Interestingly, what is being pointed out as the largest hole in my argument
for the economic desirability of welfare, is my premise that a next
generation is necessary, or at least desirable. With that premise removed, I
indeed have no case.
I'll paraphrase the arguments received so far, and in doing so destroy
subtle points raised by others and demonstrate my lack of understanding.
Mike seems to be supporting me (?) below by pointing out that the middle and
upper classes aren't interested in reproducing, but also makes his initial
argument that DINKS can make it on their own, they don't need no stinking
Brian Williams says that if you commit crime then you go to jail (always),
and so the cost of crime cannot be compared to welfare. However, then you
effectively have welfare, just with more unpleasant side effects for all
involved, and higher costs (see Mike's post below). He also says we don't
need to seperate "true" welfare cases from "faking" welfare cases; just
leave 'em all out in the cold. Most interestingly, he points out that I have
not supported my claim that children provide any benefit to anyone except
their parents (and perhaps to themselves).
Billy Brown says that you can in fact seperate true charity cases from
pretend ones (presumably with some kind of Slacker-O-Scope).
I don't believe that you can effectively seperate slackers from the unfit by
any means other than removing the safety net, and seeing who starves (those
were the unfit). This is the same basic method used to detect witches: Throw
the defendant in the lake, bound hand and foot; if he/she floats (ie:
survives), he/she is a witch. Humanitarian concerns aside (I hope to leave
such concerns out of this argument entirely), you run the risk of uprising
by the disenfranchised. But then, perhaps the slackers have joined the army,
and the disenfranchised are after all the unfit, so there's no real problem.
If you are not prepared to go so far, then you must have a method of
seperating slackers from true charity cases, or wear the overhead of
supporting slackers. I do not accept that anyone has demonstrated a
reasonable method of slacker seperation (the method mentioned above classing
as an unreasonable method). If you feel that you can provide such, then I'm
interested to hear it.
A fundamental premise of mine in support of welfare for non-self supporting
families is as follows:
Children provide benefit to individuals in the same society other than
themselves and their immediate family. More strongly, all individuals derive
benefit from future generations at such time as those generations reach
working age, barring those who do not survive to this point.
This premise was challenged by Mike and Brian - thank you both. I have
(erroneously) taken this as given, and need to provide some support.
Here's a stab at supporting the premise above:
We are looking at a future time when those of working age today are self
supporting retirees. That is, these individuals possess some form of
capital, but do not contribute services, or at least not in equal proportion
to their consumption of services.
Did these self supporting retirees provide a next generation, or not? If
they did, then this next generation, now forming the bulk of the workforce,
provide services as required by the economy (and mostly by those with
capital). In this environment, capital has a reasonable value in terms of
services; those with capital can use it to acquire services; those who can
provide services can gain capital.
If there was no next generation established, so that there are only, or
mostly, individuals of retirement age, all self funded, with large
accumulated stores of capital, then there is an undersupply of service. So
the value of capital compared to services becomes very small. The small to
non-existant working age population can demand outrageously high prices in
return for their services, because of this undersupply. What do the self
funded retirees do about this?
They can provide the services themselves. This takes them out of the league
of retirees and puts them back into the workforce. This is a positive move,
but may not be everyone's desire for later life; after all, why did they
accumulate that vast supply of capital in the first place, if they cannot
retire on it?
Or, they can ship in a workforce from other countries; there are sure to be
workers somewhere who want a slice of this great pile of dollars. However,
these workers come from somewhere; what is happening in this case is that
your entire nation is free-riding on the work of other nations, by creaming
off the brightest of their workforce for yourself, whilst never having to
contribute to the training and support which produced them. This happens
today, of course; western nations only take the really skilled & educated
migrants if they can help it; there is no compensation for this brain drain.
Another possibility is to automate all services; thus, we don't need a
workforce. A truly lights-out workforce, as envisaged by Drexler with
nanotech+AI, will do some very funny things to the economy, not to mention
other side effects of singularity. I don't presume to be able to predict the
outcome of the singularity, and so cannot present any useful analysis of
this case (which is a pity; it looks like this is the way things are
actually going). Any lesser automation of the service side of the economy
will leave a substantial need for brain work which would become enormously
expensive, as above. See the IT industry (hurrah!) for an early example of
Possibly the undersupply of people to provide services would be alleviated
by a combination of lesser-than-nanotech/AI automation and of the skilled
and aged staying in the workforce to provide the harder mental service work.
However, even in this economy I wouldn't like to be planning to be a self
funded retiree, unless I'd accumulated a very, very big fund base for my
retirement. Mostly retirees need services, and as retiree demand would be
the major factor in the economy, these services would go sky-high.
I have tried to demonstrate above that the children born now will provide
high indirect benefit to those currently active in the economy, by way of
showing the drop in the value of accumulated capital in comparison to
services, if those children are not present. This translates to saying that
there is a high, high cost of not having those children present. Future
generations do indeed provide benefit to those alive now, including those
who pay and those free-riders who do not.
The only way around this is to
- take over the job of the future generations yourself (work forever),
- poach future generations from elsewhere (and thus free-ride in any
- or to move to uber-automation, and thus the singularity.
Myself, I'd say "Bring on the singularity"! But I'll still bet on future
generations being useful.
Tele-brain-drainee, currently sucking capital out of countries who forgot to
train people to do useful work. Whoops!
Disclaimer: Any similarity of the postor to anyone with training in
economics, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.
----- Original Message -----
From: Michael S. Lorrey <email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, April 20, 2000 5:37 AM
Subject: Re: Didn't need no welfare state (Was: Re: news...)
> The DINKS and others need to be free to develop their own retirement
> rather than having their wealth siphoned off by the welfare state. If they
> this, they won't need much of a next generation to pay for their
> A criminal in prison, depending on the location, costs from $30,000.00 to
> $60,000.00 a year to house. A person on welfare makes between $14,000.00
> $35,000.00, again depending on location, dependents, etc.. counting the
> bureaucratic overhead on that welfare tab, you are talking about a $28k to
> overall cost per year to keep someone on welfare. Many of the state
> 'workfare' programs are similarly expensive, typically such programs spend
> minimum of $100,000.00 for every low level job they place a welfare
> in. Part of that is subsidies to the employer, part overhead, etc.
> Abortion in the US, by a large margin, has become not a means by which a
> income single woman can end a pregnancy to prevent bring a child into a
> life (though that is still present), it is mostly a method by which
> well to do middle and upper class women can eliminate any possible drag on
> careers and upwardly mobile lifestyle. Look up the numbers for yourself.
> and upper class single women abort more frequently per capita than poor
> Here's a link on abortion opinions by class:
> While heres an indication that the reasons women have for abortion have
> to do with the health of the mother or baby, or that they were victims of
> although this one does say that 68% of women state that they 'can't
> baby right now', they don't explain what that means, whether its truly an
> thing, or whether they can't afford the impact it will have on their
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