Friday, January 27, 2012

Dutch Empire and Trade

10:25 PM Posted by Patrick 3 comments

A rare sunny it is, and a good day to write while there is a spot in the sun to be found.

Class today was focused on the Dutch Empire, and it was most satisfying. Dutch independence laid the groundwork for the first major market economy in early modern Europe. Little mystery, then, that the Dutch totally dominated trade over the next century, only to brought done by 80 years of sustained war, completed by a combined invasion of French forces, and heavy British naval assaults.

Dutch Merchant shipping during this time period went from being almost non-existent, to being much greater than the cumulative shipping tonnage of the rest of Europe combined. The Bank of Amsterdam was the first fully functioning merchant bank in the world, and issued the first stable bills of exchange.

My professor, in a move not foreseen, pointed out the power of corporate ventures to allow groups of middle class people to split the risk on an innovative venture, and how this led to the massive fiscal success of the Dutch middle class. 30% of all land and properties were in the hands of the urban middle classes; a fact previously unseen in history, possible only under a free market, where risk taking and group ventures are rewarding propects.

Dutch power was only brought low after 100 years if sustained war, with the final blow coming from a combined effort of England and France. The amusing thing is that the Dutch won these wars, but collapsed because of the disruptions to their trade fleets. They simply ran out of capital to continue their trade.

One might ask why England and France felt the need to bring the Dutch low.

The answer, quite simply, is that trade is that malicious acts of trade are just as damaging as malicious acts of war; the Dutch were masters of wresting trade from their competitors. Because there was such widespread wealth in the United Provinces, the Dutch were able to fund their efforts from many different sources. The Dutch middle classed was composed of hundreds of thousands of persons, willing to help finance massive commercial ventures in return for a share of the rewards. In the rest of Europe, one does not find the same phenomenon. All costs, in say France, Portugal, or Spain, were fronted by the crown, and the crown reaped all rewards. But the crowns were risk averse, and not only were they not as decisive, they also did not have the same amount of flexible capital as the Dutch merchant classes. Competitive Dutch trade companies did things more efficiently, and instead of consistently trading only in the same goods, actually assessed the wants of their Indian counterparts, and worked to supply higher value commodities to Indian spice traders. In time, the Dutch were masters of the Spice, slave, textile, and grain trades, and also were supplying the bulk of loans to the other European powers.

There was only one way that Spain, France, and England could hope to become competitive again. They attacked the Dutch.

The competitive trade of the Dutch was not harmless to these other nations. England went from being the foremost supplier of textiles to a distant second, not to mention the hunger caused by the UP using their grain monopoly to drive up prices. Portugal’s trade empire was wiped from the map. Spain lost their slave trade, was getting gauged on grain, and was being forced to borrow money from Dutch lenders in order to keep from starvation. France lost their trade in the Mediterranean as soon as the Spanish, driven by debt, were forced to open the strait of Gibraltar to the Dutch.

The world is and will always be at war. Trade is war. An act that damages another country’s trade has always been understood as an act of hostility, and nations have always fought to protect their economic best interests. Think of the Greeks, attacking one another for plunder, slaves, and land. Economic motivations have always been one of the strongest reasons for war, and it will always be that way.

Hostilities are not always commenced by the barrel of a gun, as the Dutch proved. The most brutally devastating warfare is waged in the market place. The Dutch won the Dutch-Anglo wars; a series of lopsided military victories, all three of them. But they were destroyed because of disruptions in trade.

George Washington’s farewell address is among the greatest orations in history; it also espouses some impossible ideals. There is no such thing as avoiding foreign entanglement, unless you intend to only trade amongst yourselves, and even then, your act of abstinence from trade may be seen as an affront by those who would like to engage in trade with your people. A free nation can never avoid foreign attachments, because there are simply greater goods to be gained by trading with the world than there are in remaining aloof.

