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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5308/the-welfare-states-attack-on-the-family/

The Welfare State’s Attack on the Family

July 12, 2006 by

When a person becomes old without savings, what is he or she supposed to do without socialist programs such as Social Security? The forgotten institution of charity here is the family. When libertarians talk of charity, we don’t just mean the Salvation Army, but taking care of your relatives as well. FULL ARTICLE

[NOTE: Vedran Vuk is in the chat room, 9:30-10:00am, July 12, 2006, CST]

{ 39 comments }

Manuel Lora July 12, 2006 at 8:14 am

“The death of the family is the life of the state.”

Excellent work.

adi July 12, 2006 at 8:24 am

We usually hear here in Finland that its not in our cultural tradition to give money for charity and that is the reason why state is needed to provide for poor, sick and old people.

Another reason for states participation in this welfare schema is said to be that private charity is so old system and not very efficient way to help people. We have modern, wise and all-powerfull state which can direct resources to those who are most needy. State has a very large number of social workers and other bureaucrats who nows what people really need.

Sometimes its said that state is just a giant insurance company and paying taxes is like paying premiums to insurer.

Ulrich Hobelmann July 12, 2006 at 8:33 am

Adi, if government is just a big insurance company, why can’t we have more than one government in one place, and you are allowed to choose one (or none)? ;-)

I’m sure competition would drive down premiums (taxes, but mostly bureaucratic waste in general) and make the charity part of it much more efficient.

adi July 12, 2006 at 8:50 am

Ulrich Hobelmann said

“Adi, if government is just a big insurance company, why can’t we have more than one government in one place, and you are allowed to choose one (or none)?”

I think that those who must eventully pay the whole bill would leave next minute if they could make a free choice.

Government is usually the ultimate monopolist…

Mila Cobanov July 12, 2006 at 8:53 am

Very good piece Vedran! The largest misconception about capitalism is that it leads to pure selfishness. In fact, the disregard and lack of care children show for their elderly parents in America is blamed on capitalism. The welfare state is especially dangerous because it perpetuates blame on capitalism for this and many other ills created by the state.

Roger M July 12, 2006 at 9:06 am

The problem with our welfare state is not so much the aid we give to poor people, but the tax money that goes to the middle class via social security and Medicare. If we only took care of poor people, the federal government would be much smaller. But the left doesn’t want the charity directed just at poor people because they know it would be too easy to kill the programs in difficult times. That’s why they insist including the middle class. They know that if the middle class benefits from a program, they’re unlikely to vote to kill it.

Helping the poor is an honorable thing to do, but that’s not what we’re doing with most of our welfare. The left knows that it can’t seize control of all companies in the U.S. in the current atmosphere, so they are willing to settle for incremental moves toward that end. (I learned this from the web site of one of the world-wide socialist organizations.) They want government to gain more control over every aspect of life, and Americans to get used to it, until the decision to take over businesses is a minor step. So they include the middle class in every program.

It’s important to remember that the original goal of SS was not to help the poor elderly. It was to get the elderly out of the workplace so younger people could have their jobs. But the socialists knew that the elderly wouldn’t leave because they needed the money, so they offered them a government check. The elderly balked at the charity, so the socialists convinced them that they had earned it, to think of it as government-forced savings.

All that said, we can never get rid of social security until we get rid of inflation. Even in periods of low inflation, it’s impossible for most people to save enough money for their old age. If we had a policy of low deflation, people could save so much that they wouldn’t care about the government’s small check.

Timothy Terrell July 12, 2006 at 9:45 am

Those who enjoyed Vedran Vuk’s excellent article might also enjoy this: http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/0304/030403terrell.php

Vince Daliessio July 12, 2006 at 9:48 am

Roger, you aren’t being cynical enough. The reason welfare is spread throughout the classes in the way it is has to do with the illusion of government effectiveness, and the lobbyings of the suppliers of the goods. Do you think poor people were clamoring for the wasteful, corrupt Food Stamp Program? Of course not, but the farmers and the chain stores sure were. This has nothing to do with the middle class – it’s simple corruption.

