Welfare Rights are Wrong

As I post this, I do so with some inner conflict as is always the case with these types of principled arguments  I am on SSI and Medicaid because of disabling medical conditions. My principles though, run counter to this. I hate using other people’s money when it is taken from them by force. I believe Social Security Taxes and Income Taxes are intrinsically evil and cannot remember a time when I did not think so.

Yet, here I am needing them, in part because those same taxes are a disincentive for voluntary charity. I have always believed that Churches and local organizations would be much better at helping those in need than any government ever could. Individuals are even better.  (E)

By Tibor Machan

Dr. Tibor Machan

Ever since John Locke developed the theory of natural individual human rights, there has been an ongoing attempt to change his idea to something very different.

For Locke the natural rights all human beings have are basically prohibitions. They forbid people from intruding on other people − from killing, assaulting, kidnapping, robbing them and so forth. In the field of political theory they are referred to as negative rights. They hold up a sign to all concerning invading people’s lives and spheres and insist: “Halt! You need permission to enter!”

This can be well appreciated when one considers that throughout much of history ordinary folks had been viewed as subjects, not sovereign citizens. A subject is one who must follow the dictates of some master or superior. Kings have subjects who must obey their will! Once this fiction is abandoned, it becomes clear that all adult human beings are independent agents, no one’s subject!

But, of course, many insist that such sovereignty is highly objectionable because it leaves it to the individual whether he or she will give support to others and their various projects. Involuntary servitude is ruled out if we are all sovereign citizens rather than subject to the will of a king, tsar, or ruler. Even the majority may not ignore this fact about us, so democracy is properly limited to some very few matters once the sovereignty of individuals is acknowledged.

But by introducing the idea of welfare or positive rights, we are back in the old system since a positive right imposes an enforceable obligation on one to provide others with goods and services, never mind what one chooses to do. Thus, if people have a positive right to health care or insurance or education or housing or a job, they must be provided with this, just as when their right to life or liberty is recognized, they must not be interfered with.

One’s basic rights impose obligations on everyone not to violate them. But negative rights only impose an obligation to treat others without resorting to coercion, without using them against their will. Involuntary servitude counters this and sanctions violating such rights as to one’s life, liberty, property, etc., holding that we are born with enforceable obligations of various sort of services to others − God, the state, our neighbors, etc. Instead of seeing us all as free and independent persons, the positive rights doctrine re-affirms the ancient idea that we do not have a life of our own.

The more modern idea is that while we ought to be generous and charitable, this has to be something we choose! The only way our moral nature is protected and preserved is if the right things we ought to do are done voluntarily, not forcibly imposed by others.

The basic point here is that the doctrine of positive or welfare rights stands on its head John Locke’s insight about the status of an adult human being in a human community, an insight that had been growing in influence in America and the West until recently. But instead of relying on people’s good will and generosity to help out those in need of various goods and services, the positive or welfare rights doctrine reintroduces the old regime that people in society aren’t free agents but serfs. (Here is the main point of F. A. Hayek‘s superb book, The Road to Serfdom [Routledge, 1944] in which he critiques the modern welfare state!)

Tibor R. Machan holds the R.C. Hoiles Chair in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise at the Argyros School of Chapman University.

8 responses to “Welfare Rights are Wrong

  • Pete

    Some would advocate the use of welfare programs to bleed the beast,….

    We don’t need to worry about scarcity in an economy based on plenty, that we are trapped in a scarcity economy is the problem.

    Click to access The_Conquest_of_Bread.pdf

    Ok, ok, the real problem is that you haven’t read this book and conviced your friends to join with us in the advocacy of gift based economies,….

    I advocate a system where we all help each other, in this case we wouldn’t have to worry about where the rent or supper was coming from,…

    • ephraiyim

      Pete-I did not read the book, but I did skim it. What it comes down to for me is this. Any system that is not voluntary will, of necessity, require force and violence against those persons who would prefer not to participate.

