Replenishing the 150-odd pages of source quotes for Twitter and Facebook ‘liberty quotations’ sites that I manage, I recently came across a couple of paragraphs that explain an important long-term consequence of a growing governmental welfare state.
The paragraphs I refer to were written by David Green, who ought to be known to most readers of this blog as co-author (with Lawrence Cromwell) of a very insightful, in fact must-read, book about the rise and decline of Australia’s mutual-aid societies.
Written in the British context, these passages retain a broader applicability for other Western countries, such as Australia, whose economies and civil societies have been significantly harmed by the ever-expanding welfare state. The quotation is also very topical, given the recent Australian general election in which new subsidies, such as Paid Parental Leave, were promised to politically-conceived ‘deserving’ constituencies at the generalised expense of others:
… I have accepted that much support for redistributive justice is based on the widespread public desire to relieve hardship, but in reality it is also based on a rather lower motive. In practice much support for redistribution feeds on and stimulates selfishness by telling voters that they will benefit from taxes imposed on others. Professor Ruth Lister, for instance, a former director of CPAG [UK Child Poverty Action Group], urges improvements in child benefit, pensions, the position of the long-term unemployed and the introduced of a phased disability income scheme, all of which she believes should be financed by taxes on the top 5 per cent of earners. In doing so she is encouraging people to demand benefits at the expense of the wealthy when the reality of the welfare state for the majority is that they are being bribed with their own money.
The real significance of such bribery is that it has broken the traditional solidarity of all taxpayers against the over-spending proclivities of government. In Britain our liberties were built on this solidarity as monarchs from the Saxons to the Stuarts and their successors conceded individual rights and constitutional checks in return for taxes. The policy of governments this century has been to divide and rule by telling one section of the population that their benefits are at the expense of others. The result has been a higher burden of taxation than ever, and a particularly high burden on the low paid.
[Source: David G Green, 1991, Equalising People: Why Social Justice Threatens Liberty, CIS Occasional Paper No. 57, p. 10]
Your thoughts about the significance, and implications, of Green’s statement?