Besides, for my generation, Social Security and Medicare are illusions which will never fulfill their terrible cost. Most people I know undertand this, so it isn’t even an effective subsidy anymore.

Timothy Terrell July 12, 2006 at 9:50 am

Sorry, I don’t think that link on the last post of mine is working. Let me try again:

http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/0304/030403terrell.php

David C July 12, 2006 at 10:01 am

All that said, we can never get rid of social security until we get rid of inflation. Even in periods of low inflation, it’s impossible for most people to save enough money for their old age. If we had a policy of low deflation, people could save so much that they wouldn’t care about the government’s small check.

Not to mention the vast array of taxes that typically add up to 50% of ones income. Anyhow, the only way inflation is going to go away is if the fed goes away, and the only way the fed is going to go away is if there is a systemic economic collapse. (which with the current account deficit and over 230 trillion in notational derivatives – I am sure is on it’s way). Unfortunately you know that when this happens, the statists are going to come out screaming bloody murder that free markets are a failure. Fighting back this ignorance may very well be the defining political battle of the next century. IMHO, all hell is about to break loose.

Peter July 12, 2006 at 10:10 am

Helping the poor is an honorable thing to do,

Depends how you do it. If you help the poor with your own resources, sure; if you mug people at gunpoint on the street and use (some of) the money to help the poor, is that still an honorable thing to do?

Jeff Fisher July 12, 2006 at 10:28 am

Dear Sir:
I appreciate your article.

However, the problem does not necessarily lie with the State; it is found in the ideas embraced by the majority.

The majority of people in welfare states believe the State is the most appropriate means to the desired end.

As a result of this thinking, the State grows and one of the consequences is the weakening of the family.

Economics is not about value judgments (family good, State bad), but more about using praxeology to choose the most appropriate means to reach the desired end.

Mises “Theory and History” is a good resource.

Roger M July 12, 2006 at 11:15 am

Peter: “…if you mug people at gunpoint on the street and use (some of) the money to help the poor, is that still an honorable thing to do?”

The tale of Robin Hood still holds a place of honor in our culture. But I would guess what you had in mind was the state. For anarchists, the answer is obviously no, it’s not honorable. For us statists, yes, it’s still honorable. The first capitalist nation, the Dutch Republic, had no problem with helping the poor with tax money, but they had some stringent tests to make sure the people were truly poor and couldn’t help themselves. Families headed by single mothers and old people received direct aid of food, clothing and shelter. But if the family had a father or son who could work, the primary help was a job.

That’s the difference between traditional help for the poor and the modern leftist version. People used to help the poor out of concern for the poor. Today, it’s because they have the Marxist view that the wealthy have stolen from the poor and the state must redistribute the wealth.

The Dutch had an educational tool for working age men who refused to work and support their families. The put them in a tank with a water pump, then began slowly filling up the tank. If the prisoner pumped hard enough, he could keep from drowning.

Chris Meisenzahl July 12, 2006 at 11:21 am

Vedran’s columns have been top-notch lately. Keep up the good work!

Chris
http://amateureconblog.blogspot.com/

Don B July 12, 2006 at 11:56 am

Both a great article and a terrible article.

Great: The Founding Fathers often commented that without morality, a republic can’t stand. While I would agree, I would offer that freedom itslef tends to reinforce the virtues required to support it: if you don’t work, you don’t eat (productivity/independence/self responsibility); in general, if you rip people off, they won’t deal with you (honest/integrity).

Free people, I would suggest, probably tend to be more generous/charitable as well–it’s easier to feel good about other people when you know they have good values, are trying as hard as they can, and are not using force (government or otherwise) to violate your life.

Terrible: Even though for some it is the issue that trumps all issues, I fail to see the role for abortion in the piece-it distracts from the value of the argument that the welfare state erodes basic values (which could certainly include sexual irresponsiblity/lack of self respect, leading to greater demand for abortion, the morality of which is not an open and shut case).

