In 1919 Frank Crane pointed out (in “Justice,” one of his Four Minute Essays) that charity was a poor substitute for justice. Charity, he said, is a palliative which leaves injustice — privilege — in place, while helping the most unfortunate. Charity makes it possible for the poor and unemployed to scrape by, thus enabling the system of privilege to continue. But justice makes charity unnecessary by removing the root causes of poverty and unemployment.
Today, we could say of the welfare state and Keynesian fiscal policy what Crane said of charity.
Once the state substitutes privilege for justice, it inevitably creates destabilizing tendencies that must be met by one of two possible courses of action. One is to remove the privileges and allow the natural operation of justice, so that the chronic instabilities don’t arise. The other is to add secondary interventions like the welfare state and Keynesian fiscal policy, so the destabilizing tendencies don’t get too bad — and to keep increasing the level of such intervention when it no longer works the way it should.
So to the “conservatives” who want to “cut spending” and “balance the budget,” I give this warning: Understand the implications of what you demand. If you will not have a welfare state and deficit spending, you must have a free market — a genuine free market, not the kind of fake “free market” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AEI and Heritage Foundation call for. You must cease to enforce monopoly rents to the owners of land, capital and “intellectual property.”
If you go only halfway, removing the palliative measures without removing the injustice — if you choose a fake corporatist version of the “free market” — you will only give us another Great Depression worse than the last one.
The choice is clear. If you will not have justice, you must have welfare and Keynesian stimulus spending. There is no third way.
Modern government favors the already rich and those who purchase titles (Ph.D., J.D.) by SO much that the Welfare state is necessary. To fix the problem, we'd have to remove those factors that the government uses to oppress the poor, weak, and small businesses in favor of the corporatists. Intellectual Property, Incarceration Culture, Anti-Marriage Welfare Incentives, Zoning, the FDA, and the Drug War are near the top of my complaints. Other folks I like target Compulsory Education,and Government Licensure. Kevin Carson goes even further, in directions I'm not yet prepared to go...but the line is right.
When the government is the primary vehicle for trampling the poor, it really sucks to not give them a dime after you've trampled them.