      That is why all forms of government are always intrinsically evil because eventually to perpetuate themselves they must use force to persuade the populace to follow their leadership.

      Anarcho-Freemarkets work because people form voluntary associations based on need and desire rather than force. Mutual benefit always produces mutual care and wealth as each person contributes what they can to a community. Those who are unable are cared for by those who voluntarily desire to care for the needy.

      Those communities that would prefer to have a system similar to the one your author advocates, or any other for that matter, would be free to do so as all individuals would be at liberty to move wherever they found those who were of most like-mindedness.

      Any system, including the one we currently live under, that in any way inhibits free association and movement-read the internet-is oppressive and will eventually fail.

      Any system that involuntarily requires it’s people to participate in providing for others will also fail as that is robbery in the final analysis and thieves eventually receive their rewards. That is God’s law.

      Whether a nation or an individual all thieves and murderers eventually pay. He is often merciful with individuals. Almost Never with nations since national leaders rarely repent for their murder and thievery.

      You do not want to be advocating any system that requires any person to help any other person against their will.

    • Pete

      Ephraiyim, I don´t think that many people would opt out of a system that makes access to all consumer goods a matter of going to the warehouse and picking up your order. I’m afraid that in skimming you may have missed the earth shaking ideas, or maybe because you are versed in revolutionary thought it had less emphasis to you. Perhaps this book will help,…http://www.thevenusproject.com/downloads/ebooks/looking%20backward.pdf

      Think what the reaction of the 1% would be if the 99% told them to take a hike, went to the store, got what they wanted, AND went to work tommorrow just like it was a normal day.

      It wouldn´t be normal, all the banksters, their lawyers, and everybody else not directly involved in producing consumer goods would be in need of socially important work,…like weeding the garden, or watering the hemp,…anything but profiting from the poverty and weakness of others.

      Any system that leaves wage slavery intact will also fail,…

      • ephraiyim

        I have begun to read this book and it is interesting. I do not believe that most people would choose to opt out either. I think that most of us, as we do not really know ourselves unless we have been tested, would prefer to have someone, ergo the government bear responsibility for us. For although I like the idea of personal responsibility and accountability the actualization of those ideas is another thing entirely.
        As for the 1%, frankly, there are far more people than that who are not in “socially important” work. Every middle manager, floor supervisor, nearly every government employee, most public school teachers and many people who spend their day typing stuff from forms into computers are, in the end ‘socially unimportant” workers. That’s a hell of alot more than 1%. More like 25 or more. My point is that in the this post-industrial time few jobs have any direct social benefit.
        As for the 1%. They are insignificant as they too are merely servants of their masters. It is the 1% of the 1% that is of interest to me. Those who are so wealthy there is little that can be done to affect them unless people wake up and become aware that they exist. For instance, are you aware that the queen of England owns nearly 20% of all the land mass in the entire earth? This includes much of the US that was never actually given back but was left in royal hands after the Revolutionary War.
        She isn’t even the wealthiest, so unless the entire system falls, and that goes to your final remark, we will always be working for them. A systemic world wide failure is the only possible solution and that is not something you or I can control. I do believe in an “Internet Reformation” that is waking people up and the super wealthy are noticing. This is part of the reason they are attempting to get control of the internet. They know they cannot continue to control us if we know what they are doing.
        Patience and information are part of the answer.
        One more thing, I have not made any conclusions about any particular form of ideology I support and actually believe it does not matter so long as people are not coerced into that system. People should be free to make voluntary associations using whatever form of trade and rule they decide among those small, town or even neighborhood, size groups. But I have always said that this site is for an exploration of ideas.
        This is why, except for spam, I am very liberal with who I allow to comment. I have had socialist/communists comment and I have also had some Muslims. All are welcome so long as they are respectful.
        I believe the powers that be have for hundreds of years used us against each other. I, much as I know, do not want to be a party to that. I have strong beliefs but am unwilling to throw people under the bus because they don’t agree with me.

