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Friday, May 24, 2013

Defining Metafederalism: The Libertarian Welfare State

One of the hardest parts of libertarianism to digest, for many, is our alleged lack of compassion for the poor or suffering or both. The byproduct of advocating for greater personal liberty and personal responsibility is that one may appear callous toward those who are in genuine need of help.

And indeed, some libertarians arguments range from calling the USA's current safety net system (or welfare state or dole or whatever is the term de jour) unnecessary to declaring it unconstitutional. And in principle, I agree. One shouldn't be forced to support another's unproductive lifestyle.

But there's a huge difference between supporting a lifestyle and lending a hand. And therefore I propose a compromise to the libertarian world:

It's 2013, and we live in the most advanced time in the history of ever, and we shouldn't let people starve out of some sort of anarcho-capitalist notion of a completely untethered marketplace.

A minimal baseline for subsistence must be provided for us to call ourselves a modern country.

Far more people would be willing to weather the natural boom and bust cycle of a truly freer market if such a system were in place. Not everyone can be a winner in the capitalist system, yet the punishment for losing should not be starving in a snow-covered alleyway.

That being said, the system in place currently must change.

I don't understand why cash assistance is necessary when it's now practical to create a voucher system. If we can print guns in 3D, we can print a book of vouchers for all the goods and services that cash assistance is supposed to pay for.

But the way the system is set up now, one can use their EBT cards for anything. Some bodegas, I have witnessed, will accept food stamps for non-food items like cigarettes by ringing up the items under some miscellaneous category.

And the current system encourages perpetual poverty. It's not like the welfare rolls are adjusted with the ebbs and flows of the marketplace. The government simply assumes that a certain percentage of the US population will always be poor, and then draws an arbitrary and inflexible line.

The system is broken as it is, and what kind of political movement can we libertarians claim to be if we can't provide solutions for problems.

For libertarians who want to abolish a welfare state, I say this may be in principle correct but in practice impossible.

There's no such thing as a perfect machine, right? We want minimal government, and I think there are better battles to fight than ending welfare (which I acknowledge is a goal of some but not all libertarians).

Some traditional arguments against a safety net are beginning to crumble with the often-cruel passage of time. If religion is growing obsolete, as I have contended, we cannot continue to depend on religious or private charities for support of the poor.

Even the basic family structure has changed radically in my lifetime, and families can no longer be relied upon as they once were to shelter those who saw more bear than bull in the capitalism rodeo.

Metafederalism, therefore, accepts the compromise that some welfare will likely always exist, and that with proper reform it can be kept to a budgetary nuisance at worst, and this is a constitutionally-questionable institution that is tolerable so far as it's not abused or used as a tool to suppress the masses or minorities.

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