Compassion is Irrelevant to Arguments for Welfare

The reason I am writing this post is because by my judgement of western culture, welfare is often justified by the compassion argument. ie: A society without welfare would be lacking in compassion.

Two recent examples of this line of argument are seen in Kevin Rudd’s address to the CIS and in this Australian newspaper article. However I’ve come across many examples and doubt others would be hard to find.

Firstly I wish to quickly state that I think it’s dangerous to apply human emotions to society. Society isn’t a real living thing like a human and is not capable of emotion. Society is a sum of individuals.

By my thinking, there are two seemingly contradictory ways of looking at issue of welfare in regards to compassion:

1) People are generally not compassionate therefore must be forced to give money to those less fortunate. – This seems false to me. The existence of charities provides empirical evidence that people are quite willing to donate to those less fortunate.

2) People are generally highly compassionate to the point that they are willing to be forced into paying welfare. – This argument would logically make the need for force unnecessary and would therefore be an argument against welfare.

However, to be honest I haven’t thought very hard about the above points because as far as I’m concerned the issue of compassion is an irrelevant distraction.

If we are forced to pay welfare it doesn’t matter whether or not we want to. Compassion is irrelevant to welfare, and is only relevant to voluntary charity.

eg/ Do I feel compassion towards dole bludgers. No way! I feel compassion to some generally unlucky people such as terminally ill kids, or tsunami victims etc. But I have absolutely no time for some drug addict bogan with 6 or more kids who has never worked a day in his/her life.
Left leaning Joe Blogs on the other hand is compassionate, he likes paying taxes because it makes him feel like he’s doing a good deed. Unlike me he is quite happy to pay for welfare through higher taxes.
Yet if we both earn the same amount, we pay the same amount of taxes towards welfare. Therefore our emotional states are totally irrelevent. Can someone explain to me what compassion has got to do with it?

I think a hypothetical example from the field of ethics can demonstrate how ludicrous the compassion argument for welfare is:
If someone holds a gun to your head and tells you to hit the guy standing next to you in the face, whether or not you like/dislike or feel indifferent towards the guy next to you is irrelevent to the final outcome of him getting hit in the face.

I also suspect some of those who promote state welfare seem to think that the existence of welfare has the ability to alter the emotions of those individuals paying the taxes – so that they become more compassionate. Can compassion be forced on people through welfare? I doubt it. As can be seen above, it certainly doesn’t seem to have worked in my case.
If anything, I suspect that government wealth re-distribution would lead to people being less compassionate towards each other. Under a welfare system, people either try to get their piece of the welfare pie at the expense of others eg/ seniors vs families (not compassionate). Or they attempt to avoid paying for welfare by tax minimisation (again not compassionate, but definitely the moral course of action IMO).

It’s amazing how backwards and irrelevent some popular beliefs are.

eg/ Capitalism is mis-represented in our culture. People think capitalism means a world without compassion – a dog eat dog world, when in reality capitalism means voluntary exchanges of mutual benefit to each party. The reality of mutual benefit is erroneously believed to be one person screwing over another.

Popular belief has the capitalism-compassion equation backwards. Just like with welfare. Welfare doesn’t mean compassion. At best compassion is irrelevent. At worst, welfare lowers levels of compassion.

I think it’s important to quickly shut down the compassion argument and expose it for the dishonest irrelevency that it is.

92 thoughts on “Compassion is Irrelevant to Arguments for Welfare

  1. Compassion = using the threat of arrest, fines and imprisonment as well as giving you a criminal record and intruding into your private financial affairs, in order to extract taxes which are then redistributed by a government bureaucracy to those who meet the criteria.

    Its truly modern-speak.

  2. Modern day welfare has nothing to do with compassion, it is about winning votes, wooing corporations(corporate welfare), and preserving peace and order for the State(ie, getting re-elected).

  3. Well said. It’s a common line pushed by lefties and anti-capitalists that giving people freedom of choice is somehow uncompassionate.

    You could even argue that ‘welfare state’ lefties are less compassionate as they expect the State to be compassionate on our behalf.

  4. I, as a Christian, oppose welfare.
    Usually, Christians are supposed to love welfare. But Jesus never said that taxes should be used in place of charity. He was always speaking about individuals, and their responsibility to live up to their ideals. And choosing to act by your own moral code will strengthen your moral muscles.
    The state, of course, likes morally unhealthy people- they’ll go along with anything. People with strong consciousnesses are dangerous to the status quo.

  5. The argument for welfare is that we should “collectively” show compassion. How you feel as an individual isn’t the point. The reason people support welfare rather than individual acts of charity is I believe due to two primary issues.

    1. Free rider problems. The argument in this case is that we should all help care for those that are unfortunate and unless compulsion is involved some of us may avoid the collective responsibility even whilst agreeing that these unfortunate people should be helped. The notion that some might not agree with the “so called” responsibility is something that many supporters of welfare simply can’t fathom.

    2. Fairness on two counts. The first being that those with more capacity to help should help more. The second being that private charity is random and inconsistent so that with private charity some unfortunate people get more help than some other unfortunate people and in fact some people will game the system.

