Trying to Disguise the Handouts

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In the intra-conservative discussion over things like a universal basic income, I have to say I’m with Thomas Sowell:

Welfare-state guarantees of not having to work, however the particular policies are applied, are not a solution. Relieving people of personal responsibility for their own lives, however it is done, is a major part of the problem.

Before there can be a welfare state in a democratic country, there must first be a welfare-state vision that becomes sufficiently pervasive to allow a welfare state to be created. That vision, in which people are “entitled” to what others have produced, is at the heart of the social degeneration that can be traced back to the 1960s.

One halfway step is for conservatives to hide their belief in self reliance by proposing policies like an earned income tax credit (EITC).  As Sowell notes, conservatives say such policies should displace more-economically-disruptive welfare programs, but that never happens.  Instead — in the predictable rope-a-dope wherein progressives hold the rope and conservatives are the dopes — the whole idea just bounces back on itself.  EITC doesn’t displace existing welfare programs.  Rather, it emerges at best as a way to slow the increase of the minimum wage.

The “compromise” that big government offers, in other words, is (A) we don’t touch welfare, (B) we threaten to force harmful expenses on the private sector, but instead, we (C) put that threatened private-sector burden on the public tab through a handout to low-income people.  So, we’ve created a system in which welfare programs reduce incentive to work, and then we tout a program that “rewards” people for working.  As Sowell puts it, we tell them they’re entitled to a certain amount of material well-being (with money confiscated from others) and then attempt to counter-balance that incentive by goosing their pay, at least as long as they don’t advance too far.



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