Don debating

“I’m going to start this debate the same way I start every debate, by talking about my daughter. Livi isn’t even 2 years old, yet she will inherent hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt from my generation.”

So began our debate between Don Watkins, of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Dr.Harry Van Der Linden, of Butler University. Unlike many debates, we cut deep to the entitlement debates, bypassing economics and politics and going straight to the simple question of whether or not our current system of entitlements were morally just.

welfare state

Don argued from a simple premise, that forcing someone to do something simply because you think it is good for them is wrong. Dr.Van Der Linden believed we all have an inherent responsibility to others in our society and as such we should take care of them. This then steered the debate towards the idea of force and coercion.

The question Don posed was whether is it ok for someone to kick down the door of their neighbor and ask for money for medical bills, if not why can the state? Don also brought up the age old question on whether it is truly compassion if the state is mandating your giving, to which Dr.Van Der Linden again questioned the morality of “leaving others behind” vs. coercion.

The example Don gave on how to solve this issue was simple; look back to the progressive era. Quality of life exploded in those years, and it had the highest net number of immigrants, yet there was no welfare state even though every country in Europe had some form of one. Instead, people joined mutual aid and welfare societies in which people voluntarily took care of each other, over 90% of people joined some form of mutual aid society so they were not isolated phenomena. In the end, Don argued for major reform of these programs, including allowing people who paid into them to receive their benefits, but they could not be ended all at once because of the people who are still used to the programs and inured to the system.

moderation of Watkins debate (with a good looking well dressed moderator)

To promote the event, we chalked the sidewalks, tabled with the Debt Pong kits, hung up flyers, and did a dorm storm to distribute leaflets. People were excited to play Debt Pong, at first just for the novelty of the set up or seeing Obama, but were very intrigued to hear the reasons behind each of the labels in the cups. Unfortunately, the rain was coming hard both the day of and the day before our event, leading us to cancel one day of tabling, cutting one short, and washing away all of our chalk on the sidewalk. To compensate, we did a dorm storm and distributed over 500 handbills in the freshman dorms and then used the LI balloon posters in high traffic areas. In addition, we spread the event on Facebook through Occupy, TEA party, and libertarian groups throughout Indiana. Our event ended up with about 50 attendees (including people from off campus) and we received 10 new sign-ups!

If you have further interest in Don’s work, check out his podcasts!

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