    The problem with the free rider argument is that the welfare system creates a new class of free rider through moral hazard.

    The problem with the fairness argument is that random acts of kindness are superior to proscribed benefits in so far as they actually mitigate some of the moral hazard.

    Ending welfare on it’s own (ie without removing wage regulations etc) would create some serious social problems. And in any case welfare abolition will never happen whilst ever there are governments.

  6. For an economy to strive you need political stability, welfare is the cost.

    Arguments such as this are very very shallow and fail to even begin to understand economic reality required for large complex systems to function.

  7. I am finding more and more that libertarians are forced to defend their arguments against the welfare state because the socialists invariably wheel out the tear jerker story to make people feel guilty

    The welfare state as we know is wrong. Rather than libertarians being forced on the defensive it ought to be the other way round. Anyone justifying any more than 10% of GDP being expropriated (using Milts number) has to defend themselves without the use of a wheel chair .

  8. jc –

    I don’t think even the most full on libertarians would argue that all welfare (in a wealthy developed ecomomy like Australia) should be totally abolished.

    Where we differ from the socialists is the degree of welfare. We view it as a bare minimum safety net, they view it as ‘the state owing everyone a living’ and a valid lifestyle choice. The ‘compassion’ argument is a red herring.

  9. You bring new meaning to the argument, “Don’t be a Charlie!”, Charles!
    The reasons are simple. Welfare gives money to the undeserving (a.k.a. Your local Member) who keep their access to governments by promising to let the voters have a share of the loot. Welfare is used to sugar-coat the principle of taxation.
    With your beliefs, you probably agree that, “Taxation is the price we pay for civilisation.” Some famous judge said it, so it must be true.
    Dispite the Judge, I look forward to the day when we have a civilisation without taxes- and without taxation welfare. Individuals could still cover themselves through voluntary insurance schemes, if they so choose, but they couldn’t force me to pay for their ideas, nor should I have the means to force others to pay for what I think is important.
    Just because things have always been this way, it doesn’t follow that they must stay this way. You’d probably have opposed the American Revolution because they didn’t have Aristocrats, and every other society had Aristocrats!
    You don’t need welfare for political stability. Hong Kong was a welfare-free capitalist enclave. Singapore is also not noted for any massive welfare program, and the people don’t riot. They’re too busy getting rich!

  10. Tim – i have no problem with either charity or welfare provided both are targetted correctly and have a sunset clause. ie the perpetual recipients of charity or welfare eventually lose the will to live (serious disabilities like cerebral palsy are obviously exceptions).

    The core problem facing Western democracies is not excessive welfare but excessive voting rights. i.e. all governments are incentivised to maximise welfare as there are far more welfare recipients than welfare payers.

    Like you, i strongly believe that welfare is the quickest way to destroy a community.

  11. Pom, could you explain these two points please.

    1. the perpetual recipients of charity or welfare eventually lose the will to live (serious disabilities like cerebral palsy are obviously exceptions).

    2. The core problem facing Western democracies is not excessive welfare but excessive voting rights (what can you do about welfare and voting)

  12. The analysis is shallow. It has SFA to do with lefties ( how slinging out an insult ever added to the debate is beyond me), or tear jerkers, or whatever.

    We have a very high standard of living and I happen to enjoy it. Part of my high standard of living is being able to walk down the street without facing beggars. I also like having a stable economic and political system as it supports my investments.

    Countries with high standards of living have complex social structures, start thinking about why they work.

  13. 1. the perpetual recipients of charity or welfare eventually lose the will to live (serious disabilities like cerebral palsy are obviously exceptions).

    A conservatives dream JC, the recipients pop themselves.

  14. Compassion is not irrelevant to arguments for welfare, although it is misused. A young child suffering from leukaemia, for example, would evoke compassion in anyone. If the child is an orphan and obviously has nobody to care for it, few would deny it welfare.

    We feel compassion as individuals, not collectively. But the process that leads to the government handing out our money as welfare is the same one that leads it to tax us, censor our movies, restrict the use of our own property, and prevent us from obtaining assistance when we choose to end our lives. The government is essentially reflecting the values of those with the most influence over it. Individuals who feel compassion more have greater influence over those who feel compassion less.

    The way to overcome the problem of excessive welfare is to show individuals that they can exert their compassion in other ways. So-called tough love, for example.

  15. Hi Terje. I think how people feel as individuals (as opposed to collectives) should be the point. I take the line common to Austrian economic theory and Objectivism that individuals are the basis of correct social theory.

    I disagree with your very last line, I think there are examples in history of governments without welfare programs. – Even though I admit that in this modern day and age, it’s hard to imagine total abolition of welfare.

    The free-rider problem is the best explanation I’ve heard so far as to why “compassion” is relevent to welfare. Welfare supporters may believe a percentage of people lack compassion and therefore need to be forced into paying welfare. (They would still need to prove state welfare was effective and moral). But I can understand how welfare supporters use a lack of compassion in some people as a justification of taking compassion out of the picture through mandatory welfare taxation.

    However as you have noted, for libertarians and other capitalists who think state welfare is either immoral, counter-productive or both, lack of compassion obviously isn’t the reason they don’t support welfare.

