I was recently sent this article and asked to comment. Comment I did…
I will bite, as this is somewhat easy given what this author has laid out as her case…
- I am actually confused by the phrase “erosion of welfare state.” There is only a very small case that can be made for any of the 83 welfare programs the US has eroding (and it is Social Security, due to demographic concerns – concerns, mind you, not actualities as of yet – and the fact that there truly is no SS fund from which to draw because the politicians have spent it. Social Security, like other forms of welfare, cannot last indefinitely, because it is a pyramid scheme). As of 1 year ago, the CBO stated that these programs are the largest portion of the budget, at $1.03 trillion dollars (state and federal).It is quite the uphill battle to imagine that these expenditures are or have been “eroded” when they increase every year based on CBO projections. The rate of increase may slow in coming years, but one can hardly consider that “eroding.” The Congressional Research Service determined that in the last 30 years, the largest 10 welfare programs have grown 378% adjusted for inflation. Medicaid, which is the largest form of welfare, had 13 privately employed workers per Medicare recipient in 1966. Today it is 1.9 (1.25 for overall welfare recipients). That means you and your eventual wife will be paying Medicaid bills for someone else in addition to your own. From 2001 to 2010, Medicaid enrollment increased 52%. Since 1979, population has gorwn 7.2%, real income has grown 65%, and medicare enrollment has grown 100%. By 2020, Medicaid expenditures are projected to more than double. Medicare, another very large program has seen an increase of 138% from 1999 to 2010. The Office of the Secretary of Public Welfare in Pennsylvania estimated welfare recipients in 2005 to be 66.1 million. 2013 numbers ring in at over 100 million. Keep in mind that only about 120 million people are privately employed in the US., and the labor force participation rate is at a 35 year low. In 35 states, you make mor emoney on welfare than working a full time minimum wage job. In 13 states, welfare is better than making $15 an hour (NY would be $21/hr). In 2000, the ratio of welfare benefits to salaries and wages was 21%. Today it is 35%. American households are now recieving more monry directly from the government than they pay in taxes, net. Right off the bat, the author has lost me. There is this urgent theme in the writings of those who favor democratic welfare states these days, as if government is a creature that is becoming more and more endangered – when in actuality it is threatening the well being and economic stability of every family in the country, or perhaps even on the planet. There is a huge credibility issue here.
- She also makes a head nod at economic inequality increasing. I have covered this time and time again at my blog. She attributes inequality to the workings of the free market, but I think she is confusing causes. In reality, the regulatory burden on small businesses (due to rent seeking and “consumer protections”) gives big corporations a very large advantage in the market; tax loopholes give those with money an advantage over those who do not make as much; and Cantillion effects and other monetary phenomenon that result from the Federal Reserve system and fractional reserve banking mean that the entire finance industry is making big money and always will, faster than the average joe. Add to this bailouts and stimulus packages with taxpayer funds and you’ve got yourself a pretty good case that free markets have nothing to do with “markets” whatsoever. If you have the time and interest, I would highly recommend David Stockman’s The Great Deformation, an 800 page journey through history explaining inequality and government meddling in the private sector that is causing problems for everyone. It is by far the best book on the economy I have ever read. I also have to laugh, as a side note, when you have $35,000 per plate fundraiser dinners for the proto-socialists that are so outraged at inequality and excesses of wealth. Only in political circles… Additionally, it would be wise for the author to consider income mobility more fully. Here are a few links that add to the fire here:
- The author also speaks of the recent food stamp cut squabble in Congress. Far from being close to getting rid of food stamps, we are growing them. From 2001 to 2011, food stamps enrollment grew 158%. Today, one out of every five homes in the US is on food stamps. In the 70s it was 1 of every 50 homes. In 2000, there were 17 million people on food stamps. Today, there are 47 million. Food stamps have seen a 50% increase since Obama took office (not his fault, of course, but as a measure of time). The recent debacle about food stamps in Congress, which the author mentions, had nothing to do with cuts. In fact, the Democrats wanted to increase the program by 39%, while Republicans wanted to increase it by a mere 18%. THAT is what she is referencing as a “big debate.” Clearly Republicans hate children and old people.
- She goes back and forth between morality and legality, as if the two are the same thing. I find this mistaken thinking all-too-common today: Moralizers cannot distinguish what should be law versus what should reamin a moral choice. It may not be moral for someone making $1 million dollars a year not to give to charity. Does that mean it should be illegal for him not to do so? Her equating the two several times in the line of questioning at the bottom betrays the fact that she probably has never considered the fact that every opinion you have about what is moral shouldn’t be enforced at the barrel of a gun.
- Though it may be a personal distaste, the use of the word “deserve” is always used without definition. Deserve? You mean “has a right to”? “Is morally obligated to have? Earned? Why does anyone deserve someone else’s income – and how much of it do they deserve?
- Republicans don’t side with Nozick, and I doubt most of them know who he is. He is a sideline figure even in the libertarian movement, in many respects. She probably could find a better target (not Rand), but one that would offer her a real challenge. I don’t think Nozick does that, but again I digress from the point: Democrats and Republicans are largely for the same policies. Any differences are very slight, yet our dear author imagines that if Republicans are elected to all places in government, government will go away. If only…
- The question of “accidents of birth” is an interesting one, because it is undoubtedly true. But I think the outrage should not be directed at those born in privilege. It should be directed at God. Some are born lucky, and others are not. Does that mean that we can cross out all rules about theft, to try and fix where God apparently “screwed up”? I don’t think so, and I think it takes quite a leap of logic to imagine that since you are lucky, I can take all your shit because I claim some sovereign power. What a silly idea.
When someone is as polemic and off-base on the factual analysis of an ideology as this was (morality aside), it is hard to lend an ear as if the source of the analysis is credible, is my point. When she cannot get things correct due to bias and the facts are easily google-able, why are we to assume the analysis of an abstract would be any less befuddled? Nozick is not someone I would normally defend (his Hayekian tendencies bother me), but I find it hard to believe that she would be giving his arguments full force when she believes the welfare state to be in danger, for example.
As to the moral question, you are absolutely right. We can and should help. And I think libertarianism would mesh well with your assertion that life and property should be protected – in fact that is the foundation of the ideology (the only question remaining is means). You sound like a libertarian. The problem is, when rights conflict, which should win? A libertarian would maintain that you do not own other people or the fruits of their labor, so you cannot direct them to put their labor (slavery) or property (theft) toward those evils you wish to eradicate. Again we come to the deolontogical versus the utilitarian. You seem to be willing to allow permissible evils for good ends. Natural rights libertarians (of which Nozick is one) do not. I understand I am the most radical of those among us and some of the other libertarians/rightys to whom you direct the question may disagree. But again, we run into the crowding out of private charity and private morality due to the legal and political means. As I have told you before, a series of studies attest to the fact. For every $1000 spent by the government, there is a $750 reduction in private charity. For every dollar that goes to the intended welfare beneficiary, $5 must be taken in taxes. And what study could possibly show how the moral responsibility of each of us is diminished (and men like yourself have their consciences alleviated) because we no longer have to care for the people around us because “the government will do it”? It is too easy an answer, it is uncreative, and it shows a weakness of conscience for the answer to hard questions to always be “the government will do it” or “we will force people.” But it does show a tendency to authoritarianism – which makes me wonder: How will it ever be sated? We have the largest redistributive programs ever to “grace” the planet, and they grow every year. When will the author be happy with the arrangement of forced redistribution we already have? I think the answer is pretty clearly never…