RE: Didn't need no welfare state (Was: Re: news...)

From: Billy Brown (
Date: Tue Apr 18 2000 - 16:14:31 MDT

Emlyn (pentacle) wrote:
> Maybe you can look at welfare this way:
> Givens:
> - There is always going to be a segment of the population which is "dead
> weight", ie not able to support itself. This seems a fairly reasonable
> to me, but if you don't agree, speak up!

True, but with two very important caveats:

1) In the past, or in the third world today, there may be a significant
number of relatively functional people who are unable to find work. In
modern-day America this is not the case - even the most unskilled laborer
can easily find work at a convenience store, fast food joint or other
low-wage venue if he or she chooses to do so. The only adults who are ever
going to be genuinely unable to find work are those who are so mentally
impaired as to be unable to function in normal society, those who are too
ill to be physically capable of doing light manual labor, and those who have
such a long criminal history that they are unable to persuade anyone to hire
them. These groups need to be considered, but they are far smaller than the
class of people who are usually considered "dead weight".

2) The fraction of the population that is self-supporting is not fixed, but
rather it is inversely proportional to the amount of welfare a society
offers. There is always a small group of people who sit on the dividing line
between "self supporting" and "dead weight", and any form of government
social assistance, no matter how modest or how narrowly targeted, will tip
some of them over into the "dead weight" side of the scales. This is how the
vicious cycle of welfare creating poverty which begets more welfare gets its

I would suggest that any government welfare program is going to run afoul of
#2, and the way the political process works ensures that it will quickly end
up having a net negative effect. You might be able to get away with
government-run insane asylums and orphanages, but those are about the only
places where the dividing line between the needy and the moochers seem sharp
enough to survive protracted lobbying by special interests.

OTOH, the fraction of the population that would not be covered by those two
measures, and is not in trouble due to habitual criminal behavior, should be
extremely small. Add in the fact that most of them would only be facing
temporary problems (due to illness), and it seems reasonable to expect that
private charity would be sufficient to help them. If you really want a
government program to be involved, I'd suggest you look at special tax
breaks rather than direct funding.

Billy Brown

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