The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has been saying that he was shocked that a family in Britain, whose own national statistics show its taxes it’s poorest at a rate of 71%, might be forced to skip between 2 and 6 meals a week (approx 10% of it’s meals), to ensure enough food gets to the children. This is indeed shameful, but not for the reasons Justin Welby gives. It is shameful that the Government does so much to make people poor; taxes even those people who are on the legal minimum wage; and then raises that wage banning the most vulnerable people from acquiring jobs to tide them through crises and leaving private charity as their only option.
What is most shocking, however, is that the food banks themselves are seen as a moral failure. The political system is the least effective means of alleviating poverty and is necessarily a zero-sum game – no one wins when political action is taken. Even the archbishop recognises the difficulty of deploying the political system to address the problems he is talking about, yet rather than avoiding that system he wishes to engage with it. He is creating a new “network” – of which he will be President – and involving public sector bodies and EU Structural Funds. He announces this in the same speech in which he thanks the Trussell Trust and churches for the action that have already taken so effectively on their own.
His contradictory reasoning is a moral failure in it’s own right. The giving of spare food and resources to the hungry is a feature of the wealthiest nations and shows that people will, and do, help others when they can afford to do so. Offering that help is a morally clean action in which there is no obvious loser. In contrast, taking taxpayers money via the EU is the morally foggy: it creates a clear loser. Mandatory donors of confiscated earnings lose money they would not have otherwise donated. That it needed to be forcibly taken is a clue that they would be unwilling or unable to give it charitably.
Food banks are not a moral failure. Every time a food bank helps a family it is an ethical victory – helping to assure the recovery and future happiness of that family while respecting the rightly earned property of those around them. Such families should not feel shame for taking up this freely offered charity, quite the opposite.
I have said before, that food banks are project that libertarians can and should get involved in.