    So the supporters of welfare still need to be quickly reminded that “compassion” is not the issue at stake. And that it’s highly insulting to insinuate that supporters of welfare abolition are heartless jerks without any evidence.

  16. (They would still need to prove state welfare was effective

    That has been proved, there are mountains of studies demonstrating the welfare has positive benefits across a range of issues, not the least being the nutritional and educational status of children.

  17. John:

    Let me really harsh about this. What responsibility do I have for a kid in Queensland and why should I.

    Being honest, I would much rather help a kid in Africa get by where the situation is pretty hopeless. But why here where the parents are able to find work?

    Why am I compelled to help educate a middle class kid in say medicine when the parents or the kid should spring for the cash themselves?

  18. JC,

    I have long argued that welfare to places like Africa is a waste. We cannot solve those problems with money.

    I have long argued that welfare should be solely restricted to keep people sinking below a threshold where they cannot adequately provide for themselves. I have always been totally opposed to welfare aimed at those who are working and can afford to provide for their children.

    I apply the same principle to corporations. There are occasions when the government should intervene to help corporations keep afloat. Eg. a natural catastrophe that destroys a key plant, or even some start up technologies for that matter. But when our government gives millions to Toyota and Ford that is ridiculous, though not as ridiculous as the baby bonus and family welfare payments to the well off.

  19. Because JC one day you may be walking down the street and it is the Queensland kid you refused to help that pops you off.

  20. So why assume we can solve our problems with money, but bot in Africa, John?

    We don’t have the welfare system you’re talking about and that isn’t the one I am criticizing.

    Charles:

    Why assume that people from disadvantaged backgrounds are all potential killers. I don’t make that assumption.

    It’s a pretty poor state of repairs we’re in when you assert we need welfare in order to keep the “barbarians” at bay.

  21. Africa. Come on JC, you’re smarter than that. Africa’s problems are essentially political. If we’re going to spend money there it should be on creating democracies, not food parcels. I think you’ll find the research even indicates that a great many “food parcels” end up in the hands of the corrupt.

  22. No John, you misunderstand me. I would much rather spend the money trying to feed people in Africa than being forced to educate a middle class kid in Oz.

    I am quite aware of the political plight in Africa for the most part.

    Money here corrupts too. the Aboriginal situation is a case in point.

  23. Sorry for the misunderstanding. Here’s a twist for you though: I’m not even sure I would rather feed a starving kid in Africa than provide for those at home(with food and shelter, not education). Why? Better bangs for bucks basically. Cynical I know but as Ruddles would say, oh one must make the tough decisions. Fuck I hate that man.

  24. jc

    i) welfare destroys a man’s dignity. perpetual welfare destroys him completely. there cannot be a more destructive thing we can do to our fellow citizens than hook them up to the welfare drip. noel pearson and warren mundine make this point in every article they write.

    ii) there is an obvious flaw in the current democratic model that allows those who make no contribution to society to decide how it should be run. for example 55% of the UK electorate are now dependent on the state for a living. it’s a brave (and suicidal) govt that will lower that number.

  25. It’s not about Appeasement JC it’s about removing the need, the need to be violent to survive.

    Capitalism has to pay the required environment to operate in, it doesn’t come for free, stop bitching about the price.

  26. Sorry the last should read.

    Capitalism has to pay for the required environment to operate in, it doesn’t come for free, stop bitching about the price.

  27. I agree with the points you made. The trouble is that with 55% of the population now on some kind of benefit, i can’t imagine how that can be reduced. That’s over the threshold now where you can make cuts. Perhaps slowing down the growth rate… maybe until it becomes insignificant? However with the majority on some sort of parasitic welfare it would almost be impossible to reduce.

  28. Charles:
    Call it what you like. However what John Humphreys recently said is true. Anyone who really wants a job is quite able to find get one in oz. There isn’t an able bodied person in the country who isn’t able to find work.

    Your point is a put down to all not so well off people as you think they are criminals unless they’re paid off.

  29. Compassion and empathy evolved in human beings as a survival mechanism for small tribal groups. This allowed them to better work together to maximise their own chances of survival and utility, man being a social animal and all that. These emotions are still relevant to our existence in terms of families or small groups who need to work together, or even tight communities, and we should all use them for our own benefit and happiness. However, it is inappropriate to try to apply these emotions in a political context; politics is where we apply reason to the human condition to further our own situation. We should use compassion in our individual lives as a vehicle to relate to others, but to try to base political philosophy on it is just foolish.

    Capitalism has to pay for the required environment to operate in, it doesn’t come for free, stop bitching about the price.

    Charles, you are so confused. What capitalism needs to operate is a moral stance in terms of property rights and contract enforcement. There can be a benefit in terms of providing welfare, but a capitalist will simply make that decision on a cost benefit ratio. Socialists are fond of saying welfare is simply fire insurance for the rich, but so is a shotgun behind the door. We provide welfare for other reasons. The weakness of welfare is that in a democracy it is a means to buy votes, and none of us have a better system than democracy last time I checked. That’s why 55% of the population is on some kind of benefit as JC states above.

