Welfare state



[1791]  Wilhelm von Humboldt,  The Limits of State Action, Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 1993

-  "... the evil results of a too extensive solicitude on the part of the State are still more strikingly shown in the suppression of all active energy, and the necessary deterioration of the moral character. The man who is often led easily becomes disposed willingly to sacrifice what remains of his capacity for spontaneous action. He fancies himself released from an anxiety which he sees transferred to other hands, and seems to himself to do enough when he looks to their leadership and follows it."
"He now conceives himself not only completely free from any duty which the State has not expressly imposed upon him, but exonerated at the same time from every personal effort to improve his own condition; and even fears such effort, as if it were likely to open out new opportunities, of which the State might take advantage." (p. 20)

-  "As each individual abandons himself to the solicitous aid of the State, so, and still more, he abandons to it the fate of his fellow-citizens." (p. 21)

-  "... and the man whom it [the State] has accustomed to lean on external power for support is thus given up in critical emergencies to a far more hopeless fate." (p. 21)

-  "The more a man acts on his own, the more he develops himself. In large associations he is too prone to become merely an instrument." "For an example, I need only to take the case of poor laws. Does anything tend so effectually to deaden and destroy all true sympathy - all hopeful yet modest entreaty - all trust in man by man? Does not everyone despise the beggar, who finds it more convenient to be cared for in an alms-house than, after struggling with want, to find, not a mere hand flinging him a pittance, but a sympathizing heart?" (pp. 36-37)


[1835]  Alexis de Tocqueville,  Memoir on Pauperism [Mémoire sur le paupérisme], with an introduction by Gertrude Himmelfarb, Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 1997

-  "At first glance there is no idea that seems more beautiful and grander than that of public charity."
-  "The only country in Europe which has systematized and applied the theories of public charity on a grand scale is England. At the time of the religious revolution under Henry VIII, which changed the face of England, almost all the charitable foundations of the kingdom were suppressed; and since their wealth became the possession of the nobles and was not  at all distributed among the common people, the poor remained as numerous as before while the means of providing for them were partly destroyed." (pp. 51-52)

-  "As time passed, England was increasingly led to adopt the principle of legal charity. Pauperism grew more rapidly in Great Britain than anywhere else." (pp. 52-53)

-  "Once having admitted the principle of legal charity, England has not been able to dispense with it. For two hundred years English legislation has revealed itself as nothing more than an extended development of the Elizabethan laws." (p. 54)

-  "Any measure that establishes legal charity on a permanent basis creates an idle and lazy class, living at the expense  of the industrial working class. This, at least, is its inevitable consequence, if not the immediate result. It reproduces all the vices of the monastic system, minus the high ideals of morality and religion that often went along with it."
 - "If you closely observe the condition of populations among whom such legislation has long been in force, you will easily discover that the effects are not less unfortunate for morality than for public prosperity, and that it depraves men even more than it impoverishes them." "From the moment that an indigent is inscribed on the poor list of his parish, he can certainly demand relief, but what is the achievement of this right if not a notarized manifestation of misery, of weakness, of misconduct on the part of its recipient? Ordinary rights are conferred on men by reason of some personal advantage acquired by them over their fellow men. This other kind is accorded by reason of a recognized inferiority. The first is a clear statement of superiority; the second publicizes inferiority and legalizes it. The more extensive and the more secure ordinary rights are, the more honor they confer; the more permanent and extended the right to relief is, the more it degrades." (pp. 58-59)

-  "The law strips the man of wealth of a part of his surplus without consulting him, and he sees the poor man only as a greedy stranger invited by the legislator to share his wealth. The poor man, on the other hand, feels no gratitude for a benefit that no one can refuse him and that could not satisfy him in any case. Public alms guarantee life but do not make it happier or more comfortable than individual alms-giving; legal charity does not thereby eliminate wealth or poverty in society. One class still views the world with fear and loathing while the other regards its misfortune with despair and envy." (p. 60)

-  "Through their Poor Laws, the English have immobilized a sixth of their population. They have bound it to the earth like the medieval peasantry. Then, man was forced against his will to stay on the land where he was born. Legal charity keeps him from even wishing to move." (p. 63)

