You Can Support A Basic Social Safety Net, And Still Be A Libertarian


I’ve noticed a very cold and bitter attitude among libertarians as they venture down their quest for purism of ideology. There always seems to be this goal of people going “Oh, you’re that libertarian wanting to end the Fed and legalize cocaine? Watch this!” and in that, there tends to be a path for stupid things getting said over and over and over again: people getting booed for saying it should be illegal to sell crystal meth to school children; and chanting and cheering over being told drivers’ licenses should be abolished. Yet, sadly, one thing I’ve seen over and over again, is “Hey, let’s abolish welfare!” and for that, I think it deserves an article.

I see the most basic way of explaining libertarianism to be what Republicans believe economically (only better, and loving immigrants), and what Democrats believe socially, and a better foreign policy than both. There is the principle that humans have their personal property, and what they produce. A government is formed where some freedoms are sacrificed for a general gain in freedom on a whole. However, extremes in any political ideology do exist. The conservatives can have their Paul Ryans, but also have your meth-addled nuts bombing an abortion clinic to protect sweet baby Jesus. The left can have the fairly-reasonable Cory Bookers, but also have Jill Stein who in her 60s is trying to relive Woodstock by getting arrested at every event she goes to. Libertarians have the Rand Pauls, Justin Amashes, Gary Johnsons and Bill Welds casually sitting back calling to pardon hundreds of thousands of drug offenders, not go to war weekly and cut government in half while the hardcore types can exist at the trailer park talking about how they’d be billionaires and skinny only if government didn’t exist with their magic Fed money.

This is just every political ideology… don’t be turned away or convinced of the radical notion that ending all welfare is part of libertarianism.

But there’s one basic point to this: for the love of God, cut welfare spending!

The same way we should keep welfare, public schools, roads, the police, and the military, we can say all of these things are poorly run and all efforts in making them smaller should be prioritized. Breaking that down, welfare under the American government could be pointed out in the following lights: there is a general welfare servicing people in the front of cash given directly towards people in order to cover basic expenses in living. This much to what some die-hard libertarians and conservatives would not want people to think is actually not as poorly run as most people think. About 80 to 85% of people using it are only on it for periods below two years and half of those people using it for periods of over five years are legitimately physically or mentally unwell. The next group is the expensive class of welfare known as food stamps catering a larger percentage of people. This holds near mirror identical numbers compared to welfare and does run rates of people only using it for brief periods. Those two are the main ones people associate with welfare. Obviously, programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security exist, but I’ll save those for another article to be done in the land of eventually.

We do have the obvious welfare and food stamp programs in America. And in that, I have honestly seen, from many conservatives and libertarians, a nasty and bitter attitude, with them saying “Yeah, my tax dollars go to pay people to be on the dole!” On the surface this is correct. But welfare and food stamps are a penny to what your tax dollars actually do. Just a small breakdown of spending that doesn’t include Social Security, due to a separate tax funding that. Note that all numbers are rounded for the reader’s convenience:

  • Medicare: $1.1 trillion
  • Department of Defense: $600 billion
  • Medicaid: $250 billion
  • Interest on Existing Debts: $230 billion
  • Veterans’ Benefits: $160 billion
  • Department of Education: $110 billion
  • Department of Transportation: $85 billion
  • Food Stamps: $100 billion
  • Core Welfare: $70 billion

I’ll point out that welfare spending on the core programs is something to obviously review cutting. That being said, though, in a world where defense and the VA are getting nearly three quarters of a trillion yearly and other programs with these heavily mismanaged departments such as Energy, Education, Commerce and dictation are getting more money, this mean-spirited nature is largely either radicalism for the sake of radicalism, or just lack of knowledge and a preference on screwing over the guns over people with nuclear weapons.

I’d also just point out libertarians tend to make two arguments on abolishing welfare: one holds merit and the other is just total junk:

The Junk Argument: Private Charities Would Replace Welfare

My shortest answer is that they would for some, and not for others.

In America, and globally, a lot of poor people exist who both governments and private individuals exclude. This case either manages and answers these problems well is a total lie. Get rid of welfare, and, while I’m positive a large percentage of those on it will be taken care of, I doubt the charities, especially in harder economic times, will be able to supply aid to a large group of people.

It’s just a fallacy talk.

The Good Argument: Welfare Just Subsidizes The Market

This is one where I’ll acknowledge a valid point.

If welfare programs didn’t exist, people working for companies such as Walmart or whatever, getting paid low wages, would likely be more inclined to demand higher pay rates and the market would adjust with new employees. This, for the most part, works, but I do see an issue with the renewed workforce participation in the economy on ending welfare and this problem really fixing everything. Once again, it’s a tough one, but while some will clearly be okay, a lot won’t.

And in the debate of discussing poverty with people, it’s just a fact that we, politically speaking, can’t leave anyone hanging. Also, just in that basic moral thing of being a human probably shouldn’t either. For this, I would recommend ending the talk of “Oh, let’s get rid of welfare.”. However, I do recommend real solutions to cut the social safety net spending and make things vastly more efficient.

Here are some basic solutions!

1. Privatize Welfare Agencies & Government Unemployment Services

This one is just the most basic thing: Allow companies to take over these services locally in distribution and management of welfare and unemployment. Make clear incentives for them to figure out ways to save cost without hurting people. Monitoring things such as what food they are consuming and doing the strategy of bulk purchasing and distribution to save. Examining market trends and getting people skilled in certain task and moved into certain job sectors.

Basic things where companies can make money on making the poor better off and governments saving money.

2. Deregulate Grocery Stores

A lot of people talk about why so much food goes to waste in grocery stores. Let’s talk about the heavy liability laws on selling nearly-expiring foods and how discounts for near expired food are nearly outlawed nationally. Make that process easier and find people actually saving money on food they intend to eat faster soon.

3. Negative Income Tax

A model of not spending countless amounts on firms to oversee things with useless government agencies and not penalizing people for working part time, moving or doing other things to potentially make more.

From these three ideas alone, I’d ask libertarians to stay libertarian. Stay focused on how we have a tax where the income tax is cut 90% and the national debt has become a national surplus. However, think of ways which are more creative over the “Abolish it!” model. Remember that if we cut spending 25% and yearly kept the spending flat, within one decade on natural revenue and GDP growth, we could cut taxes 50% and still run a budget surplus.

With that… I have nothing else to say.

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  1. As long as silly little things like principle and ideology don’t matter to you, your points are excellent.

    Some of us, however, happen to believe that forcibly confiscating the property of one person, and giving it to another who did not earn it, is immoral.

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