Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Austerity as the Welfare State Unravels

We are treated daily to news accounts of families suffering from removal of government benefits that such families had come to expect. Today's NYTimes features a community in England facing the loss of a government-provided day-care center. These stories describe the often desperate plight of families suddenly deprived of something that they had come to depend upon. This is the cruel downside of the modern welfare state.

Inevitably, the welfare state, in every country, expands it's reach into every aspect of life. Eventually, with the elimination of private saving and a sense of personal responsibility, the welfare state becomes wildly unaffordable. That's where we are now in most of the Western world. Now comes the painful, but inevitable, process of dismantling the welfare state as the promises run up against reality.

The money has to come from somewhere. No matter how loudly welfare proponents proclaim the existence of this economic right or that economic right (now proclaiming, for example, the right to publicly provided contraception!). Europe now and the US soon will unravel their welfare states, since there is no one out there willing to fund ithem. No doubt the NYTimes will treat us to more stories of families who, having abandoned earlier habits of thrift and self reliance to accept government welfare, now face the withdrawal of those benefits.

There is no limit to the expansion of the welfare state short of catastrophe because those who are it's proponents are unmoved by arguments about incentives and affordability. But, numbers are numbers, so more and more families in the West will be forced to face the harsh realities that the welfare state and it's ultimate dissolution will impose.