-  "I think that beneficence must be a manly and reasoned virtue, not a weak and unreflecting inclination. It is necessary to do what is most useful to the receiver, not what pleases the giver, to do what best serves the welfare of the majority, not what rescues the few. I can conceive of beneficence only in this way. Any other way it is still a sublime instinct, but it no longer seems to me worthy of the name of virtue."
-  "I recognize not only the utility but the necessity of public charity applied to inevitable evils such as the helplessness of infancy, the decrepitude of old age, sickness, insanity. I even admit its temporary usefulness in times of public calamities which God sometimes allows to slip from his hand, proclaiming his anger to the nation." "I even understand that public charity which opens free schools for the children of the poor and gives intelligence the means of acquiring the basic physical necessities through labor. But I am deeply convinced that any permanent, regular administrative system whose aim will be to provide for the needs of the poor will breed more miseries than it can cure, will deprave the population that it wants to help and comfort, will in time reduce the rich to being no more than the tenant-farmers of the poor, will dry up the sources of savings, will stop the accumulation of capital, will retard the development of trade, will benumb human industry and activity, and will culminate by bringing about a violent revolution in the State, when the number of those who receive alms will have become as large as those who give it, and the indigent, no longer being able to take from the impoverished rich the means of providing for  his needs, will find it easier to plunder them of all their property at one stroke than to ask for their help." (pp. 69-70)


[1958]  Wilhelm Röpke,  A Humane Economy. The social framework of the free market, Oswald Wolff, London, 1960

-  "Among these slowly spreading cancers of our Western economy and society, two stand out : the apparently irresistible advance of the welfare state and the erosion of the value of money, which is called creeping inflation. There is a close link between the two through their common causes and mutual reinforcement." (p. 151)

-  "Are we to call it progress if we continuously increase the number of people to be treated as economic minors and therefore to remain under the tutelage of the state." (p. 155)

-  "The unmistakably collectivist character of the welfare state leads in the extreme case to what another British critic, Colm Brogan, has called the pocket-money state." (p. 158)

-  "... the modern welfare state, in the dimensions to which it has grown or threatens to grow, is most probably the principal form of the subjection of people to the state in the non-Communist world." (p. 171)

-  "The desire for security, while in itself natural and legitimate, can become an obsession which ultimately must be paid for by the loss of freedom and human dignity - whether people realize it or not."
"A prisoner enjoys complete 'freedom from want' but he would rightly feel taunted if we were to hold this up to him as true and enviable freedom." (p. 172)


[1964]  Vance Packard,  The Naked Society, Longmans, London, 1964

-  "A member of the welfare board in a town in southeastern Connecticut confessed to me her distaste for one aspect of her job. She must visit homes of families on relief at 9 A.M. to make sure the house has been cleaned up and that no men are still sleeping." (p. 275)


[1980]  Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman,  Free to Choose, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1983

-  "New Deal programs of Social Security, unemployment insurance, and direct relief were all expanded [since 1964] to cover new groups; payments were increased; and Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and numerous other programs were added. Public housing and urban renewal programs were enlarged. By now there are literally hundreds of government welfare and income transfer programs. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare, established in 1953 to consolidate the scattered welfare programs, began with a budget of $2 billion, less than 5% of expenditure on national defense. Twenty five years later, in 1978, its budget was $160 billion, one and a half times as much as total spending on the army, the navy, and the air force. It had the third largest budget in the world, exceeded only by the entire budget of the U.S. government and of the Soviet Union. The department supervise a huge empire, penetrating every corner of the nation." (pp. 123-124)

-  "By general agreement, the welfare program is a 'mess' saturated with fraud and corruption." (p. 124)

-  "Special interests that benefit from specific programs press for their expansion - foremost among them the massive bureaucracy spawned by the programs." (p. 125)

-  "In 1978 payments under Social Security for retirement, disability, unemployment, hospital and medical care, and to survivors totaled more than $130 billion and were made to more than 40 million recipients. Public assistance payments of more than $40 billion were made to more than 17 million recipients." (p. 131)

-  "A vast bureaucracy is largely devoted to shuffling papers rather than to serving people. Once people get on relief, it is hard to get off. The country is increasingly divided into two classes of citizens, one receiving relief and the other paying for it. Those on relief have little incentive to earn income. Relief payments vary widely from one part of the country to another, which encourages migration from the South and the rural areas to the North, and particularly to urban centers." (p. 136)

-  "Clearly the money is not going primarily to the poor. Some is siphoned off by administrative expenditures, supporting a massive bureaucracy at attractive pay scales. Some goes to people who by no stretch of the imagination can be regarded as indigent. These are the college students who get food stamps and perhaps other forms of assistance, the families with comfortable incomes who get housing subsidies, and so on in more varied forms than your or our imagination can encompass. Some goes to the welfare cheats." (p. 138)

-  "Urban renewal [in USA] destroyed 'four homes, most of them occupied by blacks, for every home it built - most of them to be occupied by middle- and upper-income whites.' The original occupants were forced to move elsewhere, often turning another area into a 'blighted' one. The program well deserves the name 'slum removal' and 'Negro removal' that some critics gave it." (p. 141)

