Friday, February 28, 2014

A "Liberal" Newspaper Acknowledges the Welfare State Dilemma

The NJ Star-Ledger had an interesting editorial on February 7, 2014; interesting, that is, because it was penned by a "liberal" newspaper. It is titled ObamaCare's collateral damage.

Citing a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study that says ObamaCare will result in a reduction in work hours equivalent to 2.5 million jobs, the editors say the study "points to a fundamental problem in America’s approach to its welfare state; . . . that low-wage workers will lose subsidies as their earnings increase, giving them less incentive to work hard and climb the income ladder. Much of what they gain in earnings, in other words, they will lose in subsidies."

"This," say the editors, "is a problem liberals need to face squarely . . ."

The Star-Ledger is a Left-of-center newspaper. So it's refreshing to hear self-described "liberals" acknowledge the obvious. The welfare state—aka mixed economy—the editors (surprisingly) concede, discourages self-supporting, productive work.

The editors' conclusion is also surprising. They acknowledge that this state of affairs is unsustainable. So, where do we go from here? "There are," say the editors with surprising candor,

. . . two possible solutions to this, neither perfect. One is to simply cut these programs, allowing low-income families to fend for themselves.

The other approach is to provide universal benefits, as Canada and Western Europeans nations favor. The catch is that it is enormously expensive and requires higher taxes.

Once again, the Star-Ledger is spot-on. It's either/or. It is here that they go off the rails, and expose their true intentions:

We can find a middle ground by tweaking means-tested programs so that benefits phase out more gradually and extend to higher incomes. But eventually, as efforts to help low-wage families increase, any means-tested approach will hit the same wall.
The real solution is to help people earn more money in the first place.

After essentially saying there is no middle ground, they propose a middle ground—or did they? 

The welfare state is an unstable mess that must ultimately progress toward a fully free society or collapse into "universal benefits"; i.e., undiluted socialism. This is true whether you're talking about healthcare in particular or the economy as a whole. All welfare states are in this boat. (Canada and Western Europe are not socialist states. They are also mixed economies. Despite the editors' implications, these states face the same either/or alternatives as the United States.) The welfare state is the "liberals'" middle ground between socialism and capitalism—or full tyranny and full liberty. But there is no such thing, in the long run, as a middle between the two. Ultimately, you have to choose one or the other, and the long run has arrived or soon will. 

The reason is simple: The nature of government intervention into the economy is that each intervention creates perverse incentives that lead to more problems, which then have to be rectified with more interventions, in a never-ending cycle of government intervention, culminating—if not reversed—in total government control. As liberty exhibit #1, I give you ObamaCare.

I'm convinced that most "liberals" sincerely do not want totalitarian socialism. But the logic of their welfare state premises leads directly to that end. To repeat what the editors acknowledge in the beginning of this editorial, the welfare state is inherently unstable and faces two basic alternatives; reduce it or expand it.

"[T]his . . . report," conclude the editors, ". . . should serve as a warning on the limitation of the welfare state." But, limited by what. "Limit" implies principles. The principles that the welfare state is built upon is that need is the moral standard of government policy and that we are all our brothers' keepers. They are not limiting principles. They are an open-ended invitation for any group asserting a need to demand a government-enforced claim on others' wealth. Since human needs are endless, there's no stopping this juggernaut. On what basis can anyone object to any group asserting a need, once they've accepted the role of their brothers' keepers? 

As proof, I give you the editors' "solution" to the disincentive problem created by the welfare state; a "middle ground" proposal that would "tweak" the programs "so that benefits phase out more gradually and extend to higher incomes"—in other words, expand the welfare state. It is just another step toward totalitarian socialism. Notice that "liberals" are always talking about "moderation" and "compromise." But in reality, they will only accept a middle ground that advances the ball toward a bigger welfare state. (The editors "real solution . . . to help people earn more money in the first place" is laughable. How do you do that without reducing the disincentive to work—which means, reducing the welfare state, which the editors already reject?)

In reality, there is only one principle that can limit the welfare state; the recognition of each individual's right to his own life—the base of all rights, which sanction the individual's right to take whatever actions one's own judgement deems necessary to the maintenance and furtherance of one's own life. The only "limits" to those actions is the responsibility to respect and not violate the same rights of others. In fact, the moral principle of individual rights is not a limit on welfare statism. It forbids any degree of welfare statism, or statism in any form. 

So, the ultimate choice is either/or; either laissez-faire capitalism or totalitarian socialism. The  principles underpinning both systems have their own inexorable logic that leads in opposite directions, ultimately to their own inescapable end.


In my comments, I left this challenge:

So the editors solution to the welfare state dilemma is to expand the welfare state. Well, in the spirit of compromise, how about a middle ground that expands liberty? We could start with healthcare. Milton Wolf, GOP senate candidate from Kansas, has proposed replacing ObamaCare with PatientCare. PatientCare preserves Medicare and Medicaid, but removes many interventionist government policies that led to the problems ObamaCare was meant to "fix." The "liberals" are always calling for Republicans to offer an alternative. Well, here's oneLet's see if they give it the respect it deserves. 

I posted a link to PatientCare in the comments section of the Star-Ledger website. I did not receive a reply.

Related Reading:

ObamaCare's Promise of "Freedom" From Work Paid for by Others is Parasitism
American Economy is Not "Left to its own devices"

Milton Wolf’s PatientCare: A Sensible Alternative to ObamaCare

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