“But What Of The Poor?” A Libertarian Response

The echoes of the welfare state. You’ve heard them before. Don’t believe me? They sound a little bit like this: “We can’t get rid of welfare! Welfare is essential to helping the forgotten impoverished people that nobody would help otherwise!”

The essential nature of the welfare state is a common argument made by progressives. However, progressives have been so persistent and so successful at using their pro-government welfare rhetoric that it seems now only the most ardent limited government supporters dare to question if the welfare state is truly essential or not. However it has not always been a fringe group of people that abhor and question the necessity of government welfare. In fact it is only since the Great Depression that there has been a desensitization of the taking of government assistance, or more properly stated, the forced charity of taxpayers.

The truth is that before the Great Depression taking welfare of any kind, government or private, was generally looked down upon. Anywhere between one-quarter and one half of working class people engaged in fraternalistic opportunities that helped their peers in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They called these fraternal groups “mutual aid societies”. Mutual aid societies would fulfill the same needs the modern welfare state purports to fulfill, even sometimes going as far as owning and operating hospitals. All of this happened during a time when America was not nearly as economically “blessed” nor as economically dominant as it is today, as America did not see its rise as a world superpower until after the World Wars were fought.

Even today, much after the time period of mutual aid societies, it seems a vast majority of Americans across the country are willing to give of their time and their money to others. I think the reason people are willing to give boils down to the fact that people want to feel good about themselves. Whether for self-actualization or religious reasons, Americans have shown that despite possible burdens we may be experiencing, we are willing to give to others. Yes, even with the slow economic recovery since 2008 and the large taxation burden imposed by the government, the American people were the most charitable first-world nation in the world last year. Just one of the lies of the welfare state is that people will not care for each other if there is no welfare state. The facts belie a different truth.

“Now hold on”, bleeding hearts might say, “how do you know the extra money people are going to get back from the elimination of the welfare state is going to go to the people that need it? How do you know that people will not just give the same amount they are giving now and not give anymore?”. First, it is naïve to assume that none of the money the citizens will rightfully get to keep instead of hand over to the ineffectual welfare state will not go to charity. However, it is also naïve to assume that for every dollar we give back to the American people that they will use that same dollar for welfare. “People are selfish, they will never give close to the same amount the welfare state is providing the poor!”, the progressives and bleeding hearts cry out.

They are right. People are selfish. I can guarantee you that many people are going to take the return of their money, their hard-earned money I might add, and spend it. People tend to live according to their means and spend the money they have. You only have to ask a few of the multitudes of broke trust-fund country clubbers and impoverished former professional athletes to figure that out. That hard-earned money no longer going to the welfare state will be put to work buying products, services, and investments. In turn, the purchase of these products, services, and investments will create jobs and wealth long term for not just the American people but the people of the world. Free market capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system. America’s prosperity is a living testament to that fact. The welfare state does not create wealth and progress that brings people out of poverty; entrepreneurship and the free market does that. The system that brought us the mobility of the automobile, the health of mass produced medicines, and the knowledge concentrated in information technology leads to the betterment of man. The welfare state, however, brings with it the ever tightening shackles of the system and the self perpetuating serfdom of the people.

The echoes of the welfare state gets louder and louder as the ring of freedom gets softer and softer. It is high time we realize the outcomes of the welfare state and eliminate the welfare state for the good of all.