Friday, June 08, 2007

Hunger Awareness Day

The Second Harvest Food Bank held an open house and tour. All the city big wigs and everyone else seemed to be there.

Like most charity operations of this type, I didn't really learn much about the economics of how such an operation works. All we heard about was in sweeping terms of how food is "donated" by rich corporations and "given" to the poor and hungry. It would have been interesting to critically evaluate how the operation works, with an eye toward answering the question "does an enterprise like this really do any good?"

I suspect the answer is they do some good.

California is, believe it or not, one of the stingiest states in this one area of welfare. The "food stamp" program gives out very little, anyone making over $405/month is disqualified. Anyone convicted of any drug felony, no matter how long ago, is forever barred from getting food stamps. Note that this prohibition only applies to drug crimes, it doesn't matter if you killed somebody or hold up liquor stores at gunpoint; you are fine to get food stamps.

A speaker on NPR this week was bemoaning the fact that California, because of its strict rules, can't give away food stamps and much of the budget is unused.

Maybe there is a lesson here for the libertarian. When government withdraws from an area of "giving," other private persons step up to fill the gap. The reverse of this process was noted by controversial state supreme court justice Janice Rogers Brown. Her comments from a speech was repeated by pundits and used against her to show how "anti-government" she is (and presumably this makes you less qualified to be a judge?). She noted: "where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates, and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies..."

Here we see the reverse, where government gets out of the way, charity and giving thrive. My guess is that people who may have been caught with a marijuana seed in the '70's, and are now forever unworthy human beings according to the state, may find some relief of their food insecurity by this operation of private individuals.