Think on our involvement in the Quasi War with France. The French attacked because we were engaging in trade with England. We argued that our English trade shouldn’t matter, because we traded with France as well. But France understood what we were yet to learn. The act of trading with someone is a kind of alliance, to trade with someone’s enemies is an act of war. It has been, and always will be. In this era of global trade, we are tied to all at once, and we are directly interested in the maintenance of marshal peace in the world. Those who attack our partners in trade are our enemies, whether we own them or not.

By what right do we play world police? By what right do you jump in when someone attacks your friend on Facebook, or in a bar. We are responsible for our friends, whether we like it or not. Even when they have done something stupid, you protect your friend in the immediate future, but do everything in your power to ensure they do not make the mistake again.

Then there are those who just keep getting into fights and counting on you to jump in; they are leaches, and not true friends, and there may come a day when you must leave them to the wolves.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Musings Brought on by Germany and the Snow.

2:45 PM Posted by Patrick 2 comments
Having written in German for the last 1 1/2 hours, I think it is time for a little bit of a break for my brain. So I am sitting here and watching the desolation of white accumulate; fully anticipating a desolation of wrecked cars to follow in good time.

I am writing on the Topic of the role of Germany in Europe, and I cannot write what I honestly believe. The role of Germany in Europe is one of growing insignificance; they can do nothing about the problems of Europe. For almost a century debt has been building, the institutions and mores which lead to excellence in western Europe have crumbled, and the problems have built energy with no real release.

Germany does not have the money to bail out Europe. Germany, France, and England do not have that much money. Germany, France, England, and the rest of the major economies of Europe do not have the money; in part because it is the major economies which are in such trouble. Portugal is a junk bond, Spain is likely to follow, and Italy is in the same category as Kazakhstan; that is to say, not a safe bet for the future. There is no money in Europe to reverse the crisis. It is not there. It is gone. It is long since spent on ambitious government programs, which failed to achieve, or even promote, their stated ends.

The mistake of bloated bureaucracy is arguably claiming its first victims since the Ottoman Empire. It is impossible to keep so many non-competitive agencies run efficiently; there is no organizational motivation for overachieving, and the direct result of streamlining the process might just be getting fired. What man throws away his own living so a business, from which he will not derive any gain, runs at lower cost? Not a wise man, or one who desires to feed his family. But that is ok, because bureaucracy cannot be replaced by anything else and has no natural opponent. It can merely appropriate the resources required to sustain itself.

Imagine, for a moment, the practices that American Banks would have if they had the power of taxation, and that they only had power to oversee and discipline themselves. Most would roll their eyes at the thought of the abuses and waste that would follow, but I would argue that this is exactly where government has gone.

The ruinous debt accrued by the members of the EU will, probably in every case, never be entirely paid off. Even the austerity measures in Greece are not enough to reverse the tide, and they are not permanent. Imagine if, a decade in the future, the UK had to implement such measures. You thought the Greeks had some crazy riots....

Germany in the midst of this problem is, indeed, the most stable figure. But they are not a Zeus in the coming of this storm; not a god who can stop the coming of this--I amuse myself--white desolation of western Europe, at best they are a vehicle well outfitted to weather the storm and help those that do not.

At their most important, I think they will be an emergency vehicle to help survivors of the crashes after the desolation has done its worst.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Welfare and the Promise and Problems of Democracy in Contemporary America.

5:46 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment

For those who need a little something to help them get to sleep, I present my final paper from Y401- Promise and Problems of Democracy in America. It naturally has many imperfections, but I liked it.

The last century of human history has seen a change. As methods of production grew more advanced, and the great economies of the world became more democratic, concerned citizens and government turned to the creation of procedures and policies with which to combat poverty and inequality amongst the people. The name that came to be given to such programs was welfare. The goal is plainly seen in the title; to vouchsafe the welfare of our fellow man. There is something undeniably noble in this ideal. But it is the enthusiast’s mistake to confound intent with result, and the efficacy of welfare is perpetually in dispute. To understand the effect welfare has on democracy, one might look to the great writers on politics; men whose ideas have been tried in the laboratory of history. And one must look to modern experience. America has now produced her own writers, who have dealt with the realities of the welfare state as it is implemented. It is from these two sources—from the great minds history and the American experience—that the answer to our question must be sought. Which is, how does a national welfare system interrelate with the promise and problems of democracy as understood in history, and specifically with democracy in the America?

