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Food Stamps?

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Schtank
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So I'm looking for some feedback here. I'm a sophomore in college and living on my own, and since I receieve federal work study I'm eligable to apply for foodstamps. Would it be morally permissable to apply for foodstamps? I think that it would, since I work and pay into the system, and Ayn Rand said that one should take advantage of such programs if one can. Still, I'd like some feedback.

Thanks,

Nick

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Jacob Galt is largely correct.

There are some additional considerations though, especially considering the rapid downward spiral of collectivism we are currently in. The bigger picture, if you will.

The government uses the stats of how many users there are to justify new taxes, new spending and new entitlements. In the long run you may find that becoming one of these statistics is not in your best interest.

The government uses "normal working people" on foodstamps as a way to try to "normalize" or "destigmatize" food stamp use. Again, you may find in the long run this is not best.

As we look into the trend of government interference in food legislation, personal diet, food chain supply, and then look at some of the propaganda that is coming out-"Meatless Mondays" are already spreading across the nation you may find that the normalization of food stamps is not a good long term outcome. In Oregon for example the estimate is 1 in 6 people on food stamps. Can you not forsee the possibility of eventually the govt deciding to turn the food food chain over to these cards (they aren't stamps anymore- they just look like normal credit cards) making everyone purchase food with them as a form of rationing? Maybe ten years ago that would sound far fetched, but less so today.

So this is where you need to look at your short-term self interest vs your rational self interest- the rational looking at the final logical outcome of these choices as you make them.

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All good points; however, try not to feel guilty if you do decide to use the card after considering your own situation. It can be extremely difficult to work to support yourself and go to school at the same time.

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How is this not rationalization?

Can you explain why you think it is rationalization?

When property is forcible taken from you and you have no other means to secure its return, it seems reasonable that you might take advantage of programs or benefits that you do not think should be in place to begin with, but are the result of that stolen property.

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@Schtank,

I disagree with your conclusion. While SapereAude's list of your potential contributions to welfare may be true, that contribution is so insignificant as to not be worth mentioning, while the value of the stamps could be a meaningful contribution to furthering your education. Additionally, there is the value in theory of taking the food from the mouths of those who think that their need is a claim on others.

Rand does not mince words on this. If you oppose it in principle, you are the victim and those stamps are your restitution, while they who support it are the criminals and their accessories, who may not morally profit from their own booty.

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@Schtank,

I disagree with your conclusion. While SapereAude's list of your potential contributions to welfare may be true, that contribution is so insignificant as to not be worth mentioning, while the value of the stamps could be a meaningful contribution to furthering your education. Additionally, there is the value in theory of taking the food from the mouths of those who think that their need is a claim on others.

Rand does not mince words on this. If you oppose it in principle, you are the victim and those stamps are your restitution, while they who support it are the criminals and their accessories, who may not morally profit from their own booty.

Don't misunderstand me. My intention was not to convince Schtank one way or the other but only to make sure he understood some potential long term ramifications- the understanding of which is necessary to acting in rational self interest.

Addressing this- "Additionally, there is the value in theory of taking the food from the mouths of those who think that their need is a claim on others."

Your faulty reasoning in this is that welfare/food stamps/"social justice" programs don't "run out" of money. His accepting food stamps won't mean there will be less for moochers. When more people use these programs the government simply takes more money away from everybody else.

That is what I'm explaining- that he needs to consider whether it is really a good idea/whether he really needs them. Because the more people use these programs the more the government takes to provide them. That frivolous (not saying his is) use of food stamps now could have a negative impact on his life later is all I wanted him to consider in his decision making.

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I disagree with your conclusion. While SapereAude's list of your potential contributions to welfare may be true, that contribution is so insignificant as to not be worth mentioning, while the value of the stamps could be a meaningful contribution to furthering your education.

It is most likely true that his decision's effect on the system will be quite insignificant. However, his decision will also have ramifications for his view of himself. If his character is such that his opinion of himself is lowered if he strays from the trader principle (a good character trait to have) this decision may well negatively affect his own life in a much more direct fashion. At the end of the day, being proud of yourself is worth paying a little more for food.

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Addressing this- "Additionally, there is the value in theory of taking the food from the mouths of those who think that their need is a claim on others."

Your faulty reasoning in this is that welfare/food stamps/"social justice" programs don't "run out" of money. His accepting food stamps won't mean there will be less for moochers. When more people use these programs the government simply takes more money away from everybody else.

