The welfare state

Salvageable has an excellent post here. I would just like to add a few words which I hope will clarify the debate between Conservatives and Socialists.

Government regulation which is designed to protect our rights to life. liberty and pursuit of happiness is not Socialism. To a large extent what constitutes Socialism is a matter of intent. Because we have to tax ourselves to pay for government, we can be ridiculous and define any sort of government as Socialist, and that is what the Socialists do. In the eyes of Socialists, the mere manifestation of government is Socialist. Therefore, the minute a Conservative says that a Socialist wants too much government Socialists proclaim that Conservatives hate government. In truth, Conservatives think Socialism is immoral.

Let’s consider again some of Salvageable’s words.

Many Americans who say that they support socialism are actually longing for a more complete welfare state. They do not necessarily want their government to run all the factories, all the farms, all the hospitals and clinics, and all the means of production. They merely want a guarantee that all the hungry will be fed, all the homeless will be sheltered, and all the sick will receive the care they need.

Most of the people who support Socialism don’t actually know what they want. They want a solution, but they have not given much thought about the implementation of a solution and the consequences of that solution.

What is the problem? I think part of the problem is the way we have defined the words. Capitalism is not simply an economic system. Capitalism is a system that recognizes we each have personal property rights. Socialism is not simply an economic system. Socialism is a system based upon the proposition that everyone owns everything, and the majority has the right to control the use of all property using the instrument of government.

With these definitions am I redefining Capitalism and Socialism? I suppose so, but words do not have fixed definitions. Like it or not, when we use words we battle over their meanings. To communicate we each impose upon others what we think a word means. Hence, because that is the way they see it, Socialists are always trying to redefine Conservativism (and Capitalism too) as the hatred of government. Therefore, with these modified definitions I am trying to put the focus back where it belongs, how we each regard human rights.

In order to to fix problems related to poverty, Socialists have decided to deprive the individuals of their property rights. They have decided the end, eliminating the problem of poverty, justifies the means. However, any system of government based upon stealing other people’s property leads to tyranny. When we become completely dependent upon the government, we become the slaves of the people who run the government.

Are these proposed definitions of Capitalism and Socialism too extreme? Is there a happier middle ground? No. Consider that in order to implement Capitalism we must make a compromise. To protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we must institute government taxation. That government, in order to have the funding it needs, must tax us. However, unless we restrict the power of taxation to that which is absolutely needed to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that power of taxation will be used to endlessly grow the government. Is that not what we see happening?


Already the free market economy reflects a compromise between pure capitalism and pure socialism, although the free market preserves the benefits of capitalism and permits only necessary legislation to moderate the economy. Governments limit pollution of the air and land and water. They make sure that the products sold to consumers are safe. They also regulate work areas for the safety of the workers. Governments even place limits upon who can work—setting minimum working ages to keep children out of the work force—and they limit the number of hours per week required of workers and demand rest times and meal times for workers.

A further compromise between pure capitalism and pure socialism is called the welfare state. Although some kinds of government welfare can be detected in ancient times—the Roman government subsidized bread and circuses for the people—the real welfare state began in the late nineteenth century as a result…

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2 thoughts on “The welfare state

  1. Tom, You have anticipated my next post about intent. Legislation intended to protect the consumer or worker without interfering unduly with the owner of the business fits within the free market system, which is essentially capitalism. Legislation intended to deprive the owner of the business of control of that business–most especially, when it is designed to cut into profits and “share the wealth”– is socialism. J.

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