Monday, 11 August 2008

Ayn Rand on the Welfare State

Every commentator and his best friend is discussing National's welfare policy, yet not one is addressing the fundamental morality of the Welfare State itself -- unless of course you count the likes of Sue Bradford claiming "the policy would lowers parents' self esteem and takes away their rights" [italics mine] -- an oversight I'd like to redress right now. Here's Ayn Rand on the nature of the Welfare State, making it precisely clear whose rights it destroys:
Since the things man needs for survival have to be produced, and nature does not
guarantee the success of any human endeavor, there is not and cannot be any such
thing as a guaranteed economic security.
The employer who gives you a job, has no guarantee that his business will remain in existence, that his customers will continue to buy his products or services. The customers have no guarantee that they will always be able and willing to trade with him, no guarantee of what their needs, choices and incomes will be in the future.
If you retire to a self-sustaining farm, you have no guarantee to protect you from what a flood or a hurricane might do to your land and your crops. If you surrender everything to the government and give it total power to plan the whole economy, this will not guarantee your economic security, but it will guarantee the descent of the
entire nation to a level of miserable poverty—as the practical results of every
totalitarian economy, communist or fascist, have demonstrated.
Morally, the promise of an impossible “right” to economic security is an infamous attempt to abrogate the concept of rights. It can and does mean only one thing: a promise to enslave the men who produce, for the benefit of those who don’t. If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those
others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor. There can be no such thing as the right to enslave, i.e., the right to destroy rights...
Morally and economically, the welfare state creates an ever accelerating downward pull. Morally, the chance to satisfy demands by force spreads the demands wider and wider, with less and less pretense at justification. Economically, the forced demands of one group create hardships for all others, thus producing an inextricable mixture of actual victims and plain parasites. Since need, not achievement, is held as the criterion of rewards, the government necessarily keeps sacrificing the more productive groups to the less productive, gradually chaining the top level of the economy, then the next level, then the next. (How else are unachieved rewards to be provided?)
There are two kinds of need involved in this process: the need of the group making demands, which is openly proclaimed and serves as cover for another need, which is never mentioned—the need of the power-seekers, who require a group of dependent favor-recipients in order to rise to power. Altruism feeds the first need, statism feeds the second, Pragmatism blinds everyone—including victims and profiteers—not merely to the deadly nature of the process, but even to the fact that a process is going on.
Contemplate that truth when Sue Bradford tells you the National Party's timid policy will "lower parents' self esteem and takes away their rights." Consider yourself whose rights are actually taken away, and the evasion required to overlook that fact. And as you read the details of National's policy itself, notice first which group of people is excluded from the entire discussion, ie., those who pay for it all, and then observe National's own evasion of the fundamental issue that must be addressed by any honest commentary on the Welfare State: that at its heart is the morality of theft -- taking from the productive by force to distribute largesse to the unproductive.
No, I don't expect the National Party either to announce or to contemplate a policy abolishing the immoral, parasitic structure that is the Welfare State. But I do at least expect them to realise the nature of that which they support:
It is true that the welfare-statists are not socialists, that they never advocated or intended the socialization of private property, that they want to “preserve” private property—with government control of its use and disposal. But that is the fundamental characteristic of fascism.


  1. Disagree with the final paragraph. Those people ARE socialists whether they say so or not.


  2. Rand continues to be the unexcelled champion of individual rights, and the clearest and most insightful expositor of the ways they are abrogated.

  3. I'm writing this on my cellphone, so I can't copy-and-paste bits to elaborate upon.... but this doesn't matter because I agree totally with every part you quoted, PC.

    The accelerating downward trend argument spoke volumes for me, because it seems that our country is indeed accelerating its headlong slide into ruin. Its getting worse, not better, and every commentator seems to be focusing on 'rights' with nobody prepared to discuss 'responsibilities'.

    But (and this is a seriously put question, not a rhetorical game device) what should a state do about people who genuinely cannot help themselves? I believe (sorry - think) that the founding philosophy underpinning the welfare state was basically humanitarian, but it has all gone too far, like Ayn Rand said in the article. But surely a caring and moral society wouldn't leave the intellectually or physically disabled, the infirm and aged and the truly damaged to rot with no support? I've seen a fair few countries in the Third World where there is no support and no safety net and its not a recipe for success either, IMHO.

    What is the answer here?

  4. Dave, you are right, this is a wonderful quote and Rand exposes the ignorance of those who argue for the rights to a job/welfare/house.

    You comment on the intentions of those who introduced the welfare state. They might be perceived as having "good intentions" however they were always prepared to use the gun to steal from others to pay for their "good intentions". So I am not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Third world countries are (and will remain) third world countries for the basic reason that there is a lack of respect for individual rights and reason. If they are ever to rise out of this, then they need to embrace ideas which are the polar opposite of those ideas which allow a welfare state to exist. One needs to note that modern westernised countries remain wealthy only to the extent that individual rights are recognised - and in spite of the moral cannibalism embodied in the welfare state.

    Human beings are benevolent by nature - I have seen it - I lived in a third world country once. I saw genuine welfare offered by those with more to those with less. It was not forced "charity".


  5. "Human beings are benevolent by nature .."

    Julian, I truly believe this. I have great faith in people's propensity to help others.

    It is ironic that those who bleat on about "humanitarianism"; implying, if not downright stating that libertarians are not; appear to have little faith in human beings to do the right thing by others.

    "But if the state doesn't provide (whatever), who's going to!" they cry.

    The truth is that they can't afford to philosophically acknowledge the former, particularly if their (public) job depends upon it.


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