The Immorality of Welfare

Welfare enslaves both the giver and the taker.

In most religious traditions, self-determination is a foundational doctrine.  Without it, nothing else matters.

If we believe that our lives are predetermined, it’s hard to see that anything matters.  No matter which side of the political fence you’re on, you know that you do have choices over your own life.  Even atheists, who don’t believe in anything but the here and now, believe that our choices are ours and not predetermined by some external force.

Our ability to choose our thoughts, words, and actions is simply put - liberty.  The freedom to be who we want to be.

It really wasn't until the founding of this country that true liberty was available.  This country, particularly with the constitutional protections of liberty from government interference was unique... the first time in history that man was able to think, speak AND act as he wished, as long as those actions didn't infringe upon another's right to do the same.

This country protected an individual's liberty like no other.  In fact, our nation's history created a people who valued their liberty almost above everything else.

The Mormon prophet Joseph Smith stated:

We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

Smith shared the Founders' view of what the "good of society" meant (where the Founders used "general welfare" as their language).  In their time this language didn't mean what it has come to mean today.  It did not mean providing for individual needs.  James Madison stated:

With respect to the two words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.

All of that leads us to the purpose of our federal government:  to protect the liberty of its citizens.  Encroachments on liberty can come from without, but the most dangerous will come from within.

The 9th & 10th Amendments attempt to curb these encroachments, albeit rather unsuccessfully when the Supreme Court is packed with men & women who think otherwise.

Modern Welfare Is Unconstitutional

Today we live in a country where, even with the very best of intentions - though I have my doubts that all the intentions were honorable - we've changed the meaning of the word "welfare" in the Constitution.  This necessarily changed what we think are our rights.

Constitutionally, we are supposed to be free to act as we wish with without government interference except when we infringe upon the rights of others.  Unfortunately, many citizens see their rights as being primarily the freedom from being responsible for themselves and each other.

As government "welfare" has increased, so has its intrusion into our lives.  We are not nearly as free as we used to be.

Part of my freedom is lost when the fruit of my labor is taken without my consent to be given to another.  Part of my freedom is lost when government creates a law to protect me from myself, regardless of whether I might need such protection.  Does this not destroy my liberty?

Government has changed its purpose from protecting our liberties to providing necessities.  Two of Roosevelt's Four Freedoms, while noble, are not really liberties as they're classically understood.

  1. Freedom of speech and expression
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

In order for government to provide the latter two, the first two eventually must be violated, along with many of our other natural and constitutionally protected rights of self determination.  Government must take from you if it is to give to me; it cannot do anything else because it produces nothing of itself.

When government takes from you in any form, does this not make you a slave?  If you complain about this theft and attempt to fight against it, government must necessarily silence you so that it can keep taking from you.   

Yes, all should be free from want and free from fear, but these freedoms cannot be imposed or granted by government.  They can only be brought about by individuals working on their own behalf or in the interest of their friends and dear ones.  In the end, government creates a fear - the very thing it claims to protect against - in its efforts to provide a freedom from want.

What about those who cannot take care of themselves?  You and I are indeed responsible for them.  Not collectively, where that responsibility can be easily shrugged off, but individually, or through voluntary groups, like churches, that we freely join (and leave).

Government provision of welfare in any form, including the corporate welfare of business subsidies, creates a perverse set of incentives - not just for those receiving the subsidies, but for those administering them.  Where the goal of a private organization is to help as many people to become self-reliant as possible, government welfare bureaucrats try to increase their dependents so they can continue to justify their employment.

Once the government starts handing out money, the market begins to be distorted.  Helping farmers, upon whose success we're dependent, is noble, but government is not the organization to do it.

Helping the elderly who haven't save enough and don't have children can't be done with a Ponzi scheme like Social Security, which will eventually and unavoidably fail due to demographics.  But its structural integrity isn't the point - the point is that it is simply wrong to force us to participate against our will even if it is supposed to be for our own good.  Helping the elderly can can, and should, only be done by you and me.

Our healthcare system is distorted by government intervention in the way of tax codes, Medicare, Medicaid and regulations.  We're all forced into a system that costs too much with too few choices, then blame the insurance companies for the rules foisted upon them by government.

One group or company is favored over another and the grand game begins.  In time everyone's freedom is limited and, as Orwell wrote "all animals are equal, it's just that some are more equal than others".  Those with access to those who make the rules are the ones who collect the wealth.

Cures Worse than the Disease

One might say "Isn't the government a group of citizens acting in the best interest of the whole?  Why can't the government provide for those in need if the citizens decide it's the best thing?"  Isn't there a "social contract" that makes us responsible for each other.