Yes, I was fully aware of this, and I stuck the "in theory" into the statement to clarify that the value is just an added layer of psychological justice. The principle itself is, in any colloquial context, so paradoxically quirky, with hidden layers of added significance, that I find it extremely useful in conveying to newbies and naysayers the awesome power of principles to take them where they imagine no other man has gone!

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It is most likely true that his decision's effect on the system will be quite insignificant. However, his decision will also have ramifications for his view of himself. If his character is such that his opinion of himself is lowered if he strays from the trader principle (a good character trait to have) this decision may well negatively affect his own life in a much more direct fashion. At the end of the day, being proud of yourself is worth paying a little more for food.

No, no ... the principle as Rand enunciated it and I applied it in my comment is the trader principle in spades: only those who oppose Government largesse have a right to receive it—accessories to theft forfeit the booty are direct descendants of it.

At the end of the day he should be proud of himself for taking the stamps alone as an act of principle. He can then wear that pride on his sleeve and ignite with it fiery debates at dull parties in which he will discover his misjudgment of the intelligence and character of countless soon-to-be former best friends while baiting the lurking honest mind silently listening in the background—the one who approaches him in the hall several days later to say, "that was interesting, what you were saying about the food stamp thing Saturday ..."

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It is most likely true that his decision's effect on the system will be quite insignificant.

Yes.. but much as if everyone decided to do the right thing the world would be a wonderful place... so it is good to consider for a moment "what if everyone made the choice I am now making?" I'm not saying that should rule your life... only that it can be an instructive moral exercise.

Each person alone has an insignificant effect on the system.. then the insignificant individual turns into a cell within the millions that cause the system.

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Can you explain why you think it is rationalization?

When property is forcible taken from you and you have no other means to secure its return, it seems reasonable that you might take advantage of programs or benefits that you do not think should be in place to begin with, but are the result of that stolen property.

What principle is this based upon? It seems to me the principle is: It's moral to take others' property if your property is taken and you can't get it back.

There's no way to validate that the money he has paid in taxes is the money he's getting back in the form of food. Should he keep track of how much money he's received in assistance and compare that to how much he has paid in taxes? What if the amount he receives in assistance exceeds the amount he has paid in taxes? Should he stop taking food stamps, or is it okay to continue taking the property of others? Because, to be sure, it is not the return of his money. His money is already gone - it paid for someone else's food stamps.

What about the proper functions of government which he should be paying for? Does the money he has spent in taxes not constitute at least some proper spending? Not that the method by which the money was obtained from him is moral, only that he must at least agree with the principle that a government has proper functions that should be paid for. As such, at least a portion of what he has paid in taxes has gone to a principle with which he agrees. What portion? Does he factor this amount into his calculations for how much money he can receive in assistance before actually taking the property of others on net?

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What principle is this based upon? It seems to me the principle is: It's moral to take others' property if your property is taken and you can't get it back.

Who said anything about other people's property? Do you think that the tax money taken from you just vanishes as if it was never taken and the only tax money that exists when used for services is that tax money taken from other people? If a robber took 20 dollars from you, would you only be entitled to the 20 bill that bore the exact same serial number or would the robber be liable to 20 dollars of value to you? This has nothing to do with you taking the property of other people.

Yes, I acknowledged the difficulty of "keeping track" of the value, although, it is easy enough to account for how much one pays in taxes if one cares to be meticulous enough.

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Well, after reading this post I'm not sure there is a right answer to this question; it may simply depend on context. Since I far from need foodstamps, and have saved enough money/work enough to pay for my food costs, I don't think signing up for foodstamps would be proper. However, if I were in dire enough straits, I could see where accepting foodstamps would be OK. But I'm simply not badly enough off to handle the blow to myself-esteem necessary to accept foodstamps. The negatives outway the positives right now. I very much appreciate the input though, and will read the updates to this forum; though I think the answer lies in context.

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Who said anything about other people's property? Do you think that the tax money taken from you just vanishes as if it was never taken and the only tax money that exists when used for services is that tax money taken from other people?

Well, yes, that's nearly the way it happens in reality. Suppose the OP, at one time, had productive employment and made enough money to pay taxes. The government spent that money when it took his money; some of it on legitimate government functions. Now, some years later, the OP wants to get his property back (or, at least comparable value). What does the government do? It no longer has his money, it has no way of making money, so what does it do? It takes someone else's property and gives it to the OP.

The analysis doesn't change even if the OP is capable of paying taxes now. The government is deep in debt and running a deficit. Any money he pays in taxes now was spent decades ago. Again, the only way for the government to return his property is to take someone else's property. To argue it's moral to get back whatever he has paid into the system because he can track how much he's paid; to argue his property still exists and can be returned to him; to argue there is comparable property in the government's possession that can be given to him is either rationalization, an ignorance of reality, or both.

