What are some right-wing critiques of the welfare state?

What are some right-wing critiques of the welfare state?


Hi, I’m Drew Halfmann
from UC Davis Sociology. Today, I’m going to talk about
the question: What are some left and right-wing critiques of the welfare state? We’re going to start with the right. And I’m going to divide these
arguments into sort of four sets. So one has to do with economic and
free-market arguments. A second has to do with
libertarian arguments. A third has to do with moral arguments,
and then the fourth category is just racism. All right, here we go. Right-wing critiques. The economic and free market arguments
relate to the idea that welfare programs provide a disincentive for workers
to take work at the terms presented. If workers have welfare available to them, they might be less willing
to do crappy low wage jobs. There’s also an argument that welfare state programs can be
a disincentive to investment. Because they require high levels of
taxation which may cause people to invest less in the economy. Many people have argued that unionization
and payroll taxes raise wages and as a result they increase unemployment,
because employers are unwilling to pay wages that exceed the productivity
level of their workers. And thus unemployment is produced. Many on the right argue
that the government is inefficient compared to markets. And this is a very common argument
of the Republicans these days. They basically argue that
markets can pretty much do everything better than governments can. Another reason is the argument
that government involvement limits opportunity for
experimentation and choice. You’ll see this argument as well in
Republican’s arguments that most things should be done at the state level so that
states can make sure that programs aren’t one size fits all, and they can experiment
with different ways of doing things. And then lastly, people on the right have
argued that politicians always want to win elections, and so
they tend to overspend, run up huge deficits that will
burden the next generation. And this claim has been made against
every Democratic president, but also against George Bush,
who spent quite a lot on the wars. But also on a Medicare prescription
drug plan in his second term. All right, let’s turn to some
other types of arguments. Libertarian arguments, which you might find perhaps more in
the Tea Party, the most extreme of these arguments is the notion that progressive
taxation makes taxpayers into slaves. Basically the argument is that for the time of the year, while people
are working to pay off their taxes. During that period they are slaves, because they are not working, they’re not
getting the proceeds of their own labor, instead they have to give
that money to the government. So that’s one argument. A second argument is that, bureaucratic
elites are uncontrollable, and coercive. They want to create a nanny state. They want to tell everyone what to do. They want to restrict our freedom. Another argument is that many
welfare state programs try to redistribute income from
the haves to the have nots. Either through taxation. Or through formulas for providing benefits that disproportionately
benefit people who are worse off. They oppose redistribution because they
believe it’s completely illegitimate for anyone to take “what’s mine.” “I earned it.” “I should be able to keep it”. We shouldn’t give it to someone else. And then lastly is an argument
related to devolution. An argument that all programs should
be local because knowledge is local. And this is a notion that they want to
prevent one size fits all programs. At the same time, many welfare
state critics are aware that if they do devolve programs to the state
level, that many states will provide very low levels of benefits,
especially southern states. And there’s also a possibility that states
might get involved in a race to the bottom in which they try to make their
benefits as low as possible so that welfare recipients do
not migrate to their state. Now I’ll turn to a set of moral arguments
that relate to the way in which the welfare state affects people’s
behaviors, their beliefs, etc. These critics argue that the welfare
state breeds dependence and incompetence among those who receive it. They argue that it creates social
pathologies such as single parent families, excess fertility, and laziness. Some argue that people who receive
welfare benefits cannot spend their benefits rationally. And so people who take on this kind of
argument will argue that, you know, certain expenditures in food stamps, for
example, soda or ice cream, things like that should not be purchased using
food stamps because they’re unhealthy. And then lastly some people on the moral
side argue that nothing should be given to a person without requiring
a reciprocal obligation from that person. So proponents of this argument will
often argue that welfare state programs should include some sort of requirement
that the people who receive them work, or that they receive education. Or, in the case of college students, if students are going to be receiving
college scholarships, then they should be required to do some sort of national
service once they receive those. And then lastly, racial animus
coming out of right-wing populism. You know, some but not all critics
of the welfare state are racists who use a lot of the arguments I’ve
presented so far as a mask for their racism since outright racism
has become less socially acceptable. Thanks very much for watching.

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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