  30. The point is JC, not every one loves capitalism, there is a cost, the cost is welfare. Yea every one can get a job, that is not the issue, not every one wants a job is the issue.

    Mick, property rights and contract enforcement aren’t worth jack if your locked up in concrete yard and have to hire body guards to go for a walk, try living in PNG if you believe other wise.

  31. Mick, property rights and contract enforcement aren’t worth jack if your locked up in concrete yard and have to hire body guards to go for a walk, try living in PNG if you believe other wise.

    I agree this is no quality of life, but my point is capitalism would still work. In fact, if society was that violent, then achieving this state where you were a capitalist and hired guards to provide your security while you did business would be an improvement in your state and a stepping stone from ‘a state of nature’ to civil society. Probably like some feudal societies we’ve had in our past.

    But tell me this, Charles. If we provided lots more welfare into Port Moresby would you be able to take down those concrete walls and stop hiring gurards?

  32. The point is JC, not every one loves capitalism, there is a cost, the cost is welfare. Yea every one can get a job, that is not the issue, not every one wants a job is the issue.

    Charles, can I clarify that you are essentially saying you need to pay off some extortionists from time to time if you want to do business? (I agree that this is sometimes a reality, so I’m not having a go at you).

  33. Yes Mick that is exactly how I see welfare. I’ve lived in countries with differing levels. A less extreme example is the USA, I hate the place. Walled of neighborhoods and areas in total decay.

    I like capitalism, I like be able to walk down the street, I like having contempt for anyone who asks me for money ( Australia has a solid welfare system there is no excuse).

    Welfare is the cost we pay, and I’m quite happy to pay my taxes to get it, I consider it money well spent.

  34. So let me get this straight Charles. The benefit you get out of welfare is the same as a shopkeeper having to pay protection money to the mob.

    So to analogize here, welfare recipients to Charles are the same as mobsters.

  35. Yes Mick that is exactly how I see welfare. I’ve lived in countries with differing levels. A less extreme example is the USA, I hate the place. Walled of neighborhoods and areas in total decay.

    Where the hell did you live Charles. Are you sure youlived in the US and that it wasn’t just across the border in Mexico. I’ve heard millions of people make the same mistake.

    Charles, I lived there for 16 years, know the place quite well and your impression of the US is not the same as my impression of the US.

    I agreed with Rupert Murdoch (prior to 911) when he said the US is the freest, richest, happiest country in the world.

  36. Wow, pleased to see this in the draft

    The precise mechanisms involved in the neurobiology of ADHD are not fully
    understood. The dominant current paradigm suggests that disordered fronto
    striato-cerebellar brain circuitry

    Cerebellar = cerebellum. Hmmm, that clinical psychologist in Canada kept ranting at me about the neglect of the cerebellum. Good to see that is changing. Hence my earlier ref to the same above. It is also important to note that they also assert there is a neurobiological basis to this but at present it is poorly understood.

  37. Yes JC, it is remarkable how you can, if you try, live in the place and never come across the problems. I’m sure Murdock has never been to places where the returned soldier’s with their missing limbs beg on corners.

  38. JC 35

    Yep, if a shopkeeper want to operate in an area were the mob has control then that is a cost of doing business. If a social structure requires peace and stability then it must generate that environment to survive.

    The USA has about 1% of it’s population in jail. They actually spend more money on law enforcement than on education. I wonder if the people in jail consider it the land of the free. I wonder, in the end can a uneducated society survive in a modern world.

    I believe the answer is no. The USA is a country in rapid decline and one of the reasons is their inability to create the social environment for capitalism to survive. To survive the rewards have to be reasonable well spread. Social welfare is part of it.

    A serious debate on social welfare would be considering how to get the best value for money.

  39. Charles – again you are making things up.

    In the “golden age of capitalism”, the US Federal Government spent about 1.5% of GDP. There wasn’t any welfare. America was very stable after the civil war as well. From this era it became a world power and during this time unemployment was very low and wages increased in real terms at rates never seen before that time.

    So your assertion that “an economy needs stability” was true but your conclusion that “welfare is the cost” was a non sequitur.

    About the same proportion of people in society beg in Australia today as they did in 1880s America.

    Ghettoes in America are caused by centrally planned welfare – public housing.

    Yes America isn’t as free as it should be – but part of the loss of freedom is caused by welfare (public housing which leads to social decay) and drug laws.

    As for your assumptions charles – you seem very confused.

  40. Charlie, a large part of the prison population is in there for drug reasons, they are POWs of the War on Drugs (I suspect that the Americans mean the War Against Drugs, not that their side is on drugs.).
    I do not think it is Capitalism that is failing in the US, but self-righteous political leadership, which interferes with the economy to get votes.

  41. Charles you say “not everyone wants a job”
    But this statement amounts to people wishing to “re-write reality”. Some things just are. One of those things is that it takes energy and resources to sustain your life, ie: work.
    Why shouldn’t everyone work for their survival as reality/nature requires? And why should some people be made slaves (via forced welfare payments) to the whims of others?

  42. Interestingly, the US statistically has a lower homeless rate than Australia.
    Japan has the lowest homeless rate of the three countries, even though they have the least welfare.
    Doesn’t appear like welfare works here.

