Today’s guest post is from Nate.
Mormon Heretic’s recent post on Senator Mike Lee and the government shutdown prompted many comments discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the welfare state. Members who disparage the government often point out the superiority of the Church’s welfare program, which is “teaching people to fish” rather than giving them fish. I agree that the Church welfare program is superior to the government’s.
However, this quote from the church’s newsroom awhile back seems to suggest that Church welfare is perhaps not so different from government welfare programs:
“At Welfare Square in Salt Lake City, where the Church cans goods for its distribution warehouses, some procedures would be more efficient if automated. Instead, the Church has opted for more labor-intensive production lines that provide opportunities for people to give service and for welfare recipients to work for what they get. This is not the pattern of a commercial business, but it is the pattern for helping people to help themselves.”
Here we have the church admitting that the welfare program engages in unprofitable commercial endeavors simply to provide jobs for welfare recipients. It manipulates the capitalist system by creating inefficient and unprofitable businesses in order to artificially employ people who would otherwise be unable to find employment in the broader capitalist market. That is pure socialism. Because these people are must likely unemployable in the real world, it creates an artificial environment, subsidized by tithing, for them to be able to work. The idea that Church welfare is “teaching people to fish” so they can go out and succeed out in the real world is simply not true in many cases. Like all good socialists, the Church knows that work is the supreme virtue, even if it has to be divorced from the profit motive.
Whenever the government engages in these kinds of practices Republicans wring their hands, and LDS Conservatives cry out that the US government should learn a lesson from Church welfare which always touts the supremacy of the capitalist freedom as the ultimate answer for all society’s ills. But actually it turns out that government welfare principles are not that much different from Church welfare principles after all. Governments use subsidies, tax incentives, unions, and strangling regulations to manipulate the market in ways which maximize employment at the expense of profit. Work is the goal, not profit. Every man and woman with a job, a contribution to make to the whole. LDS welfare is also about the supremacy of work just as Communism and Socialism are. But work is not always available for all when profit is the only consideration.