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  • Laurence M. Vance

Private Charity, Personal Choice

Although Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.)—the son of former House member and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul—would identify more as a conservative and a constitutionalist than a libertarian, he is certainly the most libertarian member of the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Paul is usually the top scorer on The Freedom Index: A Congressional Scorecard Based on the U.S. Constitution, published in the New American magazine twice a year. The index “rates congressmen based on their adherence to constitutional principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, national sovereignty, and a traditional foreign policy of avoiding foreign entanglements.” It looks at ten key pieces of legislation and scores members of Congress based on how they voted. Scores are derived by dividing a congressman’s constitutional votes by the total number of votes cast and multiplying by 100. So, the higher the score, the better.

To give you an idea of just how much more libertarian Sen. Paul is than the Senate as a whole, consider the most recent version of the index. The average Senate score was a 30. Paul scored a perfect 100.

As you might expect, Sen. Paul is a popular speaker on behalf of liberty. Last month, The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) hosted Sen. Paul as part of the 2021 Capitol Hill Lecture Series on “Free Markets, Individual Liberty, and Civil Society.”

In his 30-minute speech to hundreds of Washington, D.C., interns, Sen. Paul highlighted the benefits of capitalism and the downfalls of socialism.

“The most humanitarian system ever conceived is capitalism,” he said. “No other economic system helps people the way capitalism does.” Throughout his speech,

Paul staunchly upheld that socialism is a system that has failed countless times and that capitalism is the best system to holistically benefit all aspects of society. He also recommended that citizens weigh the benefits of going to the state level to pass legislation to better society rather than beelining straight to the federal government.

“Nobody asks if it should be done at the federal level or the state level,” Paul said.

After acknowledging the mismanagement of government-funded social programs to fix societal programs, he suggested that “if taxpayers had more money in their pocket, they could write a check to the source they believe would be the most effective in solving an issue,” and concluded that it was likely that “people would opt to give their funds to a private company versus the federal government.” He further explained that “giving money to private entities rather than the federal government could help create an upturn in fixing societal problems.”

“Who does the functions that we need in society better?” Paul said. “The government or the private marketplace?”

When it came to the controversial issue of COVID-19, Paul explained “how masks and vaccinations should be a personal choice.” “In a free society, we would all make these decisions ourselves,” Paul said. “You would make your own healthcare decisions.”

There are two important takeaways from Paul’s speech that can be succinctly summarized as private charity and personal choice.

The federal government has over 80 means-tested welfare programs that provide Americans benefits, services, or payments on the basis of the recipient’s income and/or assets and family size. The largest of these programs are Medicaid; the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP [food stamps]); Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Section 8 housing vouchers; Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); Pell grants; Head Start; Healthy Start; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); school breakfast and lunch programs; refundable tax credits; and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

No wonder, then, that economist Walter Williams of George Mason University remarked: “Tragically, two-thirds to three-quarters of the federal budget can be described as Congress taking the rightful earnings of one American to give to another American—using one American to serve another.”

None of these welfare programs should exist. And neither should the foreign welfare component of foreign aid (the rest of foreign aid is bribery to grease the wheels of U.S. foreign policy) that is used to fight poverty, provide job training, undertake disaster relief, eradicate disease, feed the hungry, increase literacy, build infrastructure, and drill wells.

No American should be forced to “contribute” to the aid of any other American. Likewise, no American should be forced to “contribute” to the aid of the people or the government of any other country. All charity should be private and voluntary. Charity that is not voluntary is theft.

Some behaviors are risky, others are addictive. Some actions are immoral, others are unhealthy.

Some activities are financially ruinous, others are downright dangerous.

Things like taking drugs, gambling, cliff diving, binge drinking, viewing pornography, entering eating competitions, bungee jumping, nude dancing, skydiving, mixed martial arts, overeating, committing adultery, cave diving, mountain climbing, hiring a prostitute, undergoing an experimental medical treatment.

The question is: Who should decide whether doing any of these things is worth the possible negative consequences? Should the government prohibit, seek to limit, or regulate any or all of these things, or should it be a matter of personal choice? Should the government have an interest in the private, peaceful acts between consenting adults, or should people be able to exercise personal choice as long as they don’t violate the personal or property rights of others?

Private charity, personal choice—this is the essence of a free society.

This post was written by: Laurence M. Vance

This article appeared originally at FEE and can be found at this link

Laurence M. Vance is a columnist and policy advisor for the Future of Freedom Foundation, an associated scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and a columnist, blogger, and book reviewer at He is the author of Gun Control and the Second Amendment, The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom, and War, Empire and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy. His newest books are Free Trade or Protectionism? and The Free Society. Visit his website: Send him e-mail.

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