Would EBT Cards Have Saved The Pilgrims?
The first American settlers living in Jamestown had fertile soil to plant crops, an abundance of wild game, and fruits of many kinds all around them. Yet in a mere six months all but 38 of the original 104 had died due to famine. Two years later, when 500 more people were sent to settle in Virginia, 440 died within six months. Why did this happen with wild game and fertile land around them?
How Capitalism Saved America by Thomas J. DiLorenzo sheds light on this sad story when he quotes the writings of one eye witness who wrote in old English, “The cause of starvation was want of providence, industrie and government not the barennesse and defect of the Countrie, as is generally supposed.”
All they produced went into a common pool, compensating the Virginia Company for their free passage to the new world. The settlers had no ownership. “The absence of property rights-and of the work/reward nexus that such rights create-completely destroyed the work ethics of the settlers.”
The studies of economic historians Gary Walton and Hugh Rockoff indicate that when workers have no property rights and shirkers can free ride on the labor of others, the incentive to produce is lost. Apathy and lethargy from lack of personal ownership and reward were literally killing the settlers.
Ultimately, the British government sent Sir Thomas Dale to the Virginia colony. He observed that even though most of the settlers had starved to death, the remaining ones spent much of their time playing games in the street, rather than addressing their impending personal crisis. He identified that the system of communal ownership was the problem.
There is an instinctive need in people to reap the fruit of their labors and engage in fair trade. Dale directed that each man be given his own property, and be required to work only one month of the year to contribute to the treasury of the colony. Through the ownership of private property and incentives to work hard, the colony turned around. The introduction of a capitalist system saved the settlers.
The impact on Americans today of uncontrolled taxpayer-funded assistance is similar to the experience of the early Virginia colonists. The unsuccessful attempts to eliminate poverty through government assistance programs has enabled those receiving aid to stop working hard on their own behalf.
In 2009, food subsidy programs such as food stamps, school breakfast and lunch programs, and the women, infants, and children (WIC) program cost taxpayers $79 billion. There are approximately 26 food and nutrition programs being operated by 6 different agencies for the federal government. Furthermore, food subsidy programs are fraught with fraud, keeping state workers busy verifying accurate information.
Today we see recipients of Food Stamps able to use their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Cards for years and years. One young woman who cashiered at Wal-Mart during college writes, “A man showed me his welfare card for I.D. to buy alcohol. … I was born in 1991. The man had been on welfare my entire life.” This young woman cites many additional examples of misuse of EBT cards and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families she observed during her employment at Wal-Mart.
Senator Mike Carrell from Washington State has created a bill addressing numerous abuses of EBT cards, such as using EBTs in strip clubs, tattoo parlors, and even selling them on Craigslist.com. Senator Carrell’s bill, which was introduced in March of 2011, is still pending as of January 9, 2012.
Even the emergency food program that provided disaster funds for families impacted by tropical storm Irene last summer was subject to abuse and fraud by state employees who misrepresented information on their applications for food stamps.
Some of today’s financial assistance recipients, like the Virginia settlers, have lost the incentive to produce for themselves. That which was meant to help (public assistance), actually enslaves people in a lifestyle lacking the fulfillment of basic human needs, such as self-esteem and becoming a productive contributor to society.
Entitlement programs create disincentives for both the recipients and the productive citizens who work hard. Tax dollars are used to pay for programs that are often wasteful and do not break the cycle of poverty. What does it mean then to truly care for the needy? It means helping them to provide for themselves so they can have fulfilling lives apart from dependency on entitlements.
Beware of politicians who support entitlement programs to gain votes for themselves while crippling people rather than empowering them. Carefully study the policies of the candidates you vote for in the upcoming election. Be involved in your candidates’ campaigns. Join ACEF. Support those who are for weaning the “poor” off of their entitlement programs and setting them free to become productive citizens.
 Thomas J. DiLorenzo, How Capitalism Saved America (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004), p. 54.
 Thomas J. DiLorenzo, How Capitalism Saved America (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004), p. 54, 55
 Thomas J. DiLorenzo, How Capitalism Saved America (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004), p. 55
 Thomas J. DiLorenzo, How Capitalism Saved America (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004), p. 55 – 57
 Downsizing the Federal Government – http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/agriculture/food-subsidies
 The College Conservative – http://thecollegeconservative.com/2011/12/13/my-time-at-walmart-why-we-need-serious-welfare-reform/
 Sen. Mike Carrell – http://senatormikecarrell.blogspot.com/2011/03/committee-approves-my-bill-to-police.html
 Washington State Legislature – http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5877&year=2011