One does not have an automatic duty to one’s parents (or anyone else for that matter) on any basis. You choose your friends, and you choose to have your children, but you don’t choose your parents and no obligation can or should be imposed upon you arbitrarily. Particularly if a parent was an abuser, you have no obligation. However, in the absence of obvious exceptions, I would assume good people would be inclined to value and help good parents (as I do), though it is not a “duty.”

The point someone made about inflation and its negative impact on personal success/life time sustainabilty is critical. Though it’s important to close the loop on the relationship between inflation and the welfare/warfare sate. In the absence of those, the pressure and motivation to inflate (in addition to open taxes) largely goes away. If the Anti-Christ (which I don’t actually believe in) were an institution, the U.S. Federal Reserve would be a great place to start looking. It may be the source of most social destruction, or at least the enabler.

Chris July 12, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Well written!

The following article compliments this one quite nicely:

http://mises.org/freemarket_detail.aspx?control=80

Alan Gifford July 12, 2006 at 1:25 pm

I would have to strongly disagree with Jeff Fisher’s argument that it is the mentality of the majority which cause the government to offer such welfare programs.

There are always going to be some people in a society that do not wish to pull their own weight. People working in government always and everywhere will lean towards a heightened idea of importance upon their (government) work, and will seek out ways to increase their importance and impact (control and “help” more people). All they need is a few people willing to accept what they’re offering, and little by little, the state will grow. Generation after generation will grow increasingly used to the presence of government control and activity, so each step seems like a small, reasonable one.

This is the way that government invades private life and changes–actively changes–the overall mentality of the people. They grew up with 90% of all this government activity already in place, and unless their parents very explicitly and vehemently denounced such activity (and sometimes even if they did), the children don’t even consider the possibility that all the previous government intrusions were unneccessary and harmful.

I agree that strength of culture and tradition can keep some government intrusions in check, but over time the state I think overcomes these ideological obsticles.

Vince Daliessio July 12, 2006 at 2:12 pm

Don B;

“Even though for some it is the issue that trumps all issues, I fail to see the role for abortion in the piece-it distracts from the value of the argument that the welfare state erodes basic values (which could certainly include sexual irresponsiblity/lack of self respect, leading to greater demand for abortion, the morality of which is not an open and shut case).”

I think Vedran meant to use the example as a technical aside and not a proof for his theorem. We can have very different views on the ultimate morality / libertarian acceptability of abortion, but surely we can all agree that government policies that have the effect of greatly increasing this unfortunate phenomenon are evil on their face, as are all government policies that have any effects on peoples’ lives or property.

Further, I think many of us who have personal objections to abortion suspect that the state has a very large impact on the market for the procedure, through economic, propagandistic, and other social means.

Tom Rapheal July 12, 2006 at 2:39 pm

Hey Robin Hood is a good guy. You forget that he stole from nobels, churhmen, etc. They got their money through taxes. So Robin Hood stole from the govornment and gave it bak to the taxpayers.

rhu July 12, 2006 at 2:51 pm

Thank you so much, Vedran & others who write for Mises.org, for helping open my eyes after a lifetime (~44 years) intoxicated by leftist propaganda!!

I’ve been visiting your site for ca. 1-1/2 year, reading the blog, Mises, Rothbard, Rockwell etc., and since then I’ve totally changed my way of thinking – from a “mild-leftie” full of doubts, carried away by Mainstream Mediocrity Media, into an ever-growing lover of individual freedom, free initiative, free-market economy and all positive values instilled by the Austro-Libertarian school.

This article is amazingly, scaringly mind-opening.

Keep up the excellent work !!

Regards from Rio/ Brazil.

Roger M July 12, 2006 at 3:48 pm

Welcome aboard, rhu!

Larry Ruane July 12, 2006 at 7:14 pm

Very good article. I think there’s also a connection here with the push for gay marriage. I am against any government involvement in marriage whatsoever (I’m a free market anarchist), but my understanding is that the institution of marriage arose through the centuries primarily as a way to give special recognition and status to the raising of children, since as Vedrun’s article points out, it was so important to do that job well before the advent of the welfare state.