  43. Tim:

    All very good questions on post 45, but it doesn’t address my basic premise, for capitalism to work you need social and political stability.

    I’ve never been on welfare, but from the outside looking in I would agree, social welfare can destroy people, but I don’t think anyone is forced onto welfare. I think a serious debate about the issue would be discussing how one deliver welfare without the down side. There would be less talk about lefties and bleeding hearts. As an example I think it’s a good idea to insist the children go to school for receipt of payments, it may break the cycle.

    Rest assured the USA does not have a lower homeless rate than Australia. The USA doesn’t even know what it’s population is. A census depends on finding people. We also don’t have the large caravan parks that are so common there. Do you have a home if you live in a caravan?

    Japan is not a good country to look at when discussing a modern western society, basically there has been no immigration since original settlement. Personally I think the place is too ordered, my preference is a place like Australia, a little bit of order a little bit of disorder.

    Gray: There is no doubt that drugs have been a disaster for the USA. Quite frankly if the government wasn’t intervening in the economy right now we would be well into a depression. Capitalism is inherently unstable, it depends on people with money betting they can make more. When everyone pulls back the system fails. A sad fact but true.

    Mark: I think it would be hard to argue that any 1880 societies comes close to the complexity of modern society. I have no idea how many people begged in 1880 USA, or in Australia today, and I suspect you don’t either. The USA has a very small public housing sector, if that has led to the mess that is the USA then public housing is one powerful force for destruction.

  44. Charles, I think that it is a good thing that their Texan teachers can carry guns. As one of the teachers noted, Virginia Tech, and other places, were arrogantly labelled ‘gun-free’ zones- arrogantly, because the authorities made no attempt to police the ban. The gunners were breaking the law by bringing weapons into the grounds, but criminals seem to ignore the rules! Who knew?
    I think that places where the teachers are armed will be places that have very few weapons incidents. Australia has a different culture in that regard, and I hope we never need teachers to be armed, but vigilance is the price of freedom.

  45. charles:

    Indeed. But Tim has shown you the figures between Australia and America now. It seems you were wrong where you disagreed with JC about extreme levels of poverty.

  46. The USA has a very small public housing sector, if that has led to the mess that is the USA then public housing is one powerful force for destruction.

    Not in the big cities it isn’t. In NYC alone there were only about 15% of rental apartments on the free market in 2000. The rest were rent controlled, which is the main reason rental living in NYC was a shabby, expensive deal and why there was a dire shortage.

  47. Mark

    Tim has shown me what? I Went to the trouble of looking up the official homeless rates, the US is ahead of Australia by a raio of 10 to 1.

    Public policy needs to be based on reality not dreams.

  48. Come on Charles, any estimate of homeless rates in the US is going to fall short by a large margin. In the USA many unemployed and homeless simply drop off the statistical radar. That’s the way both the Dems and Republicans like it. It is like those arrogant fuckers who compare Aus unemployment rate to Germany. Completely unrealistic comparison of data but that never stopped economists who purported engage in a discipline of “atomistic reductionism par excellence.” Must stop now, laughing too much.

  49. No Charles latest figures show the homeless has fallen over the past 8 years or so.

    But, what do you expect to do, Charles. Should the government buy people homes now?

  50. JC
    Actually in New York 8.6% of rental stock is owned by NYCHA and they house 5.2% of the population, and yes unlike most other cites the blocks haven’t been demolished ( because of demand).

    Rent control is not public housing, but I agree it is a problem, and yes it is preventing renewal. A seriously bad welfare program I would argue.

  51. JC
    In the case of the USA I think they are stuffed, the distance between have and have not is too great, the drug problem too entrenched, they care more about being able to carry a gun than the mess there society is in, and it is not going to change.

    48 Gary

    I’ve lived in the US I have heard all the senseless arguments before, the fact of the matter is the USA has an unacceptable homicide and accident rate. All bullshit aside, guns are dangerous, they are designed to be that way.

    The most likely victim of a USA homicide is a white male shot by his white wife, if you don’t believe me look up the statistics, they are available on the department of Justice web site.

  52. In the case of the USA I think they are stuffed, the distance between have and have not is too great, the drug problem too entrenched, they care more about being able to carry a gun than the mess there society is in, and it is not going to change.

    Untrue, Charles. Every leftie hopes they go into oblivion but it won’ happen as the US economy is so amazingly flexible primarily as a result of it’s incredibly flexible labor markets. Despite the kitchen sink being thrown at the economy GDP grew by 1.9% last quarter while Europe is on the border of recession. The US economy will picks itself up and begin to kick arse as it usually does.

    The most likely victim of a USA homicide is a white male shot by his white wife, if you don’t believe me look up the statistics, they are available on the department of Justice web site.

    That’s either craven or ignorant bullshit Charles. The vast numbers of homicides are black on black and black on white crime. White crime is really not that much different from white crime in Europe. The US has a black crime problem and race in this instance needs to be brought up.

  53. I worked out the homeless rates based on WHO stats available at wikipedia. I looked up homeless counts, then divided these by the nation’s population. But this is getting off topic.

