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Thread: The Secret History Of The Monopolization Of Welfare By The State

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    The Secret History Of The Monopolization Of Welfare By The State

    Authored by Richard Ebeling via The American Institute for Economic Research,

    The fundamental political issue always confronting society is whether human relationships shall be based on free association and voluntary choice, or on governmental compulsion and command. Of course, in most societies there are elements of both, often called the interventionist state or the “mixed economy.” But, nonetheless, the basic institutional alternatives are liberty or coercion.

    This often seems difficult for people to fully appreciate or understand. We select where we live, we accept or not accept a job offering, we decide on the furniture in our home and what (if anything) we will read in terms of books or magazines, or to watch on television. We pick our friends and choose the clubs and associations we want to join. A thousand other everyday choices and decisions reflect our freedom in still much of what we do.

    Political Interference in Market Affairs
    Yet, at the same time, we take for granted many aspects and facets of our lives where such decision-making is narrowed or co-opted for us by those in political authority. We are compelled to pay into the government pension system called Social Security; we are taxed to pay for types and degrees of medical and health care that we may or may not desire or consider worth what the government garnishes from our salaries to pay for it before we even see a penny of our earned incomes.

    The government regulates how business is done, under what terms and conditions an employer may hire a worker, what products may be produced and with what qualities, features and characteristics, and sometimes the price at which the good or service may be sold.

    These, too, are taken for granted and presumed to be the appropriate and necessary tasks of government in modern society. Indeed, in many if not most instances, the majority of Americans and the citizens of other countries, as well, don’t or rarely think twice about these roles for the political authority in our daily affairs. In fact, when they are challenged, a good number of people are shocked that it should be even questioned.

    Yet, all these government activities inescapably reduce and restrict our free choices. Think of medical and health care. Increasingly government prevents people from deciding on the health insurance and medical treatment they may receive or purchase on their own. Practically all of the candidates vying for the Democratic Party presidential nomination have said they want to see implemented some form of a “single-payer” system, which, in reality, is socialized medicine under which government centrally plans all medical matters for everyone in society.

    What Of Politically Mandated Euthanasia?
    When friends of freedom raise serious questions about this, including government being handed control over life and death decisions for all of us, in terms of type and duration of medical treatment, they are often scoffed at. Yet, this danger has been warned about for more than a century. In 1916, in the midst of the First World War, a fairly well known British lawyer and classical liberal, E. S. P. Haynes (1877-1949), published a book called The Decline of Liberty in England. He explained how the British government had been encroaching on people’s personal, social and economic freedom in Great Britain for nearly 40 years, and the wartime emergency had merely exacerbated this trend. He wondered how much of all this could or might be reversed once the war was over.

    Haynes reprinted as an appendix a brief article that had appeared in a magazine called, The Free Woman, shortly before the publication of his own book in 1916. The article was on, “Home Life in A.D 2000.” It tells the tale of an old and ill gentleman in the far off future year of 2000, who is waiting for the government to enforce mandatory euthanasia, since government planned and managed medical care dictate treatments and termination of life.

    The gentleman says to his son in this imagined future:

    “It really seems a pity that the Medical Control Board won't let me live a little longer. Of course, there is a good deal of pain for one hour out of the twenty-four, which requires a certain amount of medical attention, but I should not mind paying a little extra for that if the State allowed any doctor or nurse to have a private practice. (However, I daresay I should never have been born under the new Inspection of Parents Act.) The point is that I am quite interested in the morning paper and talking to all of you and seeing a friend sometimes . . . and in old days I could have gone on indefinitely."

    The son comments that, yes, some are wistful for the “anarchy” of the old days, of around 1900, when people could make those decisions for themselves. But had not his father commented about how excited people were with the Voluntary Euthanasia Act of 1940? The elderly gentleman admits that that is so, “but, of course, it had to become compulsory soon . . .The expenses of the State medical service have been considerably reduced by the power of the Local Board to decide when a patient is not worth further attention.” He then asked his son, “By the way, did you see the official form? Did it give me a week or a fortnight,” before his mandatory termination?

    His son read him the official government notice that had arrived: 

    “I regret to inform you that my Board have decided to allow you no further medical service after a week from this date, and they are of opinion that you would save yourself and your relations much inconvenience and pain by availing yourself of Section 3 subsection (1) of the Compulsory Euthanasia Act of 1980. Everything can be done at your house, if suitable preparations are made, as our Travelling Euthanasia expert will be in London at that date. You are probably aware that in cases like yours the Board will allow a grant of five pounds towards the cremation expenses, and will accept a preliminary Probate affidavit from yourself for the purpose of assessing death duties. For your guidance I enclose a special form which you must forward within three days to the Inland Revenue Department.”

    The old gentlemen tells his son that there was a time when people would have considered such a compulsory ending to human life at the command of the State as against the very idea of a society of free individuals. However, such people who believed in liberty “were all ultimately secluded under the third Mental Deficiency Act,” that is, placed in mental institutions for those with the insane idea that freedom mattered.

    How long ago, he reflects, was that bygone time when people, “swore, drank alcoholic preparations at meals, married without medical permission . . . Why, they actually owned houses and land in perpetuity, and read books which were excluded from the British Museum Catalogue, and wrote quite scurrilously about the Government. Those were indeed turbulent times. Everything was so casual and unforeseen.”

    Finally, the gentleman thinks that he better make sure his will is in order before his mandatory termination, and he mentions to his son that as part of any eulogy, they might mention his important work on legislation relating to the “Better Regulation of Female Underclothing Act,” of which he is clearly very proud.

    British National Health Care Can be an Indirect Euthanasia
    In the first decades of the 20th century, this must have seemed all a fantasyland of “reactionaries” and “anti-social,” old fashioned laissez-faire liberal types. But, in fact, in the years before the First World War, the British government introduced the first legislative elements that eventually became the “single-payer” system under the inspiration of the welfare state already established in Imperial Germany, the very country with which Great Britain was then at war. Britain’s socialized healthcare system only was fully implemented following the Second World War under a socialist government.

    Under the current British system, the government may not order your death after some point due to age or illness, but the stories are notorious concerning the wait times for seriously sick individuals to have access to doctor’s appointments or to the possible treatment that could cure them or at least noticeably prolong their lives. It is merely compulsory euthanasia through indirect means.

    The Friendly Societies Provided Voluntary Social Safety Nets
    Throughout the 19th century, a primary means for the provision of what today we call the “social safety nets” was by the private sector outside of government. The British Friendly Societies were mutual assistance associations that emerged to provide death benefits for the wives and children of the breadwinner who had passed away. But they soon offered a wide array of other mutual insurance services, including health care coverage, retirement pension programs, unemployment insurance, savings clubs to purchase a family house, and a variety of others.

    A number of scholars who have devoted time to researching the lost history of the Friendly Societies estimate that by the end of the 19th century around two-thirds to three-quarters of the entire British population was covered by one or more of their programs and insurances. The research also discovered that a large majority of the subscribers were in the lower income brackets of the time; precisely because of their more modest financial circumstances, the “working poor” and the lower middle class were very conscious of the need to set aside a certain sum of their limited budgets to anticipate unexpected circumstances, as well as those situations that were inescapable for anyone, such as old age.

    What stands out is that these were all private and voluntary associations and exchanges, in which the government paid little or no role. One part of this system of freedom was charity and philanthropy; that is, the voluntary giving by those better off to assist those who were financially worse off and deserved a helping hand.

    The Generosity of Private Charity was Criticized!
    How pervasive was such philanthropy and charity? William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882), one of the leading British economists of the second half of the 19th century, and one of the developers of marginal utility theory, called for the end to private charity and its replacement with a fuller government system. This was not due to the paucity of private benevolence, but rather due to what he considered its excessive generosity.

    At a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in September 1870, Jevons criticize the open-handedness of the wealthy and better off in voluntarily helping the poor through various philanthropic endeavors. Private charity was creating a class of permanent poor, he said, which resulted in “the casual paupers [having] their London season and their country season, following the movements of those on whom they feed.”

    The government programs for caring for the poor are “frustrated by the over-abundant charity of private persons, or religious societies.” He even was critical of the over-generosity of the private sector in the voluntary funding of hospitals for the poor and less fortunate. There were so many such charity hospitals, Jevons lamented, that these private medical establishments “compete with each other in offering the freest possible medical aid to all who come.”

    Here was the heart of the problem. Rather than fears that private benevolence would not be enough to assist those unable to fully pay for food or medical treatment, there was too much of it! Jevons prayed, “that we are rapidly approaching the time when the whole of these pernicious charities will be swept away.” Instead, all such charitable matters needed to be shifted to “the supervision of the [government] Poor Law Board,” so bureaucrats could make wiser decisions concerning how much assistance and support the less well off should receive, rather than the uncontrolled generosity of individuals and private associations.

    According to William Stanley Jevons, Great Britain needed more government responsibility for the poor and the unfortunate to bring a halt to the excessive voluntary giving of a free people. Central planning of charity was needed to replace the spontaneous giving of non-governmental civil society. Jevons wanted government imposed welfare austerity, if you will, in place of private philanthropic abundance. So much for the constant hue and cry by those on “the left” that if not for compulsory government welfarism, “the poor” would die in the streets!

    Perverse Incentives of the British Poor Law Welfare System;

    "The Patriarch"

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  3. #2
    Certainly doesn't help how expensive the living has become. Keep cranking those dollars or die.

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