The 'World-Straddling Engine of Theft, Degradation, Manipulation and Social Control We Call the Welfare State'
John Kay is tired of hearing the same old same rants about the unaffordable welfare state that he's been hearing for decades:
The economy depends on the welfare state, by John Kay: It is more than 30 years since I first attended a conference on the global welfare crisis. Rarely have a few months passed without an invitation to another. Last week, Tom Palmer, the American libertarian, came to London to denounce the “world-straddling engine of theft, degradation, manipulation and social control we call the welfare state”.
The content of these rants is familiar. Levels of welfare provision are unaffordable; government finance is a huge Ponzi scheme. A common conclusion is to provide an estimate of the discounted value of the cost of some hated item of expenditure if its current provision were continued into the indefinite future. Mr Palmer reported that the present value of unfunded liabilities of US medicine and social security is $137tn.
Social security is a means of inter-generational transfer..., but why ... should we look after old people, who can no longer do anything for us?
The obvious answer invokes Kant’s categorical imperative: it would be good for everyone (including ourselves when we are old) if everyone acted in this way. We feed the generations of our parents and grandparents in the expectation future generations will come along and do the same for us. But the consequences of this arrangement do have the character of a Ponzi scheme. One day, the world will end and the last generation of workers will have been cheated of their expectation of a peaceful retirement. In the meantime it is possible to calculate enormous measures of unfunded obligations, and it doesn’t matter. The value of these obligations is offset by the implied commitments of future generations. ...
Exaggeration can sometimes be forgiven when it is used to draw attention to a problem that has received insufficient attention. It is less easy to excuse when it threatens the fragile social arrangements on which economic security depends.