“Capitalism is the unequal distribution of wealth. Socialism is the equal distribution of poverty.” -Winston Churchill
America is at a crossroads regarding its economy and identity. This all comes in the wake of a government that has expanded spending to record levels and a nation that is recovering from government-imposed lockdowns.
As states begin opening back up, the circumstances have created an ideological and economic policy vacuum as various factions clammer to define “the new normal.”
Although many would have frowned upon the idea of the government giving out money on such a large scale, the recent events of the past year have further normalized the idea of government handouts to the populace. Despite assertations from many that such programs were only to be utilized during the pandemic, the nature of government has moved these programs closer to a position of permanence.
In the words of Milton Friedman: “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” Indeed, efforts are underway even now to make such handouts the codified law of the land, with many in Washington advocating for an expansion of the welfare state to the extent that the nation has not seen since Lyndon Johnson’s disastrous “Great Society.”
Yet the question must be asked, what is the real economic benefit of the government handouts that the Left has continually attempted to advance? Although the shortsighted proposals of some promise at least temporary advantages, it is critical to consider whether or not these moves have long-term benefits for the economy. Time and time again, the government has shown itself to be a poor distributor of other people’s money.
Handouts stagnate economic growth because there is no exchange of goods or services when the money goes from the taxpayer to the government to the welfare recipient. Under free-market circumstances, economic transactions are voluntary exchanges that occur so that all parties get something of value. When there are more transactions, more economic activity occurs. On the other hand, the government gets the money it uses for the welfare state either by borrowing it on the taxpayers’ credit or using force to enact taxation.
For instance, when the government uses one dollar for these entitlement programs, it transfers that dollar from the producer to the recipient by force. This transfer guts the value that could have been put into the economy if the recipient had worked for that dollar. Taking the money that taxpayers earned through their own labor and transferring it to handout recipients that did not work for it disregards the value of the taxpayer’s labor.
Yet, the damages from the redistributive entitlement programs do not just end with the disregard of taxpayer labor. Such programs also lower the productivity of the workforce as workers are incentivized not to work. This creates a consuming cycle as the businesses that are dependent upon employees cannot find a labor force to operate the business.
When these places of employment are forced to close their doors because they can’t find employees, there are fewer available employment opportunities. Government welfare programs are then further grounded into society to address all of the resulting unemployed. Through a cycle of government dependence and poverty brought about by entitlement programs, communities that were once thriving can be decimated as the whirlpool of government welfare programs consumes the economy.
Finally, government handouts are more than just a problematic economic element. There is perhaps no more destructive force to destroy the motivation and work ethic of a workforce than the sedative of government handouts. When a government doles out the entitlement dollars to the citizens, it sends a message that the nanny state will provide some or all of their income.
The American economy and work ethic are legendary as the world’s greatest engine for free enterprise, industry, and innovation. To protect this incredible success, there must be a recognition that destructive consequences come from policy proposals to grow redistributive entitlement programs.
A path of socialist programs is a path to ruin for America. Public policy should prioritize an economic environment where citizens can genuinely experience the value of their own labor and thrive in the success of the free market system.