In today’s welfare state, the raising of moral and productive children is far less important to the parents, so the job of being parents is considered less demanding and thereby accorded much less respect. Hence the general attitude has developed that gay couples (who, even though they can adopt, are much less likely to have children) are not much different from man and woman couples.

There are surely other factors at work as well, but I think this is a major one.

Mark Fulwiler July 12, 2006 at 7:28 pm

I have a freind with a good job who objects to libertarianism because he’s afraid of what would happen to his elderly mother if her government benefits were cut off. I doubt if he and his siblings would let the old lady starve on the street, but right now they don’t have to compromise their own personal lifestyles much. So they support the welfare state. (And this guy is Chinese-American, which shows you how the American welfare state has corrupted the family centered Chinese society. Almost nobody lets their elderly relatives live homeless in the street in even in the most impoverished parts of China—that would be considered shameful.)

Robert M. Lipshutz July 12, 2006 at 9:31 pm

Teh gentlemena makes some excellent points. However, permit a few objections:
1. Once the welfare state takes over, it is terribly difficult to convince people that what the state calls an entitlement should be taken away. As a practical matter, it is hard to undo a welfare state.
2. Not everyone has a good family. Even before welfare, both the difficult psychodynamics of individual families, as well as economic dislocations, made basing social policy solely on the familiy very difficult.
3. The point about no starving old people in the Depression has to be weighed against the issue that, in 1935, the median length of life in America was 62.

Peter July 12, 2006 at 9:43 pm

The tale of Robin Hood still holds a place of honor in our culture.

Robin Hood is much misunderstood. The common saying is that “stole from the rich and gave to the poor”, which is no doubt what you’re thinking of here – but it’s not true: read the story again – he took from the tax-takers – government and church officials, feudal landlords – and gave BACK to the tax-payers! Robin Hood was an anarcho-capitalist, not a socialist! :)

Peter July 12, 2006 at 9:51 pm

People used to help the poor out of concern for the poor.

In the previous paragraph you said they had to be robbed by the state to help the poor. Which was it? (If they had genuine concern for the poor, there would have been no need of robbery!)

The Dutch had an educational tool for working age men who refused to work and support their families. The put them in a tank with a water pump, then began slowly filling up the tank. If the prisoner pumped hard enough, he could keep from drowning.

Sounds like the sort of thing Statanists would do.

Jim Fedako July 12, 2006 at 10:43 pm

The public school system has indeed contributed to the break-up of the family by pushing the Progressive ideals of John Dewey, the noted father of the modern American education system and believer in collectivism and socialism. Dewey, and the other Progressives, adhered to Trotsky’s vision of the ideal superhuman that would arise from socialism and public education. The following quote from Dewey was made during his 1928 trip to Soviet Russia: “I have never seen anywhere in the world such a large proportion of intelligent, happy, and intelligently occupied children.” Impressions of Soviet Russia, by John Dewey. If you want to read more about John Dewey, head to Columbia University’s Teachers College web site where Dewey is still considered a hero.

Public schools, which teach the ideal of a state that has freed man from the burdens of traditional institutions, push a vision of the child untethered from any social norm and unconcerned about family and heritage.

Marco July 13, 2006 at 5:25 am

Great article. I only slightly disagree with the author where he criticises those who say they can’t afford to have children. This is perfectly possible today but it’s a result of the welfare state itself. For example a young British worker has to pay a lot of taxes and pension contributions but, since the link between earnings and pensions has been severed, he will only qualify for a “basic state pension” of about $130 a week when he retires, probably in his 70′s. Essentially young workers are robbed of their “pension contributions” which go towards paying the pensions of older workers, some of whom retired in their 50′s. In turn, this means that in order to provide for their old age both husband and wife have to work. If the wife is working she can’t look after the kids and, thanks to government intervention, child care has become so expensive it can cost a good average salary each year. This in turn means that responsible professional couples aren’t going to have many children, while people who live on state benefits are going to procreate the most. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this system can’t go on forever.
Compare that with my wife’s family. Her parents moved to the US decades ago from a poor Latin American country. They had several children and as soon as one was old enough (five or six) they were expected to work (nobody paid much attention back then). This didn’t prevent them from getting an education and they all live much more comfortable lives than their parents did.