No.  There are at least a few reasons why governments should not be in the welfare business.

First, when we use a church or other organization to help provide for those in need our contribution is entirely voluntary.  We choose how much and who to give.  We use our liberty to make a choice (arguably, a morally correct choice) to help those who need help the most.  The idea of a "social contract" is illogical.  In order for us to participate in a contract, it must be voluntary.  Unless we can choose the circumstances of our birth, we cannot be compelled to participate in some arbitrary idea of a "social contract".  Requiring us to behave a certain way is a form of slavery.

When government is used, our "contributions" are involuntary: we cannot choose how much or who to give to, and our liberty is compromised.

We have the right to exercise our conscience with regard to military service, yet we're not allowed the same liberty with welfare services?

Secondly, we're human beings.  Government employees are no different than any other human.  As a result, the natural inclination to get as much as we can for as little effort as possible.

History has shown that when there is no incentive to be frugal, wise and judicious we aren't - especially with other people's money.  We can spend other people's money on others without any thought for it's source.

This pernicious effect is even worse on those who receive the aid, because they quickly become dependent upon it.  The dole destroys the human spirit.  Just look at what happens to people who are on unemployment for two years.

Governments have no incentive to remove people from the dole, or dependency.  Non-governmental agencies do their best to keep people off of it.

We also have history to teach us what happens to socialist societies of every kind: they all tend towards collapse as more people take out than put in.  Full communism makes it happen faster than socialism, but they all go in that direction.  Even the seeming utopias of Europe are on the verge of societal collapse.

Socialism rots our incentive to personally serve each other and creates selfishness.  This selfishness is seen in birthrates plummeting and virtual anarchy when "benefits" are taken away, no matter how lavish and, truthfully, unearned.

Third, welfare in any of its forms distorts the market.  Over time this distortion leads to severe economic distress.  The ultimate examples are communist states current and past: their economies failed and collapsed.

Fourth, forced welfare, which is what all government programs are, causes contention.  It causes people who receive to feel the right to it, and when it's denied they're terribly upset.  For those from whom it is taken, resentment builds that they are being obligated to help others, often others who truly aren't deserving of it.

Those who get the help resent those who give it, and those who give it begin to resent those who take it.  Doesn't this seem like the circumstance we're in today?

Yes, it's terribly immoral to not provide for the poor.  But it's even more immoral to require you to provide for the poor; taking without consent is simple theft regardless of motive.

It's immoral to not pay a fair wage, but it's more immoral to have minimum wage laws - they are on their face theft, and also distort the employment market by pricing out the most vulnerable and least qualified.

It's immoral to not provide essential healthcare, but it's more immoral to create a which system denies providers and patients the right to freely exchange for the services.  Our current tax policy and third party payment systems make slaves and dependents of us all, doctor and patient, rich and poor.

Tax policies are the same... we favor one group over another.  People who buy homes are favored over those who do not.  People who invest one way are favored over those who invest a different way.  These distort the market and entire system of free exchange between people.

No group should be "more exempt" than another group, regardless of income.

How does this happen?  We allow people to be bought and sold, not literally, but by not holding responsible those who are elected.  There should be no social engineering efforts through tax policy, which are intentionally manipulated to favor one group, industry, or business over another.  This is wrong and unconstitutional.

A Fearful Reckoning

The Civil War was fought over liberty - not just slavery (the ultimate denial of liberty), but of one group of states (the North) to have the right to NOT accept slavery.  The South wanted legislation that required the North to return escaped slaves.  The North was being required to accept that which they held as immoral.

Their freedom of conscience was violated - they would be slaves to the ideas of others.  When one group imposes its will on another, trouble will follow, no matter how moral that imposition may appear on its face.

This country was founded upon protecting the liberty of its citizens.  Social welfare states, of any form, slowly, incrementally, almost undetectably remove our liberty.  Because of the violation of our individual agency, any legislation that removes that liberty  must be guarded against.

To reiterate Joseph Smith:

We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

For the last 100 years our "right and control of property" has been slowly eroded.  Our rights to the "free exercise of conscience" are being slowly deteriorated with them.

Is it no wonder that governments no longer exists in peace?  These natural rights have been violated with new "rights" supplanting them.  These violations were most often done with noble purpose - or at least that's how they were sold.

No matter how noble, how well intentioned we may be, using the force of government to provide for those who need at whatever level is a violation of liberty.  People will not tolerate their liberties being taken from them very long.  History teaches this.  Today, we can either return to liberty and true unabridged freedom, along with its very real consequences of success and failure.

