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Unformatted text preview: Abstract: Government anti-poverty programs share the flawed assumption that poverty in America is primarily a material problem that can be solved by increased wel- fare and entitlement spending. Poverty in America is often the result of a relational problem, such as fatherlessness or community breakdown, which government programs can- not adequately address. However, the institutions of civil societyfamily, churches, and other associationsare well suited to providing the personalized assistance need- ed to repair these relational problems, enabling people to overcome poverty and lead healthy lives. Instead of crowd- ing out private efforts with welfare programs, government can best serve the poor by establishing and maintaining social conditions that allow families, churches, and other institutions of civil society the freedom to serve those who are in need. Is the promotion of limited government compatible with a concern for those in poverty? Calls for limited government are often mistaken- ly equated with a disregard for people in need. This flawed line of reasoning assumes that poverty is pri- marily a material problem and that government bears the primary responsibility for solving it by increasing welfare and entitlement spending. Yet at its root, poverty is usually more complex than a simple lack of material resources. In America, pov- erty is often the result of a relational problem, such as fatherlessness or community breakdown. Such relational breakdowns are addressed most effectively through various civil society institutions. No. 2551 May 4, 2011 Does Advocating Limited Government Mean Abandoning the Poor? Ryan Messmore, D.Phil. This paper, in its entirety, can be found at: http://report.heritage.org/bg2551 Produced by the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society Published by The Heritage Foundation 214 Massachusetts Avenue, NE Washington, DC 200024999 (202) 546-4400 heritage.org Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress. Calls for limited government are often mistak- enly equated with a disregard for the poor. In reality, limited government, rightly under- stood, is an essential component of a larger framework that benefits people in need. Government poverty programs now spend nearly $1 trillion annually, yet they fail to reduce poverty. They wrongly assume that poverty in America is primarily a material problem. Poverty is often the result of multiple broken relationships in peoples lives, such as father- lessness and community breakdown. Civil society institutionsfamilies, churches, and businessesare uniquely positioned and capable of cultivating and restoring the rela- tionships that people need to flourish....
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