Yes, I acknowledged the difficulty of "keeping track" of the value, although, it is easy enough to account for how much one pays in taxes if one cares to be meticulous enough.

Certainly, but shouldn't he also keep track of how much he would voluntarily pay for the legitimate functions of government? Would the arithmetic be something like, "Well, the government took $100,000 from me over the last 10 years, but I would've paid $50,000 for the proper functions of government. So, the government owes me $50,000. I'll take $50,000 in food stamps." What if he needs more than $50k in food stamps, can he revisit his arithmetic? Can he, after doing some research on government spending, decide that he actually wouldn't have paid $50k for the proper functions of government; that he disagrees with the way the government spent his money and therefore he only values those services at $30k, thus he can take an extra $20k in food stamps?

Or does he not need to concern himself with the proper functions of government and can therefore take the full $100k?

Sounds an awful lot like rationalization to me.

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Sounds an awful lot like rationalization to me.

It doesn't sound at all like rationalization to me so I'm guessing we will likely not agree.. It sounds as though the government, just like the robber, took his money and owes it back to him in some form. One need not acquire the same exact bills to understand how the government is still liable for the value taken. The fact that the government is irresponsible with his money and spends it quickly or goes into debt does not change the government's liability towards him or anyone else. If the only legal way to recoup that money is to take advantage of some program that helps you fund something that furthers your life, by all means, that money is owed to you by the entity that took it. That debt or liability doesn't vanish because the dollars with the same serial numbers are now gone. The concept of liability is not that difficult.

Ideally, parity would be nice, perhaps even some interest owed, if tracking such things were possible. Unfortunately, the robber (the government) doesn't always break down service costs so that the citizen can evaluate when he/she has gotten his value back. Do I agree that one should not take back more than some commensurate value? Yes.

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Earlier in this thread, you guys talked about the consequences that using food stamps would have in the long term. The government using your dependence on the welfare state to justify a bigger welfare state. You can't be blamed for this if the government created the conditions that helped make you dependent.

Look at what's going on today. In the medical industry, government intervention has made medicine more and more costly, and peoples' inability to pay for medical care is used to justify more intervention which made medical care more costly. Which "justifies" more intervention. Until ultimately they just decided to socialize it. I think the same thing is happening with the housing industry. We had a housing bubble that burst, and now the government is considering giving direct subsidies to encourage home ownership, which (I think) is likely to create the same pattern that ravaged the medical industry.

If you need to take advantage of one of these services the government offers, I think you are guilt-free, because it isn't your fault that you need this. If government intervention has created a burden for you, and you refuse to use its services to lift that burden, then you're just like the prime movers who held the system up on their shoulders because they thought they were doing the right thing.

If you take the assistance, the government uses your need to justify more welfare, not taking into account that it created your need. If you remain independent and refuse to take the assistance, then I'd say your sense of what's right and wrong has been twisted so that you wind up as the Atlas holding the world aloft, because you think that what you're doing is the right thing to do. It's a win-win situation for the government.

All you can do is what's rationally selfish in your context while opposing the welfare state.

I'm actually currently on food stamps myself due to my job not giving me consistent hours. I'm using the job to pay my bills, and the food stamps to eat during the weeks that I don't have work.

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One need not acquire the same exact bills to understand how the government is still liable for the value taken. The fact that the government is irresponsible with his money and spends it quickly or goes into debt does not change the government's liability towards him or anyone else.

I'm not disagreeing that the government has an obligation to return property it stole, nor am I arguing it needs to be the exact same property. I'm arguing that the only way for the government to fulfill its liability is to take property from someone else. In essence, by taking welfare one is sanctioning the government's theft, then justifying that by claiming they were wronged to begin with. If a robber stole your money, would you demand he repay you even if you knew without a doubt he would have to steal money from someone else in order to repay you? Is it in your rational self-interest to live in a society where theft is condoned in any way?

I'm actually currently on food stamps myself due to my job not giving me consistent hours.

Not to pick on you, Amaroq, but this is exactly what I'm talking about. It's not your fault, right? It's your job's fault. You didn't pick a career where there might not be consistent hours. You didn't seek employment from a business owner who might have to cut back on hours.

