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Ayn Rand on the Principle Accepting Government Funds

Ayn Rand illustrates the principles of accepting funds from the government, using the question of government “public” scholarships as the concrete example:

“A different principle and different considerations are involved in the case of public (i.e., governmental) scholarships. The right to accept them rests on the right of the victims to the property (or some part of it) which was taken from them by force.

“The recipient of a public scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism. Those who advocate public scholarships have no right to them; those who oppose them have. If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral contradictions of welfare statism, not in its victims.

“Since there is no such thing as the right of some men to vote away the rights of others, and no such thing as the right of the government to seize the property of some men for the unearned benefit of others — the advocates and supporters of the welfare state are morally guilty of robbing their opponents, and the fact that the robbery is legalized makes it morally worse, not better. The victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it. Whenever the welfare-state laws offer them some small restitution, the victims should take it.

[…]

“The same moral principles and considerations apply to the issue of accepting social security, unemployment insurance, or other payments of that kind. It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the “right” to force employers and unwilling coworkers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money — and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.”

[…]

“The moral principle involved in all the above issues consists, in essence, of defining as clearly as possible the nature and limits of one’s own responsibility, i.e., the nature of what is or is not in one’s power.

“The issue is primarily ideological, not financial. Minimizing the financial injury inflicted on you by the welfare-state laws, does not constitute support of welfare statism (since the purpose of such laws is to injure you) and is not morally reprehensible. Initiating, advocating, or expanding such laws is.

“In a free society, it is immoral to denounce or oppose that from which one derives benefits — since one’s associations are voluntary. In a controlled or mixed economy, opposition becomes obligatory — since one is acting under force, and the offer of benefits is intended as a bribe.

“So long as financial considerations do not alter or affect your convictions, so long as you fight against welfare statism (and only so long as you fight it) and are prepared to give up any of its momentary benefits in exchange for repeal and freedom — so long as you do not sell your soul (or your vote) — you are morally in the clear. The essence of the issue lies in your own mind and attitude.

“It is a hard problem, and there are many situations so ambiguous and so complex that no one can determine what is the right course of action. That is one of the evils of welfare statism: its fundamental irrationality and immorality force men into contradictions where no course of action is right.” — Ayn Rand “The Question of Scholarships,” first published in the June 1966 issue of The Objectivist and later anthologized in The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought (1989).


Related:
To Take or Not to Take by Harry Binswanger and Yaron Brook

 

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