A few months ago I posted this, a sutta from the Digha Nikaya showing some of the Buddha’s thoughts on government welfare. With politics, and particularly bills that are intended to help the poor, so much in the news it’s worth remembering what the Buddha thought of government welfare. Here is another extra from the Digha Nikaya.
The King gathered all of his ministers together and asked their advice. They taught him the responsibilities of a Wheel-Turning King. He took their advice to build a strong military for protection, but he ignored their advice to give property to the poor. As a result, poverty was rampant. Since people were no longer able to earn a decent living, they turned to theft.
A man was arrested for theft and brought to the King for trial. The man pleaded, “I admit that I stole, but it was only because I have no property, no job, nothing.”
The King, abashed, gave the thief some land to support his family. He said, “With this land you can support your family, do business, give gifts to spiritual seekers, and be happy.” And he sent the confused man on his way.
The King was please with his decision until the whole thing happened again with another thief. Suddenly everyone in the kingdom was stealing with the hope that the king would give them some land to support themselves.
The King realized he had made a terrible mistake. So the next time a thief was arrested, instead of giving him land, he ordered him to be executed. He told his guards, “Tie this man up, shave his head, parade him through the streets with a drum, take him through the southern gate, and chop off his head.”
When the people heard this they thought, “Well, we still have nothing. Now when we steal, we will have to kill our victims so we won’t be caught and executed.”
And therefore poverty lead to theft which led to murder.
-Cakkavatti-Sihanada Sutta, DN 26 (excerpt)