This week we are moved to ignore the news – which we have done our best to follow without throwing things at the television – take a large step back and consider a question which has been bugging us.
Why is it that left are the nice guys – the ones that care – while the right are the heartless, inconsiderate bastards?
We think we may have the answer.
It’s to do with the welfare state, see.
Most people, even sociopaths, want to see the poor and needy well looked after. This is a responsibility which the state has taken upon itself in a role which began with compulsory education in the late 19th century and the National Insurance Act of 1911. The role has grown to such an extent that 93 percent of children are now educated by the state, over 85 percent of healthcare (based on spending) is provided by the state, and probably somewhere above 95 percent of unemployment benefit, income support and so on. As I say in Life After The State, the state looks after the birth of the baby, the education of the young, the employment of the man, the care of the elderly and the burial of the dead.
We have not read the act, so we cannot say for sure, but we suspect that this near monopoly is in breach of the Competition Act of 1998.
The point is that our glorious state has an extremely large ‘market share’, so much so that people now cannot conceive that there are alternative ways to help people.
When somebody on the right argues for less government, it is interpreted as arguing for less care. And so that right-winger is deemed heartless and inconsiderate. The leftie who argues for more spending on the NHS, on education, on benefits, for more regulation and so on is, meanwhile, deemed the caring one.
This is a narrative that needs to change.
It is hurting people.
A monopoly on compassion
As we did with the NHS last week, we now put the boot in and argue that those who are defending government care are actually standing in the way of good care for people.
To explain my thinking, we ascend, for a few paragraphs, into the realm of the philosophical.
The most effective charity, argued Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self-sufficient. State charity – aka welfare – has too frequently had the opposite effect: it has actually created dependency.
The provision of good care is not a simple process. Different circumstances require different forms of care. Sometimes money might help, sometimes not – sometimes giving money can create further dependency. Sometimes something local is required, sometimes something practical, sometimes something psychological or emotional, sometimes something specific to the individual’s circumstances. Sometimes what’s needed is a kick up the backside.
There’s also the matter of the dignity of the recipient. It can be demeaning to receive charity, so some kind of anonymity might be required – but on other occasions it might not be.
A top-down, one-size-fits-all, system of state welfare just cannot meet all these varying needs consistently over time.
There is also the giver to think about. Compassion, care and the giving of charity are essential human functions – they are a part of human nature. People need to give as much as they need to receive.
The giver has needs too. Sometimes he/she wants to be anonymous, sometimes he/she wants recognition, sometimes he/she wants to be involved with the recipient in some way, sometimes not.
But in the process of state care, the giver’s needs are not even considered. Taxes are taken and that is it. We are given no real say in how the money we have earned is spent, bar a vote of dubious effect every five years, and often the giver is morally opposed to what his taxes are being spent on!
So, the forced giving that is taxation actually destroys the altruistic satisfaction that people get from giving voluntarily. To help others and to share with them is part of humanity, but, in a world in which government is responsible for the care of the poor and needy, that compassion is removed from life. As a result, the state – and with it the pro-large-welfare-state, left wing – now has a near monopoly on compassion!
Anyone who doesn’t agree with the concept of a large, generous welfare state is deemed heartless and selfish, while those that support it are deemed the nice guys.
Better, cheaper care for all
While you have to pay the government through tax to provide welfare (or healthcare or education) your ability to provide any of these things for yourself or your family is reduced, because you have less money. What’s more, if the state is providing care to the needy, you are then absolved of the responsibility to do so.
Meanwhile, government welfare, as well as being inflexible, is expensive. The large organizations, such as the NHS or the DWP, through which care is administered can be inefficient and wasteful. Worse yet, they are be prone to corruption and rent-seeking . In fact, the greatest expense in our lives is not, as many believe, your house or your children’s education, it is in fact your government. Imagine a world in which that expense is removed. We will all have more capital to spend and invest. Our ability to help others is increased.
In this small-state world, what’s more, suddenly our responsibility to help others is also increased. If the state is not helping people, you must.
Simultaneously, organizations will competing with each other to offer better help at a lower price, so the cost of care will fall, while the quality will improve.
The result will be more affordable welfare, more widespread and diverse welfare, more flexible welfare that can provide for specific needs, more effective welfare, more onus to provide welfare – ultimately, better welfare.
Those that defend government welfare systems need to understand that these very systems, which they are championing, are standing in the way of better care for all.