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Is the Welfare State Immoral?

Is the Welfare State Immoral

Society is divided into the layers called social classes, which depend on the distribution of wealth. While the rich increase their profits, the poor suffer from the lack of access to quality education, healthcare, and employment. Thus, welfare state presents the great solution to the problem of social inequality. Moreover, the policy adopted in the UK and the US creates opportunities for everyone. Nevertheless, the welfare has its price and the negative consequences. It is especially true in the area of morals. The welfare state has a detrimental effect on the morality of society, spoiling all the participants of the wealth distribution.

To start with, the major idea of the welfare state is to benefit the state, not people. The market does not reward the supposed notion of “merit” or “goodness.” The market rewards “service,” which is a success of individual in producing some product in the market system valuable for people, who are ready to pay for it (Ebeling 2013). For example in Britain, the local welfare state emerged to pave the way to socialism. After the war, the government wanted to develop the image of a New Britain, decent and caring. Therefore, the politicians strived to respond to moral concerns about achieving greater social justice. Nevertheless, the initiative’s real background was absolutely unrelated to moral issues. James Panton breaks the myth in the following way, “the welfare state developed as an attempt to mitigate the failures of market society and to contain the threat of class conflict – it was driven by the interests of the state, not the interests of the citizenry” (Panton 2010). Furthermore, the welfare state was a preventative measure against the increasing threat of the labour movement. Thus, the motives that stood behind the promotion of the welfare state did not relate to moral issues. The state just wanted to keep the capitalist economy afloat and ease the social tension manifested during the period of history.

The welfare state is immoral because it treats people as defective and helpless individuals. James Panton argues that the welfare state encourages individuals to accommodate to their lot. It is grounded in the premise that “individuals are vulnerable, physically and psychologically incapacitated, and in need of constant therapeutic intervention” (Panton 2010). Thus, the author implies that people get used to be helpless. Weird as it may seem, the state promotes the sense of helplessness by providing aid to the unemployed citizens. On the one hand, the initiative is expected to help the unemployed to cope with the challenging situation and improve their confidence to get back to work (Machan 1991). On the other hand, it teaches people the lesson about their personal inefficiency. They learn that being unemployed should be perceived as a great problem calling for psychological intervention. They are taught to trust appointed counsellors more than they trust themselves. They lose the sense of their responsibility to decide what is problematic and their capability of an independent coping mechanism. Instead, they give the control over their life to the government, allowing it decide how to lead their life and control the resources they find to be necessary.

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The sense of personal vulnerability leads to another moral wickedness of the welfare state, an unnoticeable shift in the understanding of unemployment. In the contemporary world, the politicians refer to the problem of unemployment as a psychological issue more and more often. Unemployment becomes an individual handicap instead of being viewed as a failure of social and political organization (Rogan 2013). A vivid example that confirms the tendency is the statistics, according to which “of the five million people currently out of work and claiming benefits in the UK, over 50 per cent are drawing Incapacity Benefit – they have been redefined as incapable of working rather than as being denied a job by the current social and economic framework” (Panton 2010). Hence, politicians do not promote any autonomy or independence. Instead, they maintain the assumption that one needs the state intervention to maintain one’s capacity for work and employment.

Many experts also say that the state welfare system is immoral because it takes money that others earn through the hard work. Meanwhile, the system hides the legal theft of one’s money in the disguise of democracy. As Richard Ebeling puts it, “modern democracy has degenerated into a system of political plunder and special privilege at the expense of consumers, taxpayers, and competing producers in society” (Ebeling 2013). Walter Williams compares the principle of the welfare state with the imaginative case of helping the old woman. To make the example clear, Williams draws the analogies between stealing money from an average stranger to give money to the poor old lady in the street. While the majority of Americans would condemn the action as immoral, they do not judge the same when it comes to the welfare state. Thus, Walter Williams concludes, “Our current economic crisis, as well as that of Europe, is a direct result of immoral conduct. Roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of our federal budget can be described as Congress’ taking the property of one American and giving it to another” (Williams 2012).

Williams is not the only one, who sees the inconsistencies between what is promised and what is done. Jacob Hornberger notices the same negative consequences of the welfare state. According to him, the system is based on “people’s using the federal government to get their hands on money that belongs to other people while, at the same time, doing their best to protect their own money from people who are trying to do the same thing to them” (Hornberger 2014). Thus, as the system takes the money that other people earned it offends their dignity.

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Finally, the welfare state promotes idleness and living at the expense of other citizens. According to James Otteson, the welfare state has created a legal apparatus that enables and promotes living at community’s cost, “and this apparatus has given rise to the feeling among increasingly many people that they have the right–that they are “entitled,” perhaps as a matter of “social justice”–to live at others’ expense” (Otteson 2011). Without a doubt, individuals, who came with the idea of the welfare state many years ago, did not intend a by-product of the policy. Nevertheless, when people realize they do not have to work hard to survive and the benefits of social program outnumber the disadvantages, they lose motivation to look for a job and learn that other will pay for their mistakes. Furthermore, an incentive for the people on welfare emerges “to do the same thoughtless or reckless actions again in the future” (Ebeling 2013).

To conclude, the welfare state has a detrimental effect on people, who are engaged in the system. Even when politicians justify the approach with the promises of the social justice, they never mean it. The policy aims at the keeping the economy afloat not for the good of the average citizen. Moreover, it offends people. On the one hand, it does harm to working citizens, who earn money, as the law takes the fruits of their work. On the other hand, the welfare state does harm to those who benefit from the system. Not only it teaches people to be helpless, but they are rewarded for their inactivity. Thus, even if the moral hazards of the welfare state are not discussed by the politicians, society should be aware of them and try to minimize its immoral influence.