By Seth Richardson
One of the common charges leveled against Libertarianism is that Libertarians are selfish, greedy and uncaring, and that they have no concerns for the poor, the indigent and the physically challenged, that they are only interested in their own property and profits. The charge is entirely untrue, of course, and is based either in ignorance of Libertarian philosophy or, most often, deliberate mischaracterization.
The problem that Libertarianism faces that socialism will not is that of the welfare state and the great evil of the culture of dependence that such states create. Once created, a dependent class must always be served and the promises made kept, lest civil disorder within the dependent class destroy the nation, and more particularly lest they destroy those politicians who have failed to keep their promises.
Dependency cultures are hard to eliminate because of the inbred expectations that the dependent class has that the promises made to support them will be fulfilled, regardless of the economic or social stresses on the nation. No small number of nations have failed on precisely this point when the ability to extract wealth from the productive class falls short of the promises for benefits made to the dependent class. We teeter on the brink of this precipice today, under Obama.
Worse, when the dependent class comes to outnumber the productive class at the polls, the results are inevitable, and the society will fail when it runs out of money. That’s the fatal flaw of socialism, you see.
One should not be surprised if radical changes to the economic condition of the dependent class causes unrest and economic backlash. After all, if the welfare state has no jobs to offer the dependent class in return for cutting of the largess, then the option for the dependent class is stark; starvation. Obviously that can’t be allowed, which creates a real conundrum for politicians who are going to face the wrath of the dependent class when promises begin to be broken.
The typical response of our politicians, on both sides of the aisle, has been to shove their heads into the sand (or somewhere else) and try to ignore the problem by applying band-aids and hoping that the failure of the welfare system will not occur on their watch, in hopes that it will not be their politically metaphorical, or their actual, heads that end up on pikes lining Pennsylvania Avenue.
But eventually every society with a dependent class must face the cruel fact that when the ability of the government to fund social welfare programs ends, unless the dependent class has been turned into the productive class, rebellion, strife, disorder and chaos are inevitable.
The necessity is to wean the dependent class off of the public teat gradually, but firmly, by cutting social welfare programs while simultaneously cutting taxes, in order to leave more money in the pockets of the business owners who will create the jobs that the former dependent class will need to become productive members of society once again.
Depending on the society, there may be much room for cutting benefits that don’t cause immediate physical harm, but are alarming in the sense that the dependent class has become comfortable with the “safety net” provisions and fears letting go of them. But salvation cannot come without sacrifice, there is simply no way around this hard truth.
In this regard, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, which is one of the major sucks on the UK’s economy (and soon to be one of ours in the US) can be cut significantly without causing immediate harm. This means eliminating free care for chronic or long-term conditions, particularly the expensive ones like cancer, and limiting care to urgent and emergency care for resolvable injury and illness and severely limiting access to expensive last-ditch and quality-of-life care. It also means limiting care to those who are going to die soon anyway, which means rationing care for the elderly and chronically ill.
Of course, that’s political suicide, but practical necessity. This is one reason the UK is in the pickle it’s in now, because no politician has the fortitude to do what is actually necessary, which is to cut benefits, in order to preserve the most essential aspects of the welfare state that support life, like food, clothing and housing. This is the fate of all welfare states once they reach a tipping point where the dependent class has, or can gather, majority support politically. Alexander Tytler told us this more than 200 years ago.
The only way out of the trap of dependency culture is for there to be a cultural shift among the dependent class. This requires that they recognize that they cannot continue to take benefits from the government without being productive and contributing to the economy without killing the goose that lays the eggs they require for sustenance. It requires savage sacrifices on the part of the people least likely to be willing or able to make them to drag themselves out of the welfare state by sheer force of will, grit, an determination NOT to be enslaved to the dependency culture.
Very few cultures have the ability to do this, and the usual course for such societies is complete economic collapse, civil strife, riot, revolution, death, starvation, and misery beyond comprehension…and by and large the elimination of the dependent class, either by their death by starvation, or, as Stalin and Mao did, by simply executing them as unnecessary surplus population that the state cannot support.
And that nearly inevitable course is precisely why the dependency culture must never be permitted to exist, or grow.
Rational self interest induces Libertarians to recognize this cycle of poverty, dependency and death and to do what is necessary to prevent the formation of a large dependent class in the first place, through individual charity and support that supports the community as a whole and gives all people ample opportunity to succeed in a capitalist free market at the individual and community level, where the aid is most effective and most immune to corruption and skimming by government bureaucrats.
This is where the typical mischaracterization of Libertarianism breaks down in reality, and the claims that Libertarians are all greedy, selfish bastards falls apart.
We recognize the inherent evil of the welfare state and the dependency culture, and we recognize the very real threat that it poses not just to the dependent class, but to everyone else and indeed the very fabric of the national community itself. The cycle of destruction caused by welfare statism (socialism) is so inevitable, so predictable, and so obvious that it makes personal sacrifice to avoid it an imperative necessity in any Libertarian’s mind, out of a desire for simple self preservation and community stability and existence.
It does me no good whatsoever to hoard my money and watch as my neighbors enter the welfare system, because I’ll end up paying for that greed down the road, quite possibly with my life, as society eventually breaks down into chaos. Therefore it is in my best and rational self interest to personally do what I can of my own free will to share my fortune with those less fortunate and give them employment, or education, or medical care, or better yet the tools and opportunity for them to generate wealth so that they can provide these things for themselves, so that they can become and remain productive members of the community who are an asset to society rather than a drain upon it.
This is the link to individual, voluntary giving and social support that most objectors to Libertarianism simply refuse to acknowledge, and this makes their objections both hypocritical and intellectually bankrupt. Socialists truly believe that only the universal, oppressive Nanny State is capable of providing for the social welfare needs of the indigent, and that Libertarians care nothing for the poor simply because we do not accept the notion that big government is the only way the poor can be adequately served.
Libertarians clearly understand the virtues of civic responsibility in many ways more accurately and acutely than welfare statists, who fail to look at the root problems and core solutions in favor of band-aid solutions to immediate needs and class-based envy of the wealthy. They see the wealth of the productive class as a never-ending source of wealth that can be redistributed to the dependent class forever, forgetting that by binding the mouths of the kine that tread the grain, soon enough there will be no bread for anyone. This is the cruel economic fact that the myopic vision of socialism cannot see and will not accept.
© 2010 Altnews