    Anyway Charles, in response to comment 47: Individual rights protections are needed (via a functioning, un-corrupt legal system) to ensure freedom and capitalism. You say you need social stability but this is very vague and this also doesn’t imply welfare. In fact it implies that poor people are more likely to be violent but this often isn’t true. eg/ Vietnam = low violence.
    Why do I say you need individual rights protections? This is based on objectivist political theory which I will very quickly try to summarize: Humans have free will and conceptualization ability. Thoughts imply the need for freedom to act, and action implies the need for action on things which ultimately means property rights.

    But welfare is a partial destruction of property rights because it is a tax on your possessions/capital/income.

    Therefore welfare creates a logical contradiction to the functioning of government. They are simultaneously destroying and protecting property rights. Therefore, not optimal.
    This isn’t a matter of finding an Aristotelean “golden” mean. It’s a binary system. Either you have theft or you don’t. Not everything is optimised by compromise eg/ a little bit of murder.

  54. Gary
    There is what I consider a funny story on the gun stats.

    I was arguing with a white female at the time ( her farther was a gun dealer).She was giving me the “you need guns to protect yourself” crap. I knew that most people are murdered by relatives and the problem is directly related to the availability of weapons when rational thought leaves the premises. She didn’t believe so it was off to the dept of justice web site. When I found out white females where the category containing the highest proportion of murderers I terminated the argument, suggested it would probable be best if I agreed with her.

  55. Tim

    I’d say Australia has a little bit of murder and a little bit of theft.

    Property rights are interesting, you actually only own something while the state says you do and while the state has the power to enforce that ownership. Which brings me back to welfare. The state can get it’s authority with a gun or with a carrot.

  56. JC
    Go and look at the statistics, as i said they are available from the US dept of justice, they are on line. You comment displays normal miss conception. Public policy should be based on fact not racial miss conceptions.

    The USA inflation rate is understated, the GDP includes such niceties as the rent you would have received if you didn’t live in your home. In short US GDP statistics are close to useless. Like it all not Europe now has the largest economy.

  57. I know the stats, Charles. Black/black, Black/ white crime is the biggest elephant in the bathroom.

    There are no racial misconceptions. To avoid race in America is to be blind to reality.

    Charles whatever you think of the US GDP number, the components of the data set have basically remained the same. So a move up or down in GDP is correspondent to economic activity levels.

    And you know what Charles. How come you’re so quick to grab the theory of AGW and become a denialist with economic stats.

    Who cares if the EU has a bigger economy. There are more people there and it’s exchange rate related.

    What happened, Charles, did you get deported for not having a green card or something?

  58. JC

    The US inflation rate excludes food and petrol, it’s the inflation number you get when you exclude inflation. The method of calculation changed under Clinton. And no JC I have not been deported from the US, I support myself.

    Isn’t the modern world strange, we have the free flow of capital but not of labor.

  59. Actually thinking about it, we have the free flow of people and labor as long as the person doesn’t want to collect welfare or work, strange isn’t it how the state wants to protect those two activities, even stranger when you consider a worker contributes to the tax take in many ways. It’s got nothing to do with this topic, it’s just weird when you start to think about it.

  60. Property rights are interesting, you actually only own something while the state says you do and while the state has the power to enforce that ownership. Which brings me back to welfare. The state can get it’s authority with a gun or with a carrot.

    I thought the state got it’s power from the people? Funny form of civilisation you’re advocating when the power goes to the person with the biggest gun or the biggest carrot!

  61. Yep, if a shopkeeper want to operate in an area were the mob has control then that is a cost of doing business.

    It is, but I think we’d both agree this isn’t a happy state of affairs. The shopkeeper would definitely want to see his extortionists killed or imprisoned, and while doing whatever he needs to do to protect his business he will also be doing his best he to see this happens. Heaven forbid welfare gets this bad that productive people start to feel this way about welfare recipients!

  62. Mick

    I’m not advocating anything, I am just pointing out reality. If New Zealand Invades Australia do you really think your property rights are worth jack, if we have a military cue do you think your property rights are protected by some god given right. If the poor rise and overthrow the rich, property rights, forget it. Your property rights only exist while the state survives, ask any aborigine, or as my family has lost property right in year past, ask me.

  63. Your property rights only exist while the state survives, ask any aborigine, or as my family has lost property right in year past, ask me.

    So, did aborigines have any right to the land they lived on before white settlement, as at that time there was no state to declare it theirs? What is the rational basis for land right claims?

    Yep, I’m asking, Charles; please elaborate on your families experience if you wish.

  64. If the poor rise and overthrow the rich, property rights, forget it.

    Does this imply that one of the roles of the state is to keep the poor in a suitably manageable oppressed state? If the poor of North Korea rose and overthrew Kim Jong Il and his regime would their property rights get better or worse?

  65. In my view no, they lost them just as anyone else does when a army invades. The current state however is giving them some rights so the answer becomes yes. My family lost right in Europe as I am sure many others did as state borders moved.