  • MisBehaved Woman

    I’m dealing with some serious arthritis that has more or less brought an end to every kind of work I am trained to do…people keep asking why I don’t just apply for “my bennies” as if it is the first and only option and they look at me as tho I am a fool or an alien when I say I’d rather not get aide if we can at all avoid it. I agree that if not for gov’t intervention and meddling, such help would be better left to charitable organizations. I’d feel much better about getting temporary help from people who are willing and actually care to help over knowing that what I take may well be forcibly taken from the pocket of those who can least afford it.

    • ephraiyim

      I understand. I had to make the hard decision in 2001 to take SSD because of fibromyalgia. I just hate not being able to work but I was stubborn and it got to the place where after a year we no longer had anyone that could take us in.
      the only one who was willing would only do it if we would apply for food stamps and lie so we could share them with them.It was homelessness for my wife and I or I took SSD.
      She had been on it before we were married but had stopped getting it because I wanted to support her and did for several years. Then the fibro. So I know too. But, I do not feel it is owed to me and if they took it away tomorrow my faith in God is strong enough that I believe He would provide some other way.

      • MisBehaved Woman

        I totally get what you’re saying…it’s a tough spot to be in, isn’t it? We’ve taken some really hellacious knocks this year between health/finances…hard calls and decisions to make every step of the way.

        I do think that if charity work was turned back to organizations there might be more of a…vetting process?…that would serve to separate those in actual need of help from people like my ex who is capable of working but scams the system in multiple ways…one of which is lying for a roommate who can then receive more benefits to bring into the house. His food *contribution* is considered rent and he sells the rest of his allotment in exchange for booze. “The State” offers no real help and just keeps on mindlessly and bureaucratically throwing (our) $$ at the problem. There has to be a better and more efficient way to manage things…

  • Stan

    So, allow me to expand on the theory,….

    In the system that I propose nobody is coerced into anything.

    In time, once the mindset of the sheeple adjusts (shouldn’t take long to convice people to support a system that lets you go to the store and get what you want for doing work that you are already doing, albeit at a false evalutaion of your labor), we will know freedom the like of which has not been seen since the ‘authorities’ picked up sticks and enlisted thugs in forcing their game (read central banking, slavery, queens, bosses, wages, etc,…) on the rest of us.

    Eph, you mentioned in another post that more than 25% of the highest paid ‘workers’ do very little actual production. Add to that the folks, like yourself, that are not economically viable in the current system, but are none the less capable of productive labor,and I’m sure that less then 40% of the population support the others. With actual numbers much lower than even that. This means that the stores are full of crap, the gas stations have plenty of gas, there are plenty of cars for everybody ‘that have the money’. Today, as tomorrow, will continue to exist even if we don’t use money to restrict ourselves to some arbitrary valuations of our work. Just as not having a license doesn’t prevent somebody from driving. Valuations that ensure that queen has stuff that the ‘commoner’ doesn’t even know exists,….slaves, age regression, life extension technologies, weather manipulation,…. the list is endless,….Prince Kropotkin illustrated this management system in 1892, and your local school system skipped that part of your education.

    I propose, as did Prince Kropotkin, that with proper management, ergo, management with the people in mind, and not the profits of the queen, that we not only care for the incapable, but that we provide a way for them to contribute in proportion to their abilities. Can you mix concrete and lay blocks for new houses, no, but you can help manage the information needed to ensure that every store has every product created by those that labor with us.

    In my system if you live you eat, if you live ‘we’ build you a house, if you live, and accept these benifits, wouldn’t you feel the need to give back?? I would, and many of us would produce to such an excess that we will know ‘weatlh’, and health, like has never been seen before.

    Ergo, if we lead the people to acknowledge that they don’t have to have managers to lead them around by the nose, that they can push the responsiblity of making decisions for themselves onto their more engaged neighbors, to a much more equitable result, we can restore the ability to live without being forced to contribute to the queens supper,…

    We can have this utopia tomorrow, if today we can enlighten the people to it’s possiblities, good luck getting that message out on the nightly news,…

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