The Plague of Free Money Is Spreading

|May 11, 2021

Editor’s Note: With more than a decade’s worth of “free” money flying around… have younger generations been taught that money really does grow on trees? It’s a question Joel faces more and more often… And today, he hits on one big reason for it.

“We’re young farmers and we want to come to your seminar… but do you give discounts or scholarships?”

I get asked this a lot these days… and it reveals a new, aggressive entitlement in our culture.

I despise these requests because they put me in a no-win situation.

It’s almost like emotional extortion. If I ignore the request, I come off as high and mighty. If I turn it down, I’m an unfeeling tyrant. But giving in causes problems as well.

When I was a struggling young farmer (I’m a struggling old farmer now), I had too much self-respect and decorum to ask for a discount on anything.

I assumed other attendees were struggling as much as I was, and we were all in the same boat, trying to learn, pay our bills and succeed.

I would have been ashamed and embarrassed to ask for a concession. In fact, I would have considered it rude.

But that doesn’t stop many folks today. And there are several reasons for this.

How Presumptuous

The first problem with the discount request is that it contains a deep-seated assumption that the asker’s uniquely difficult situation entitles them to aid. It’s presumptuous and selfish.

The second problem is that it inherently seeks to create discrimination. If an outfit gives one person a discount because that person had the audacity to whine, it discriminates against all the folks who don’t ask… those who somehow manage to pay the full price.

It’s a request to those putting on the seminar or setting the prices to make decisions of favoritism blindly. Nobody knows the hardships or suffering of those who don’t ask for a discount. Chances are, in a seminar attended by 300 people, someone there has a situation worse than yours. That includes the folks with the gall to ask for a discount.

Assuming that I’m worse off than anyone else is both prideful and narcissistic. But in a society that throws money around as if it grew on trees, people make assumptions about value and entitlement.

A third problem with this request is that it assumes the outfit controlling the price has largesse to spare.

Our farm is hosting several seminars this summer (we call them gatherings). If you look behind the curtain, we have lots of expenses. Hotel and travel for speakers, food for attendees (really good food that ain’t cheap), preparation time, parking attendants, and trash disposal when it’s all done…

That’s a lot of expenses. Why are anyone else’s difficulties more important than the host’s?

But here’s the biggest problem I have with these requests… and it leads straight back to our free-money government…

Something for Nothing

“Grant mania” has invaded our culture like the plague, infecting our psyche with a “something for nothing” mentality.

I consider grants a cancer on our society. They’re not free money.

Grants inherently disrespect voluntary support and patronage.

For example, the USDA touts its rural economic development grants, which help pay for small abattoirs (slaughterhouses).

To be clear, I’m a huge fan of small abattoirs and think we need hundreds of them.

But when taxes from a vegan or a militantly anti-livestock person go toward building an abattoir, it fosters emotional and political conflict.

It pits one side against another through the platform of public largesse.

Rather than letting the market determine who wins and who loses, the public grant process takes income broadly and distributes it prejudicially.

Why is an abattoir more important for a community than a furniture store or a shoe repair shop?

The feeding frenzy these grants create is like children filling their pockets with the candy from a piñata. These grant programs facilitate the basest human attitudes and pit one beneficiary against another.

Some folks make the argument that since the money has been allocated, moralizing like this doesn’t matter.

“I might as well enjoy it instead of the next guy” is reasoning that ensures grant morality and broader, related issues never enter the conversation.

The money is there, ready to be used. No matter that it was taken by the state. No matter that my tax dollar is going to something morally or socially repugnant to me. No matter that, by definition, grants prejudicially pick winners and losers in the communal and commercial landscape.

I’m reminded of Daniel Boone telling the widow who implored him for public money following her veteran husband’s death: “Ma’am, it’s not my money.”

Would that all of us could gain a new appreciation for personal responsibility and voluntary philanthropy.

Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin|Contributor

Joel Salatin calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. Others who like him call him the most famous farmer in the world, the high priest of the pasture, and the most eclectic thinker from Virginia since Thomas Jefferson. Those who don’t like him call him a bioterrorist, Typhoid Mary, a charlatan, and a starvation advocate. With a room full of debate trophies from high school and college days, 12 published books, and a thriving multigenerational family farm, he draws on a lifetime of food, farming and fantasy to entertain and inspire audiences around the world.