  66. In my view no, they lost them just as anyone else does when a army invades.

    I can understand your rationale, but it is only going to result in eternal conflict. You can be pretty sure the conquered nation isn’t going to live at peace with the conquerers anytime soon, maybe never. The point of property rights is to allow people to progress their lives while living in peace, hence if you bring in the idea that property rights can be overthrown with the gun you violate the ‘peace’ part and the whole concept collapses. Property rights come from the human condition starting with your body. They don’t require the state, we choose to use the state as an efficient instrument to implement them. If we get all hypothetical, and society has collapsed and we’re all living like Mad Max then a group of two or more people can still use property rights to their advantage to improve their lot in life, even though there is no government to enforce them and the enforcement is done by the individuals themselves according to a moral code.

    The current state however is giving them some rights so the answer becomes yes.

    Surely the state can’t just declare things to be without some sort of rational basis. That’s like the state passing a law that Pi = 3. What if the state declared they now own the city of Sydney? Would that make it theirs? Would that be civil society?

  67. Mick at 71

    A very rational post. Which brings me back to my original point, welfare is about creating stability in society. Talking about bleeding hearts and lefties seriously misses the point.

    With regard to Pi=3. Pi is rationally defined, it is the ratio of the diameter of a circle and it’s circumference, however this didn’t stop the state of Indiana having a go at 3.2 in 1897.

    http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jlawler/aux/pi.html

  68. “A very rational post. Which brings me back to my original point, welfare is about creating stability in society. Talking about bleeding hearts and lefties seriously misses the point.”

    Which brings us back to the point that you have either:

    a) lied about statistics (with guns and poverty), or

    b) called other people’s statistics BS and made up unprovable assertions about them to discredit them

    and finally, and somewhat bafflingly:

    c) support welfare which engenders more poverty and doesn’t create stability, as shown by the data, because you want to “increase stability”

  69. Pointing out the dishonesty of what charles claims about the data and the counterproductive strategy he promotes is “knuckle dragging”?

    As for your ham and cheese on rye blog article – we know most people on welfare are not cheats etc. Most people are forced back into welfare due to labour market regulations and disincentives from welfare to work. You know this. You are being wilfully ignorant.

    The point remains – no one has compassion for the cheats and welfare recipients are best looked after when their situation is looked at critically with impartiality. Furthermore there is no benefit from making more people take welfare than need to, it makes us all worse off.

    After that “sewer” sledge, let’s see how clean you look after you defend 1. welfare cheats 2. misrepresenting the libertarian position about your typical welfare recipient 3. pricing people out of a job 4. taxing people back into welfare out of work and 5. emotionally driven policy analysis. 6. engineering welfare to be ubiquitous and not need driven.

  70. Melaleuca, as Mark notes, you have totally mis-represented my view and the view of other libertarians on your blog. Many Libertarians and objectivists like me believe no welfare would result in better outcomes for a larger number of people. We are actually very compassionate, and value compassion.

    The point of my post is that force renders intentions of those forced irrelevant. So my problem is that I don’t see how someone can logically then state (like Kevin Rudd) that the intentions of those forced are the justification for the forceful act. And I think you have missed the focus of this post.

    Your issue with my post is based on whether or not free-will exists. So of course you don’t think it’s right to pass judgement on genuinely lazy people. And of course you have little problem with forced government programs if you don’t believe in free will.

    Anyway, I don’t know much about materialism but these are my current objections.
    If you don’t believe in free will, how can you object to my opinion? It’s not my fault. And I have no control over my thoughts. Neither do you.
    I would concede that many acts of conciousness are not based on free will. eg/ If someone tosses a coin, I can’t simply believe it’s head or tails without seeing it. But at a more fundamental level, consciousness is volitional ie: you still need to make the choice to think in the first place, or to seek out relevent information, follow seemingly contradictory leads, integrate data, engage in reductive of inductive reasoning etc

    In addition, just because there are many antecedent factors governing our actions, this doesn’t mean all factors are antecedent and that free choice isn’t possible within the law of identity.

    For materialists to deny the existence of conciousness, they need to use their conciousnesses to do this, thereby creating a contradiction.

    To quote an objecitivst blogger Diana Hseih: “Objectivism (with Aristotle) holds that causation consists of entities acting according to their natures. Part of human nature is our capacity to be aware of and regulate our own conscious processes. So human freedom of the will is just a type of causation, not in conflict with it. (It’s not even an unusual type of causation, as all biological systems are self-regulating.)”

    Objectivists are not monists (like materialists). And they don’t identify with dualists because dualists always imply mind-body dichotomies.

    In addition, my views are not necessarily representative of libertarian views – as can clearly be seen by the differences of opinions in the above comments.
    Libertarianism isn’t a defined philosophy, it simply means a group of people who value freedom highly and want small or no government. It’s a political movement. If you were more familiar with this site, you’d realise that amongst all the libertarians here, there are many different views.
    So for you to bag all libertarians based on my post, is unfair.
    And you will never convince me of anything unless you focus on the real issue – our disagreement over the existence of free will. Simply saying I’m a “grumpy, young male sod” is really pathetic of you.

  71. “Many Libertarians and objectivists like me believe no welfare would result in better outcomes for a larger number of people. We are actually very compassionate, and value compassion.”

