Lab a1: Food, Housing and Medical Care
Food, housing and medical care
Let’s move on to the next question that has for sure been boiling up in your brain. But… Without the state, who takes care of poor people? Of single mums? The elderly? The sick and the homeless?
First of all: OboxPlanet has no welfare system. At least not a state-run one. There is also less of a need for welfare programs, since people are much richer on average, but that’s another chapter altogether. But since people are well-off, something almost magical happens: They help each other out. History has proven that people tend to be quite generous if they have the means to be. Many religious organizations used to provide services to people in need. Lots of people volunteer. Without the state providing for those who can’t provide for themselves, charity and volunteer work would explode through the roof.
Just imagine if you had to pay no taxes whatsoever. You’d have a lot more money in your pockets every month. Wouldn’t you also donate a part of that income? Probably to a cause that you actually care about? There would be no such thing as welfare exploitation anymore. Because you’d make sure that your money goes to people who actually need it.
Steps for our world:
Try getting rid of social welfare programs and cut taxes. Use the money according to your own judgement, and volunteer for causes that are important to you.
Food, Housing and Medial Care
Throughout history, humans have always helped each other whenever they had the means to help. This tradition is alive and well on the OboxPlanet but generally, there is little need to do so. OboxPlanet is many times richer than we on earth and since there are no state boundaries, wealth differences on a world scale are smaller than on earth. Nobody starves or freezes anymore, and basic medical care is provided for the less affluent by mutual help organizations and by the free “pro bono” tradition in the medical profession – which has unfortunately disappeared on earth, often because of regulatory restrictions.
The standard for giving help on OboxPlanet is that people fall on hard times because of unfortunate, unforeseeable circumstances like natural disasters, accidents, or illnesses. It is the standards most religious teachings use and most of us know from experience: To do for people what they can do themselves is paternalizing if not de-humanizing.
On OboxPlanet, help for self-help can more easily been practiced. There are no minimum wages laws or other restrictions that make it hard to help youngsters with little experience or even handicapped get a foot into the labor market.
What OboxPlanet lacks is the idea that some people “owe” others some basic standard of food, housing or whatever for the simple reason that there is no institution to enforce such an idea. There is no reason to even think about it and no tradition to do so.
The OboxPlanet can therefore avoid an important question, namely the definition of a universally valid standard of basic human needs. How can they ever be defined and fulfilled? In 2022, average yearly income in China was roughly as high as the definition of poverty in the USA. The average income in India is but a fraction of this level. People in the USA who argue for income redistribution usually stop at the US border. Why there, why not the whole world or, to take the other extreme, redistribute only in your closest surroundings or in your family?
A second puzzle is the question that visitors to the OboxPlanet often ask: who guarantees that everybody gets what they needs on the OboxPlanet? On Earth, while welfare programs may not be perfect, at least they provide some minimum guarantee that nobody starves. To which the Oboxpeople would return and ask: how strong is this guarantee? who pays for this guarantee? Who guarantees that the taxpayers will be willing to pay whatever it takes to meet the promised rents and supports? What if a majority suddenly decides to stop paying or to discriminate agains an unwelcome part of the population?
As Milton Friedman famously said: there is no free lunch. All redistributions need to come from willing producers, they need “the sanction of the victims”, to quote Ayn Rand. What we can see on the OboxPlanet is that when you leave the producers free to produce and help others, the problem of undeserved misery disappears to the greatest degree humanly possible. Not to perfection. Paradise is never an option in human affairs.
What experiences on Earth, past and present, help us understand life on the OboxPlanet?
The key moment in time on Earth was once again the Industrial Revolution, starting in England around 1750. Before that time, people lived in very difficult conditions, just barely surviving. In good times, when the climate was warmer, people managed to survive, and the population usually started growing. However, even slight downturns in conditions led to starvation and death from various causes. There are countless stories of people helping each other whenever they could but there were times when there was simply nothing around to share.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, for the first time in human history, a broad middle class started earning steadily more money. Looking back, we see that at the same time, there was a surge in organisations and initiatives dedicated to helping those in need. In the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the United States that “Americans make really great sacrifices for the common good, and I have noticed a hundred cases in which, when help was needed, they hardly ever failed to give each other support.” his benevolent and generous tradition survives up to today. In 1984, for example, despite the presence of high taxes to finance state social programs, the combined private contributions of time and money to charitable causes by individuals exceeded the budgets allocated for poverty relief by federal, state, and local governments.
In fact and in many countries, by the time the state started it’s welfare programs, extensive private welfare organisations were already in place. To quote from a descripton of the book “From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890 – 1967” by David Beito, 2000.
“During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, more Americans belonged to fraternal societies than to any other kind of voluntary association, with the possible exception of churches. Despite the stereotypical image of the lodge as the exclusive domain of white men, fraternalism cut across race, class, and gender lines to include women, African Americans, and immigrants. Exploring the history and impact of fraternal societies in the United States, David Beito uncovers the vital importance they had in the social and fiscal lives of millions of American families.
Much more than a means of addressing deep-seated cultural, psychological, and gender needs, fraternal societies gave Americans a way to provide themselves with social-welfare services that would otherwise have been inaccessible, Beito argues. In addition to creating vast social and mutual aid networks among the poor and in the working class, they made affordable life and health insurance available to their members and established hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the elderly. Fraternal societies continued their commitment to mutual aid even into the early years of the Great Depression, Beito says, but changing cultural attitudes and the expanding welfare state eventually propelled their decline.”
These examples give us confidence that on the OboxPlanet, with its significantly greater wealth per person, nobody will go hungry, be left out in the cold, or be without medical support when they face difficult times
Now it’s your turn:
Take a moment and think about talents you have. Can you read, write, some languages, other useful skills for home and garden? Do you share them with others today? What if tomorrow, the state would abandon all welfare programs, would you be willing to share some of these talents with people who are struggling and need them?
Mutual and neighborly help is the spirit and the rule on the OboxPlanet. Without administration, without bureaucratic and legalistic barriers. Plus you would be many times richer than today. Under what circumstances would you be willing to share your wealth, with whom and how much? And were would you set your priority? Family, community, people on the other side of the world?
Things we could learn and implement from the OboxPlanet:
Stop all state welfare or at least phase them out. Wherever societies can afford it, people won’t starve or freeze. The “human right to things” requires that the state takes from producers. It impoverishes society.
Further Information and Studies:
An interview with Prof. David Beito by Tom Woods on mutual aid societies and the welfare state: