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America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Welfare State

Despite what you may read at other libertarian sites, the welfare state is not the result of efforts by lazy poor people to enslave and live off the productive classes. Rather, it is the result of efforts by the political-social-corporate elite to subordinate and control the poor for a variety reasons -- the same elite, by the way, that seeks to loot the productive classes. Missing or ignoring this distinction leads to a slew of fallacies, misstatements, and attitudes.

12 comments:

Mark D Hughes said...

Bravo Sheldon. A keen insight which isn't made nearly often enough. The simple fact that the poor have virtually no political power puts the lie to the shrill conservative barking about the lazy poor commandeering their wealth by way of the welfare state. Professor Tullock (and others) proved decades ago that the welfare state exist only because of (and for the almost exclusive benefit of) the politically powerful middle class. In my "Middle Class Windfalls and the Poverty of the Welfare State" [ http://journals.sfu.ca/philanthropist/index.php/phil/article/view/789 ] I explored these issues and presented the argument that given the nature of voting coalitions in a democracy the poor can never benefit in any meaningful way from forced income transfers from the wealthy. In fact, I argue, in a peaceful libertarian society a "coalition" between the very poor and the very rich is a natural likelihood that will benefit both. Its called charity.

Keep up the great work Sheldon.

Kind regards,

Mark D. Hughes
Executive Director
Institute for the Study of Privacy Issues (ISPI)
Mark@PrivacyNews.com www.PrivacyNews.com

Russell Hanneken said...

I'm curious to know: who are the libertarians and conservatives that blame lazy poor people for the welfare state? Maybe I missed it, but I can't remember seeing that sort of rhetoric from either camp.

Mark D Hughes said...

Russell, are you serious or is this an attempt at humor that has slipped completely past me? I'm hoping its the latter.

"Libertarians" in this camp are typically Ayn Rand devotees. As for conservatives, well, the list is long. Starting with the obvious there is: Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck .... . And, no, I'm not going to waste time digging around for quotes.

Sheldon Richman said...

Russell, I had no specific article in mind. But I've been reading commentary on the welfare state long enough to know I'm making a legitimate point. Next time I come across something, I'll put up a link. Do you really think I'm wrong about this?

MarkZ said...

I'm not sure I buy it. I don't get the sense that the intended goal of implementing welfare was to control the poor. I think many, if not most, welfare proponents legitimately consider it a function of the state to provide for the less fortunate. Control over the poor might be an unintended side effect, although I wonder if "control" is the appropriate term here.

I think control over the poor comes in a vastly different form. Specifically, it's the result of the schooling system (public and private), which of course is the way it is because of the state. Do we lump federal aid, licensure, labor laws, and compulsory attendance laws in with "welfare"? Most people wouldn't...

steven said...

One can be much more effective in "helping" people if one is given the power to control those people, in order to keep them from engaging in the types of behavior that the elite has determined is not in their best interest.

Sheldon Richman said...

The fact I am pointing to goes back to the first poor laws in Elizabethan England. This is nothing new. I cover some of this in Tethered Citizens. But check out Piven and Cloward for details. Do you really think the poor have the political clout to construct the welfare state? Let's get real.

MarkZ said...

Of course they don't have the political clout. But that doesn't address the rationale of the ruling class to construct the welfare state, which I think is not so much about control and subordination as it is about a false sense of altruism and a lack of...um...awareness when it comes to economics.

But, again, what we define as "welfare state" matters.

Sheldon Richman said...

Look at the history. The fit -- control through succor -- is a very natural. What would work better?

Bob Kaercher said...

Whenever I pass by a public housing project in Chicago, I think "That's not 'housing'--that's a concentration camp."

And no, I really don't think that observation is hyperbolic.

Patrick10 said...

Sheldon: imo, this post is too conspiratorial...I don't think the politicians have welfare to control the poor. I think they are sincerely trying to help them.

Rocco said...

I wonder if "pacify" wouldn't be a better word than "control"