Or, we face the chaos and war that is the natural conclusion of socialism in any form.

Fennoman is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Fennoman or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

The chaos and war are the two things wanted by the owners of our government, and, it seems, the owners of most of the other governments of the world.
For how many years was Ezra Pound jailed for uttering three words? And more important what were the three words?
The answer to the first question is, I believe 20 years. And without a trial. The answer to the second is, "Debt is slavery."
George Washington at one point had secured a loan at interest, of three million florins. The lenders became the real owners of this so-called free nation at its very inception.
The ideas of a free people is, as you say, a noble one. But those to whom our government has sold us are not noble. They are the weak and ignorant. Roosevelt said we should be free from fear. He was the one with the fear. The average men and women were not in fear. Thomas Jefferson was not in fear. The only people who are in fear are the leaders of the various governments and churches. They are the ones with the bullet proof cars and squads of guards. And they have reason to fear. They have made many enemies.
David Rockefeller is so powerless that someone has to push him around in a wheelchair. Our fearless golfer cannot enjoy our Rose Garden without it first being secured by a phalanx of armed men and women. But those poor benighted folks are the ones who are really enslaved. They are the slaves of their own fear and greed.
This nation was at its inception, doomed to failure. And unless we tell the banksters we are not going to pay, we will fail.
Thank you,
Robert Walker

August 29, 2011 10:42 AM

What does this comment have to do with the article? Nothing. Don't threadjack again.

August 29, 2011 10:56 AM

There was a large fire in Georgetown, which Crockett and several congressmen observed while standing on the steps of the capitol and rushed to assist in its extinguishing. The fire had occurred during the winter and the weather was cold and many families had lost everything, save the clothes on their backs. Crockett’s sympathy was piqued and so too was the sympathy of many in congress, and the next day a bill was introduced and passed wherein $20,000 was appropriated for their relief. Crockett states that this had made him feel very good, though there were a few who had maintained that the congress did not have the authority to spend the people’s money on such a program, but Crockett says he was pleased to have his name on the journals stating that he had been in favor of the bill’s passage.

The next summer, Crockett is preparing for a re-election bid and wanted to let the people of the district know that he had not forgotten them so he decides to take a little time and visit the folks in the district. I think it is interesting to note his own words: “I put a couple of shirts and a few twists of tobacco in my saddlebags and put out.” He goes on to tell of being out in the outlying areas of his district where he is likely to be less known when he chances upon a man plowing his field. He times his arrival to coincide with the farmer’s turn for the next furrow and starts a conversation with the farmer. Davy starts to introduce himself as a candidate for congress and the man tells him, “I know you; Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine. I shall not vote for you again.” Crockett wants to know why. The farmer then proceeds to tell Crockett he has serious doubts about his understanding of the Constitution or his honesty because either of which were grounds enough for him not to vote for Crockett again. He then apologizes for having to tell Crockett this, and he tells Davy that the Constitution must be, “held sacred and rigidly observed if it is to mean anything for if the man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.” Crockett informs the gentleman that he has made great efforts to learn the Constitution and would never vote for anything that was outside the Constitution and finishes by stating that there must be some mistake with regard to his voting record. The farmer tells Davy, “No Colonel, there’s no mistake. Though I live in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I read the Washington papers and read very carefully all the proceeding of Congress. My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?” Davy says sure it’s true and adds, “I thought it would be the last vote anybody in the world would find fault with.” The farmer then asks Davy, “Where do you find in the Constitution any authority to give away the public money in charity?” Davy cedes the farmer is correct, that there isn’t any provision in the Constitution for the giving of moneys, but offers the argument, “couldn’t the man agree that a great and rich country like this could spare $20,000 to relieve the pain and suffering of women and children” asking, “Wouldn’t you have done the same?”

The rest on the next comment

August 29, 2011 9:20 PM

The farmer explains, “It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.” Davy then says he was convinced he had done wrong. The old farmer sums it up according to Davy with the following: “Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you.” Davy then says: “Well my friend, you hit the nail on the head when you said that I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it full. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said there at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head in the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.”

August 29, 2011 9:21 PM

When the Constitution was written it was done with the provision that the states had sovereignty. The states could decide if the federal government had passed laws that they could not live with and therefore secession was an election that they could take. There were several states on New England that had strong secession movements in the first 50 years of our country's life and it still remains today with Vermont at the front of this movement. The Civil War destroyed state's rights but did make it go away. It is strange to me how our government could lecture the old Soviet Union about a country that was under its control, Georgia for example, to allow these people the right to pursue their own future. We Americans are different? Why can Ohio or Wyoming or California or Florida not be allowed to leave the Union in peace if that was the wish of its citizenry?