It seems to me this kind of rationalization works for just about anything. "I deserve welfare because I have children, and I wouldn't have children if sex didn't feel so good. It's not my fault." "I deserve unemployment insurance because I lost my job, and I wouldn't have lost my job if people didn't want iPods instead of vinyl records. It's not my fault." "I deserve health insurance because I'm sick, and I wouldn't be sick if the government would outlaw saturated fats. It's not my fault."

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If a robber stole your money, would you demand he repay you even if you knew without a doubt he would have to steal money from someone else in order to repay you?

If a robber, other than the government stole my money, I would seek to prosecute him according to law. I may still be out what he stole from me, but assuming a successful prosecution, I could be assured that robber would not be able to rob me again for awhile. Since that is not an option against the government, my only option is to try to recoup my money by legal means. I don't know without a doubt that the money I require back from the government is "stolen" in the sense that it is stolen from me. Here's where the analogy differs from the robber; many people willingly give the money to the government without the reservation of thinking it is stolen from them; they think it is proper. Its nigh on impossible for me to tell where the money I recoup comes from, but I generally suspect (based on my experiences) that the number of people who think the government is forcibly a robber is in the minority. Since they are supportive of the "robber", I have no qualms recouping my money at their expense.

I still see no rationalization here.

Is it in your rational self-interest to live in a society where theft is condoned in any way?

It is in my rational self-interest to recognize the reality that no government with all the other freedoms I do have exists without such forcible taxation. I would be evading reality to think I there is a better alternative for me than the US at this point in time. And it certainly isn't in my rational self-interest to let the government continue to steal from me and just chalk up as a loss. Additionally, living as a hermit on a deserted island is also not in my rational self-interest, that being the only real way to avoid forced taxation. What is in my rational self-interest at this point in time is to work within the system in order to try to change, while trying to be victimized as little as possible.

Edited by RationalBiker
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In essence, by taking welfare one is sanctioning the government's theft, then justifying that by claiming they were wronged to begin with. Is it in your rational self-interest to live in a society where theft is condoned in any way? [emphasis added]

Any implicit sanction can be overcome by explicit statements and that is what Objectivists advocate.

You are calling for sacrifice. It is to the ones who condone the system that you want us to sacrifice ourselves. We are all forced to pay into the system but you only want the socialists to collect from it. You want us to support the socialists. You have completely inverted the moral hierarchy: you should be condemning the ones who actually condone the system instead of those who refuse to sacrifice themselves to it. And if instead your desire is that we refuse to pay taxes, then you are still calling for us to sacrifice our lives in jail.

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I'm not disagreeing that the government has an obligation to return property it stole, nor am I arguing it needs to be the exact same property. I'm arguing that the only way for the government to fulfill its liability is to take property from someone else.

How do you propose, then, that you get paid back? By simply suffering through that injustice, on top of all the sort of ways the government has made it even harder, due to regulatory policies, to attain things like food, housing, or medical care?

Edited by Eiuol
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I don't know without a doubt that the money I require back from the government is "stolen" in the sense that it is stolen from me. Here's where the analogy differs from the robber; many people willingly give the money to the government without the reservation of thinking it is stolen from them; they think it is proper. Its nigh on impossible for me to tell where the money I recoup comes from, but I generally suspect (based on my experiences) that the number of people who think the government is forcibly a robber is in the minority. Since they are supportive of the "robber", I have no qualms recouping my money at their expense.

I still see no rationalization here.

That paragraph is one long rationalization. "It's okay for me to condone theft because I don't really know the money for my food stamps is stolen. After all, people aren't really being robbed since they willingly hand over their taxes. They are complicit in the theft, so they deserve to be robbed from."

It is in my rational self-interest to recognize the reality that no government with all the other freedoms I do have exists without such forcible taxation.

It's in your rational self-interests to recognize that a robber with a gun is going to kill you if you don't hand over your money. Therefore, there is no such thing as "mugging" since you willingly hand over your money.

And it certainly isn't in my rational self-interest to let the government continue to steal from me and just chalk up as a loss.

And the solution is to condone theft from others to repay what has been stolen from you?

Any implicit sanction can be overcome by explicit statements and that is what Objectivists advocate.

Ahhh, I see. So, if we just repent we can commit any sin that's convenient?

I'm not asking anyone to sacrifice anything. I'm trying to determine what principle underlies the belief that it's okay to accept government assistance.

How do you propose, then, that you get paid back?

Take the government to court, just as RB suggested he would do with any robber. Now, I'm sure you would argue that's a very difficult proposition; and I would agree. But the answer is not, "Well, since it's really hard to live by my principles, I'll just violate them while I chant, 'Stealing is bad. Stealing is bad.'"

Edited by JeffS
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