Column on How Welfare Corrupts

Welfare Corrupts
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
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.

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