A russian KGB analyst, Igor Panarin predicts the breakup of the mainland US into 4 parts with Alaska going to Russia and Hawaii going to Japan/China. This is what happens when the political class destroys the country with entitlements.

If we were to have full states rights again we could keep our country together, with out those rights we are sure to implode.

August 29, 2011 9:40 PM

I'm not sure what "threadjack" means.
My point is that from the inception of our Republic, not a democracy, we were in debt. The debt at first was from Spain and the bankers there.
The chaos of which you speak is now at our doorstep.
Roving bands of hooligans in Philadelphia, so blatant and violent the main stream media has finally started reporting it. Not to mention the riots in other nations.
The socialism now in our country is the purpose of the loans, and the goal is to destroy our country. Just as your last line implies. "Or we face the chaos and war that is the natural conclusion of socialism in any form."
I was agreeing with you, and pointing out when it started.
Thank you,
Robert Walker

August 29, 2011 9:50 PM

Are you American out of curiosity? I will assume that you are from your comments on Social Security.
Some of your ideas seem good, but then you take them way too far in my opinion, and distort them.
You may not realize it, which seems strange because it seems obvious to me,
but you are in many parts of this article simply recommending another form of slavery. Instead of slavery to governments, to the obscenely rich.
You talk about how wrong it is to tax people, but if the grotesquely rich are not taxed proportionately, their wealth continues to expand indefinitely through investing and trading and the growth of their company [which does not grow by the hard work of a CEO for example], while the rich few are leeching off the hard work of others [which seems to be a concern of yours in this article, so you should direct it towards this problem too].

I am from Australia. I work for minimum wage. I am quite happy for parts of my wage to be taxed and put into such things as medicare [our public medical fund] and other such things [try paying for unexpected expensive surgery that will save your life or save you pain that you can't nearly afford, then see how you feel about this topic].

I am appalled at some of the places where my taxes go, such as wars that don't need to be fought, but I am happy for them to go towards things that aid us all.
And that should more-or-less be the model of taxes.

In America, your minimum wage is itself close enough to slave wages [actually, I will come right out and call it that], and you propose to take this right to a pittance away from your working citizens?
No wonder so many people are on welfare over there. Why bother to get a shitty minimum wage job when you can do just as well for yourself on welfare? What incentive is there? When you work for some big chain store or a factory producing goods for $7 an hour, and all the money you make from the goods you produce or distribute goes to some rich fat blob who makes nothing and does not much himself, where is the incentive in that?

I do not mean to be rude, but basically,
I think your model is horrible. Sounds like another nightmare scenario.

America is somewhere between the two poles you are discussing anyway.
Stripped of liberties unless you are filthy rich, you have all the liberty then.

December 16, 2011 3:47 AM

Dear Thing,

If the American model is so horrible why are so many people trying to copy it? The beauty of our system one can work for a, as you describe him/her though incorrectly, rich fat blob. You can take the best of what he does and then go out on your own and compete and win against him/her if your way/idea is better. That is called capitalism and the more it is practiced in its pure form the wealthier everyone is. If you want for the line worker to make as much as the rich fat blob then you are talking about some form of communism. As for the rich fat blob sitting around doing nothing that would be the exceptional rare case. A vast majority of these rich fat blobs work many more hours and do not leave the job at the gate when they go home, they have too much responsibility for their business, their suppliers and their employees. If the rich fat blob didn't create the business what job would the worker have? You have your priorities wrong, the rich fat blob should be the hero in his town and someone to be admired and praised. This however is not the way things are as wealth envy is created by those who can't or won't. They would rather for someone else to take care of them, in your case, the government which ironically is the cruelest form of slavery.

December 16, 2011 9:22 AM

I consent to the government taking my money to give to those in need, but it is true I do not consent to my money being used to pay for war. This is a republic not a true democracy, and I don't see how to make it be one.

June 23, 2012 1:01 PM

A democracy will take your money from you use it for things that are against your will. We ceased being a republic when we imposed the income tax, and created the Fed and the popular election of senators about 100 years ago which was contrary to the Constitution. We will not return to a republic because there are too many moochers and as a result, too few producers. This slide will continue until we as a country implode. No one will vote to cut themselves off from a government check because after all, it's free money isn't it?

June 23, 2012 2:39 PM
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