-  "No new hospital were in fact built in Britain during the first thirteen years of the National Health Service and there are now, in 1976, fewer hospital beds in Britain than in July 1948 when the National Health Service took over. And we may add, two-thirds of those beds are in hospitals that were built before 1900 by private medicine and private funds." (p. 144)

-  "All such programs [welfare programs] put some people in a position to decide what is good for other people. The effect is to instill in the one group a feeling of almost God-like power; in the other, a feeling of childlike dependence. The capacities of the beneficiaries for independence, for making their own decisions, atrophies through disuse. In addition to the waste of money, in addition to the failure to achieve the intended objectives, the end result is to rot the moral fabric that holds a decent society together." (p. 149)


[1981]  Pierre Rosanvallon,  La crise de l'État-providence, Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1992

-  "Trois éléments d'analyse sont généralement mis en avant pour formuler un diagnostic de crise de l'État-providence français : il se trouve dans une impasse financière, son efficacité économique et sociale décroît, son développement est contrarié par certaines mutations culturelles en cours." (p. 13)

-  "L'alternative à l'État-providence n'est pas d'abord d'ordre institutionel, elle est principalement sociétale. Il s'agit de faire exister une société civile plus épaisse et de développer des espaces d'échange et de solidarité qui puissent être encanstrés en son sein et non pas 'extériorisés' et projetés sur les deux seuls pôles du marché ou de l'État." (p. 115)


[1996]  Matt Ridley,  The Origins of Virtue, Softback Preview, England, 1997

-  "In Britain, the welfare state and the mixed-economy 'corpocracy' replaced thousand of effective community institutions - friendly societies, mutuals, hospital trusts and more, all based on reciprocity and gradually nurtured virtuous circles of trust - with giant, centralized Leviathans like the National Health Service, nationalized industries and government quangos, all based on condescension. Because more money was made available through higher taxes, something was gained at first. But soon the destruction wrought to Britain's sense of community was palpable. Because of its mandatory nature the welfare state encouraged in its donors a reluctance and resentment, and in its clients not gratitude but apathy, anger or an entrepreneurial drive to exploit the system. Heavy government makes people more selfish, not less." (pp. 262-263)

-  "... I do believe that there have been glimpses of a better way, of a society built upon voluntary exchange of goods, information, fortune and power between free individuals in small enough communities for trust to be built. I believe such a society could be more equitable, as well as more prosperous, than one built upon bureaucratic statism." (p. 263)

-  "I live close to one of the great old cities of Britain, Newcastle upon Tyne. In two centuries it has been transformed from a hive of enterprise and local pride, based on locally generated and controlled capital and local mutual institutions of community, into the satrapy of an all-powerful state, its industries controlled from London or abroad (thanks to the collectivization of people's savings through tax relief for pension funds), and its government an impersonal series of agencies staffed by rotating officials from elsewhere whose main job is to secure grants from London. Such local democracy as remains is itself based entirely on power, not trust. In two centuries the great tradition of trust, mutuality and reciprocity on which such cities were based have been all but destroyed - by governments of both stripes." (p. 263)
-  "The city is now notorious for shattered, impersonal neighbourhood where violence and robbery are so commonplace that enterprise is impossible. Materially, everybody in the city is better off than a century ago, but that is the result of new technology, not government." (p. 264)


[1999]  Martin van Creveld,  The Rise and Decline of the State, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

-  "... Denmark with its remarkably generous system of sickness benefits (90 per cent of the average industrial wage) discovered that the average number of sick days claimed by each worker per year doubled between 1967 and 1977. Nothing could be better proof of the welfare's state amazing ability to aggravate the very social problems which it was destined to cure. In fact the same had been true ever since the first programs had been instituted around the turn of the century." (p. 363)


[1999]  Louis Bériot,  Abus de Bien Public. Enquête sur les milliards gaspillés par l'Etat. Les chiffres, les preuves, les responsables, Plon, Paris, 1999

-  "Le mot « social », par son usage dérivé, usurpé, constitue un abus encore plus flagrant que celui du mot « public ».  Parce qu'il revêt cette apparence d'attention au bien-être des autres. Parce qu'il autorise celui qui s'en sert à se donner bonne conscience, à justifier ses actes même les plus indélicats, et surtout à écarter, avec la suffisance et l'impunité que confère l'aide distribuée aux « pauvres », toute interrogation sur le bien-fondé de ses pratiques." (p. 195)

-  "Comme le souligne un connaisseur du milieu, Pierre-Patrick Kaltenbach, « les associations sans but lucratif sont devenues des associations lucratives sans but »." (p. 249)