Conservative pundits periodically sling platitudes at one another about the need for reforms to government assistance programs for the disadvantaged. They think the entitlement system has its flaws, but they’ve essentially made peace with it if it means locking in place a state system of artificial scarcity and monopoly spoils, a system that takes in dollars what it pays back in pennies.
Welfare transfers represent a mere fraction of the total wealth distributed upward for the benefit of the political class at the expense of the productive class. It’s a scheme of trickle down politics that would have people offer gratitude to their captures for discarded table scraps. Where meddling bureaucrats can reap two-thirds of funds as administrative costs, granted, the welfare state offers a partial reprieve from the alliance between big business and big government, but only temporarily. Supporters of interventionist government use the welfare state to camouflage their accelerating exploitation on more politically palatable terms. It’s meant to make it appear as if government assistance aids low-income people, neglecting the already embedded policies that make it harder for independent means of earning an income outside the wage labor paradigm, that continuously erode people’s ability to save, that hike the scarcity of market goods, and that put workers in stilted bargaining positions to their employers.
In that context, government charity is a joke. It’s an insult to a movement that would demand fully revolutionary redistribution by expropriating the expropriators and confiscating from the confiscators. Even if additional funds were given to people more sympathetic than arms dealers, only asking that people in need to have a greater share of the state budget is reactionary and a lapse in integrated political thinking that evades the looting sweeping the system.
Libertarians can make the mistake in the opposite direction when listening to advocates for “free-market reforms” who want to eliminate regulatory hurdles on how grants of political privilege are applied. Rather than keeping in context that the consistent libertarian should seek to abolish political privilege, not expand the circumstances for their use, libertarians could be twisted into supporting so-called deregulations that would intensify the scope of government intervention on behalf of those with the strongest reigns of political pull.
Libertarianism is a radical agenda for bringing power to the people. It’s goal isn’t merely to mitigate on-going exploitation (although exploitation should be mitigated to the extent possible), but to topple a political system that crudely subdues — typically to the minimal extent needed — the distress it’s culpable for and in doing so consoles the public into escalating the social controls on the recipients of assistance. When tethered unions are left negotiating over salaries and benefits, where bosses scheming in their corporate boardrooms and apologists ask why organize, and as welfare administrators displace neighborhood solutions, practicing a radical libertarian agenda would demonstrate firsthand and without apology to oppressed people the imperative of revolutionary freedom.Image credit: “CHAINED!!!” by Vinoth Chandar, with a Creative Commons license