The rise of the entitlement state is a moral problem of such size that it has become increasingly difficult to make a case against the compromises that give it rise.
Outlays for Uncle’s Medicare program are expected to rise from 3.7 percent of the gross domestic output to 6.7 percent in the next quarter century. The U.S. welfare program for medical care for the elderly fails to pay for itself. “Two married 66-year-olds with roughly average earnings *** will end up paying about $122,000 in dedicated Medicare taxes *** and expect to receive about three times as much — $387,000 adjusted for inflation — in benefits,” a Chattanooga Times Free Press story notes.
Medicare is one of many examples of a cooperation between the people and their national economy overlord, the federal government. That power pervades almost every point in contemporary American life with helps, programs, plans and controls — in agriculture, schooling, housing, health, labor and social insurance. The motives for the rise of the welfare state are often hidden under a public welfare or safety pretext, or sympathy or caring. As better is built upon good, the representatives of the people created in 2010 the Affordable Health Care for America Act to continue bailing out national economy. For many stated and for a few unspoken reasons, they’ve erected a series of siege engines and ladders by which the people can scale the wall of the treasury and seize under power of statute the prosperity of others.
Social Security is not simply a welfare program, “but by design is a comprehensive contributory insurance plan to avert the personal hazards and the social problems which often attend old age,” as a legal authority puts it. The intent of title 42 of the U.S. Code is “to ameliorate some of the rigors of life” and for “contributions” by employers and employees to be gathered to give a “decent support of elderly workers who have ceased to labor.”
Justifications for taking part
Few people take part in federal programs with any sense other than that they are entitled to receive funds. Social Security and Medicare are entitlements because they are not common law rights or actual property rights. They are procedural rights or grants given by government to the people against itself.
Hans Sennholz, in a 1978 Freeman essay reprinted in the current number of The Voluntaryist newsletter, explores why a free people enter into such programs willingly and with a sense of collecting their due. “An important spring of action for the transfer society is the desire by most people to get even in the redistribution struggle. ‘I have been victimized in the past by taxation, inflation, regulation, or other devices,’ or so the argument goes, ‘therefore I am entitled to partake in this particular benefit.’” Or the recipient turns the argument around in time, saying that at some point I will be victimized and so must exercise my right to a cheap student loan or federal grant. He joins as claimant today, fearing future loss.
“This argument is probably the most powerful pacifier of conscience. It dulls our perception and discernment of what is evil and makes us slow to shun it After all, we are merely getting back ‘what is rightfully our own.’ With a curious twist of specious deduction the modern welfare state, which continually seizes and redistributes private property by force, is defended by the friends of individual liberty and private property.”
We defend our U.S. entitlement as property owners jealously protecting what is ours, and so maintain the momentum of a political wealth transfer. If the modern welfare state is a moral evil, how can people who live freedom justify their efforts to get their own due?
Victims turn on next passer-by
I am involved in a car accident. As the cleanup crew sweeps up the glass shards, I trot over to a nearby car and commandeer it for my own use. If I am the victim of a burglary, I seek compensation for being wronged by demanding my neighbor’s assets be confiscated to make me whole. “They would like to get their ‘money back’ from whomever they can find to victimize now,” Sennholz says. The burglar operates secretly and in the dark because his deeds are evil and he knows he’s a lawbreaker. A get-even welfare beneficiary feels no moral hesitation about the rightness of his cause.
The clamor for getting even and revenge is loud, and the impulse behind it is powerful. “It becomes a primary force that gives rise to new demands or, at least, reinforces the popular demands for economic transfer,” Sennholz says. “The common passion for revenge *** is an important motive power of social policy that leads a free society to its own destruction.”
If there is to be redemption of society, Sennholz calls on “the example of great individuals” and “great men of conviction *** with unbounded courage” to lead the way out of the gimme trap. He proposes “a new covenant of redemption” to eventually turn the tide against statism.
That is to say, no matter how much I am victimized by the state, “I shall seek no transfer payments or accept any” and that “I shall seek no government grants, loans or other redistributive favors *** .” I won’t take a government job, accept any favors from government, won’t work for any institutions that are the “creatures of redistribution.” To ensure the survival of the republic, he restates the 10th commandment against coveting by seeking to avoid the use of force against others for our own benefit.
“I shall seek no support from, or give support to associations that advocate or practice coercion and restraint.”
David Leonhardt, “Foreseeing the issues in Medicare’s future,” New York Times News Service, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Dec. 16, 2012
“Americans say ‘cut,’ but not their benefits,” McClatchy Newspapers, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Dec. 16, 2012
American Jurisprudence, Social Security and Medicare, §§1-803
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