    Umm, wrong. The weight of empirical evidence, as I indicate, demonstrates otherwise. More generous welfare leads to less crime and greater social mobility for example.

    You you “think” is immaterial- all that matters is what the evidence tells us.

  72. You’re confusing the evidence with your perceptions Mel.

    Australia’s welfare system isn’t generous. Taxing people out of work into welfare isn’t generous and it would be a stretch to associate this with genuinely ameliorating poverty and reducing the incentives to commit economic crimes.

  73. The number of articles is irrelevent to the quality of the articles, analyses and stats. And it would be extremely difficult to trace the full costs and unintended consequences of welfare. And of course, this issue is highly politicized.
    And I’m quite aware that my thoughts are irrelevent to reality. Reality also isn’t about consensus or number of publications. Why do you keep making a false allegation, then doing the thing you accuse us of? Eg/ you say libertarians are grumpy, then write one of the most grumpiest posts I’ve ever read.
    I’ve already shown that Japan has an extremely low homeless rate with much less welfare per capita, but I don’t think this is the place to argue utilitarian arguments for and against welfare.

  74. “I’ve already shown that Japan has an extremely low homeless rate with much less welfare per capita, but I don’t think this is the place to argue utilitarian arguments for and against welfare.”

    That’s because it is an Asian society that only recently emerged out of a feudal tradition with Confucian attitudes about family loyalty etc that mitigate against homelessness.

    In case you haven’t noticed, we’re a somewhat different culture with a vastly different history.

    But you already know this. You’re resorting to flimsy arguments because you’re not prepared to let go of a cherished ideological position.

  75. But you already know this. You’re resorting to flimsy arguments because you’re not prepared to let go of a cherished ideological position.

    And yours is what Mel? That unless we bribe the poor they will become violent and begin looting? You too seem to have a high regard for poor people, don’t you?

    Crime stats were low here prior to the 30’s when there was no welfare to speak of Mel. But just as you count Japan as ” an Asian ” country, I’m sure you could finagle an excuse for that too.

    You always seem to be turning to the wrong voices of authority. lol.

  76. “Crime stats were low here prior to the 30’s when there was no welfare to speak of Mel.”

    Frogshit. Skeptic Lawyer has made the point time and time again that crimes rates have fallen like a stone for decades.

  77. Here Mel

    Offence against property rate per 1,000 people

    1890 16795
    1895 14775
    1899 15426
    1900 15764
    1901 15273
    1902 15565
    Not exactly the same but close

    robbery
    1993 12765
    1994 13967
    1995 14558
    1996 16372
    1997 23801
    1998 23801
    1999 22590

    There is also (other theft for1993 to 1999)

    With an average per year of around 3,000 acts of other theft crime. You need to add these in.

    You have to be careful how you look at them as the classification may be different but two breakdowns look reasonably

    So there was no welfare in those days and the rate of crime was about the same to slightly lower. The rate of drunkenness crime was very high in the old days perhaps skewering the figures.

    However, nude or even topless bathing, or homosexual acts between consenting adults, brought criminal sanctions, while public drunkenness comprised more than half of all offences brought before the Magistrates’ courts in the early years of the twentieth century, and this persisted until the middle of the century.

    It was violent in those days perhaps because there were so many drunks.

    The homicide rate has remained about the same. So much for welfare stopping crime, hey Mel.

  78. Actually I lifted the wrong figured that weren’t pro rated.

    The point of the study is that it suggests it’s very hard to compare as there were different tolerances then for different sorts of crime.

    interestingly the homicide rate hasn’t dropped.

  79. No I’m not resorting to flimsy argument at all. And you don’t even have the decency to show your sources.

    Do you really think family loyalty is unique to Japan?

    I’m not interested in utilitarian arguments on this post, and I’m dissapointed that you’re not up to a philosophical discussion. Your essay on free will was logically very poor. I think it’s actually quite embarassing.

  80. A libertarian society would not have compulsion by the government, but it could still offer insurance schemes to people who would have the option of joining or ignoring them. If some schemes made a profit for the government, it could do with the profit what it wanted, though the citizens might think it charged too much for some service. If police patrols catch and fine lots of speeders, do the fees go to general revenue, or are they limited to bonuses for the sharp-eyed patrollers? General revenue could be used to support welfare, but I think we might want a better justification. Perhaps ‘public housing’ is a part of whatever ‘citizenship insurance’ is offered. Spartan-type barracks would do as well. (Welfare doesn’t have to be posh!)

  81. Mel your essay relies heavily on the fact that we don’t have free will yet you don’t elaborate any further than saying that it’s your “belief”. We can simply reject your belief on the grounds that you haven’t proven the point of free will which is the foundation of the rest of your essay.

    You also haven’t even defined what it is that you believe in very well. We don’t have free will? Do you mean that we don’t have the ability to change our lives at all, or we are strongly influenced by external factors when we make our choices? If the latter then how do you know that you aren’t causing more harm by giving people welfare? Or that you are causing harm by giving them too much? Or harm by giving not enough? How do you know you are not causing harm to society as a whole by depriving them of the ability to directly protect those people who are in need especially with what we know about the psychological effects or Welfare dependence.

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