die in the street (yeah right). This is because progressives don’t believe people are capable of rising and achieving independence without government assistance. They don’t believe charities are big enough or numerous enough to help everyone who needs it.

But the cost of entitlements is approaching 50 precent of every dollar. Worse, entitlements are teaching people that rights come from the government, not Nature or Nature’s God. Progressives believe the Constitution guarantees that everyone should have everything equally (hence their love of redistribution). They don’t believe people should be limited to what they can provide for themselves. Equal outcome is not the same as equal opportunity.

What the progressives fail to admit is that we have literally millions of people who unnecessarily “need” government assistance because they’ve been trained through multiple generations to be dependent, to have their bad habits (drugs, alcohol, sexual proclivities) reinforced and enabled and never to suffer consequences of their actions. Government entitlements are nothing more than fish dinners. They teach nothing. They improve nobody.

Private charities aren’t like this. They can’t afford to enable people’s bad choices in perpetuity. Instead, they take those who’ve hit rock bottom and give them their lives and dignity back by teaching them to fish. Once people’s lives and dignity are restored, they can take advantage of their true rights.

Remember, if something costs taxpayers money, IT IS NOT A RIGHT. It is an unconstitutional entitlement.

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