Inefficient. Wasteful. Dehumanizing. Inhumane. Conservatives and libertarians commonly attach all of these epithets to the American welfare system. Any reader of Charles Murray’s voluminous accounts of these programs will know, in exacting statistical detail, just how true these claims are of the welfare and entitlement state. But few have gone through the alphabet soup of programs themselves, and even fewer have written about the “personal” side of the welfare process.
I have applied for these programs. I have consulted lawyers, social workers, and other advocates to help me jump through so many hoops and fill out so many forms that I long ago lost count. I am a diagnosed schizophrenic and a college drop-out, but I have enough sense (and enough of an understanding of economics, particularly public choice theory) to appreciate the unalloyed, banal horror of those who fall through the cracks of American society, and the unnecessary barriers put in the way of self-advancement and personal initiative by the very measures designed to help them.
My thesis is simple: first, the welfare state as currently constituted systematically discriminates against the poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable; second, the programs themselves are deeply paternalistic and stifle rational, adult decision-making at every conceivable level of action; and third, that the entirety of the welfare state should be abolished along with labor market regulations (such as the minimum wage) and replaced with a negative income tax or universal basic income.
The first contention, even to conservative ears, is probably the most shocking: welfare spending doesn’t go to those who need it most? Let’s consider Social Security. In general, Social Security payments for non-retirees fall into two categories: Social Security Insurance (SSI), which is earmarked for individuals who have never held a job, and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is for people who have either worked and become disabled (that is, have “paid into” the system to some degree) or were disabled prior to reaching adulthood and have no reasonable expectation of becoming employed due to their disability. . .
The first and most obvious step to take would be to stop limiting their employment options. Minimum wage laws, which price individuals with low labor productivity out a job, should be abolished. Even the Americans with Disabilities Act, which raises the specter of lawsuits directed at businesses that “wrongfully” fire a disabled person, should be repealed. Any and all laws restraining free, uncoerced trade, from state occupational licensing laws to laws limiting where and when small businesses can be established, should be ended outright. We’re in a deep pit on our policies regarding the disabled and unemployed: it’s time to stop digging. (Read more from “I’m on Welfare, and That’s How I Know It Needs to Be Abolished” HERE)