Tibor R. Machan
Before anything else it needs to be noted that most of the welfare recipients are not unwed mothers but people doing business as major corporations. They receive subsidies, bailouts, protection from competition and so forth, all undeserved, all unjust, all lacking any legitimacy in a genuine free country. American firms, as thousands of others around the globe, have managed to persuade politicians to provide them with benefits at the expense of people who haven’t consented to any of the takings that provide the funds that make all this possible.
A very early essay I wrote on the topic--published in the philosophy journal The Personalist--was called “Justice and the Welfare State.” In it I argued, way back in 1970, that the welfare state breaks the connection between cause and effect and thus promotes widespread injustice. People who earn a living don’t get to keep their earnings as people who don’t earn a living get away with having those in government looting resources for them.
Of course, there can be some of this without any injustice, when people voluntarily contribute portions of their wealth so others can be helped out, usually temporarily. Such voluntary generosity, charity, philanthropy, and so forth is quite proper among human beings. What isn’t is the daisy chain of rip offs that constitutes the welfare state where politicians and bureaucrats extort funds from innocent citizens so as to support unsuccessful business enterprises and people who create huge families they are unable to support on their own.
Another result of the welfare state is the corruption of personal responsibility. Millions of people are being taught by the system that they can get away with not being responsible, without having to practice the moral virtue of prudence. All the safety nets placed under them become routine in welfare states whereas they should only be provided on a temporary basis, by willing contributors, so that the message does not spread that millions of citizens may live off the backs of others.
Let’s not even worry for now about the ripping off that’s involved. That is unjust and cruel, of course. But another equally insidious aspect of the welfare system is that from the time they are infants millions of people are told, in effect, that they don’t need to work, to produce goods and services for the market place, in order to support themselves. All they need is to back some politicians who will help them loot productive people. This will create the clear impression that life can be lived without having to do much to sustain it other than join a political pressure group.
Of course, the welfare state does not involve generosity, compassion or charity--all those require free choice. The welfare state involves organized crime, extortion, transferring wealth from unwilling citizens to those with political clout. How can such a system not fail to communicate corrupt principles of human community life to those who gain from it? Do you need to have foresight in running your business? No, since when you fail you will not experience the natural consequences of failure. Do you need to do vigorous and smart marketing of your goods and services? No, since if you don’t sell these you will not experience adverse results--instead the government will make sure you can carry on in your inept ways. Do you need to plan your family, adjust your aspirations to your means? Not at all--you’ll get a free ride from the government’s extortion of innocent people.
Again, when people experience temporary setbacks they are usually helped out by family, friends, neighbors, and various service organizations, but not with blank checks that misinform them about the requirements of life.
And then there is the question of why so many people are wringing their hands about people going into debt way over their capacity to carry the debt? Why are so many caught unawares about their fellows taking on mortgages they are unable to pay? Why do millions of young people keep maxing out their credit cards? Why do businesses start up without adequate capitalization? Why do they hold on to outmoded practices that lead them to fail?
Maybe an important element of what leads to all this and more is how the welfare state educates everyone to believe that one can get along quite well without having to think about the future. One can get by in it without learning how the world works when it is not distorted by the system.
So aside from the injustice of the welfare state there is also the fact that it leads to massive corruption throughout a society, severe misconceptions about what it really takes to make a reasonably prosperous life for oneself, both in personal and business affairs.