Roger M July 13, 2006 at 9:02 am

Peter: “In the previous paragraph you said they had to be robbed by the state to help the poor.” That’s not what I wrote. I said it using tax money to help the poor is still honorable. Private charity is more honorable and to be preferred. I would give greater tax deductions to those who gave to charity.

Yes, I’m a Statanist. My lucky number is 666.

Roger M July 13, 2006 at 9:04 am

Marco:”It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this system can’t go on forever.”

Interesting post. Unfortunately, it can go on for a very long time. The USSR did it for 70 years.

Marco July 13, 2006 at 9:20 am

Not only that, but the Soviet Union didn’t have to collapse as early as it did. If Andropov had been succeeded by another bureaucrat à la Brezhnev (rather than by Gorbachev, after a brief interlude) the USSR would probably still be there.

Reactionary July 13, 2006 at 10:04 am

Robin Hood was an anarcho-capitalist, not a socialist!

He was an outlaw who stole the tithes and dues that belonged to the Church and to the feudal lords by Divine right.

(For anarcho-capitalists, every year is Year One.)

Reactionary July 13, 2006 at 10:16 am

Marco,

I disagree. Gorbachev was the Soviets’ last best hope, the only Central Committee member not in his dotage. But no matter who they elected, once people started trading in vodka and cigarettes instead of the ruble, the USSR could no longer buy the loyalty of the Red Army. Thus, once it became clear the military wouldn’t go out of their way to keep the lid on things, people shifted their allegiance back to their traditional nation-states as fast as you can say blood is thicker than water.

Vince Daliessio July 13, 2006 at 11:34 am

Reactionary quotes Peter;

“Robin Hood was an anarcho-capitalist, not a socialist!

He was an outlaw who stole the tithes and dues that belonged to the Church and to the feudal lords by Divine right.”

This reminds me of the hilarious (Carl) Reiner and (Mel)Brooks bit on debunking legends;

Interviewer (Reiner); “Did Robin Hood really steal from the rich and give to the poor?”

2000-Year-Old-Man (Brooks); “Naah, he stole from everybody and kept everything”.

Reactionary July 13, 2006 at 12:17 pm

The scene of Robin Hood and his Merry Men in “Time Bandits” is hilarious as well.

“Say ‘Good morning,’ scum!”

“Good morning scum.”

Tom Rapheal July 13, 2006 at 12:47 pm

Using tax money to help the poor is not honourable, it is robbery. Taking wealth from someone by force and giving it to someone else is still robbery. Tax breaks for giving to charity is robbery in a way since giving to charity does not affect to govornments budget but you still get the same benifits. If you want to give to charity it is an honourable thing but we should not be forced to pay part of the donation by making up for your tax break. Now, don’t get me wrong I hate taxes as much as anyone but if there are taxes every one should pay.

gary lammert July 13, 2006 at 5:11 pm

Limited

I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains
of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air
go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men
and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall
pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he
answers: “Omaha.

Kindly visit the Economic Fractalist

billwald July 13, 2006 at 10:24 pm

Any of you older people want to or are planning to live with your children if you become financially or physically unable to maintain your household? The Wife and I don’t want to (age 66). I’d rather sleep in a camper truck on the streets.
Not that the kids would not help but that it psychologically very hard to care for parents.

Marco July 16, 2006 at 6:42 pm

Reactionary: I disagree. Looking at North Korea or Cuba one can see it’s possible for socialist autocracies to stay in power even when the economy is doing pretty bad. All they have to do is crush their opposition ruthlessly and invent foreign enemies. In 1989 the Soviet economy was not much closer to a collapse than it had been ten years earlier. The collapse had political reasons: Gorbachev thought it would be possible to make the USSR more modern, tolerant and transparent, and keep the communist party in power at the same time. He wanted to get rid of the gerontocrats in the Warsaw pact states and make these states less dependent on Soviet subsidies, but didn’t realise they would then have no incentive to stay in the USSR’s orbit.

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