James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Welfare Not As Bad As Other Government Spending

It is always a pleasure when I see a new post at Lady Aster's blog, especially when she talks of things I'm already thinking about:
Don't act like the poor are your natural enemies and the rich are your natural friends. Don't act like corporatism, rife with privilege and racism, in equivalent to your ideal. Don't act like the middle class or 'productive citizens' are better than the poor, are your first priority, or retain their positions because of merit or special virtue in a state capitalist world where the real mechanism of a free market has marginal play. Talk to people.
Libertarianism was once a pro-labour, pro-working class philosophy. The orginal classical economists such as Smith and Ricardo turned their fire on mercantilism precisely with an eye to corporate statism's institutional exploitation of the poor.
Stop acting like anyone who cares deeply about social injustice is about to summon a socialist bogeyman and learn, dammit, to care yourself. Don't sneer down your nose at the culture, experiences, or values of the poor. Listen to them, and assume they will be right about at least some things they know more about than you do. And don't you dare blame them for using a welfare system to stay alive.

Lady Aster is right, of course. Libertarians certainly shouldn't adopt the prejudices of conservatives. I will add that in many ways direct welfare payments - giving money to people for doing nothing, is not nearly as bad as "make work" programs, corporate welfare, and unnecessary military hardware.

With welfare, money is taken from person A through taxes, to give to person B. So, the economic choices of A are diminished by that amount, and those of person B increased. There are strong economic and moral arguments against this; I am not defending it, though I don't fault the recipients.

But I'd rather a person be on public support than work at a manufacturing plant that produces tanks or aircraft that the military doesn't need, but that brings profits to the corporate contractor and "jobs" to a Congressional District. Not only is he making his living from other people's taxes, his job is actually doing the economy harm. How so? $10 billion spent on manufacturing unwanted and impractical tanks is $10 billion that could have been spent manufacturing computers, x-ray machines, surgical equipment, cars, homes, or other things that people actually want and need. If we paid his salary directly and let him sit at home all day, we'd be better off. Not as well off as if he manufactured something that a free market would demand, but better off nonetheless, because precious resources wouldn't be used for expensive boondoggles.

Government redistribution of incomes is bad, but government redistribution of capital is worse.

1 comment:

  1. Retta Fontana7:28 AM PDT

    What's wrong with your basic premise, is that money is indeed taken from "A" but it is not given to "B." It is divided mostly among government bureaucrats "C" thru "X" and THEN a tiny bit is given to "B." At which point B's life is diminished for having become a little more dependent rather than independent. There's just no "lesser evil" forms of coercion and no way out of the suffering caused by the use of force.