Modern contributors to the topic of welfare, have too many perspectives to address all. We must confine ourselves to those which are arguably the most important to our analysis. One perspective finds its exemplar in the works of economic theorist and Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen. Justice for Sen is—in large part—a thing to be discovered mathematically, found in the freedom of choice and material condition of an individual. He subscribes to a variant of the Rawlsian truth that fairness is justice. From the standpoint of one such as Sen, the national welfare state is the only moral option. Theodore Dalrymple, a physician and psychiatrist who has worked in impoverished regions across the globe, approaches the issue from a more immediately human standpoint. He writes of the lives of his patients and how they are touched by the welfare state. The results of the welfare state he observes it in his patients are “the poverty of the soul,” a destruction of mores, and a permanent air of victimhood and entitlement. Dalrymple, while very interested in the effects of welfare on the soul of a people, does not write specifically on the economics, and does not deal as much with America directly. Charles Murray, in his work Losing Ground, argued that the welfare programs of the 60s and 70s demonstrably worsened the plight of the poor in America, in part morally, but in a much greater part economically. It is our purpose—with the above perspectives in mind—to address the issue of public aid to private persons and whether it is indeed conducive, or perhaps even necessary, to a the maintenance of a just and free regime.

Through the course of reading the great writers on democratic politics, there are certain lessons which colored the manner in which I have approached this issue. The first and most important idea comes from the Greeks, and stated simply, is the idea that justice requires friendship and an idea of the common good[1]. The second lesson is that law, civil or social, written or unwritten, educates the souls of the citizens, whether for good or for ill. The last lesson is twofold. Democracies tend toward equality, and there is no stopping this movement. The dark side to this trend is that men tend to prefer social equality and freedom over political equality and freedom, and will sacrifice the latter in order to obtain more of the former. Therefore, law should not be aimed at individual goods, but encourage an idea of something shared, or a common good.

What is the goal of government, and how does welfare advance this goal? A good place to start is in Aristotle, who lays out a pattern in his Politics of the workings and nature of regimes. In the first book he asserts that “man is a political animal” and is separated from animals by speech and his perception of justice and injustice[2]. Man is the most savage of animals when he lacks the virtues of political life[3], but the noblest when he engages in the pursuit of justice, which is only done through acts of politics[4]. To be truly human is to engage in a political order; to abstain is to be reduced to the level of a beast. The state is the people and the people comprise the state; they are one and the same[5]. And he again finds that a city is not just an association aimed at supplying for “minimum needs” but rather “for a finer purpose.[6]” The state is a whole, which is greater than the sum of its parts, and it exists for a higher purpose than mere sustenance, but to educate the souls of men for virtue.

The ideal regime espoused by Aristotle, as it was by Plato, is that of the philosopher king.[7] There is, however, a hint that Kingship is never truly his best regime, for a citizen, as he lays out the definition, is one who has part in ruling and being ruled, and so has the privilege to engage in the higher political life of the city. Such a citizen, he points out, can only be truly said to exist in democracy, which is the only regime in which the whole people may be said to partake of the goods “of ruling and being ruled[8]”; engaging in politics. Liberty and equality—“the great end of every democracy”[9]—are products of political life. They are “most realized when all alike share most fully in the constitution.[10]” This state of freedom, of ruling and being ruled, is rightly understood to be a state of equality.

It is however, in the very goods of democracy that the seeds of its demise are sown. “Inequality is everywhere at the bottom of faction, for …faction arises from men’s striving for what is equal.”[11] The first flaw lies in the impossibility of total equality for “in all states there are three elements, one class is very rich, another very poor, and a third in a mean.[12]” From their inequality there will arise a natural tension, and. in a regime that craves equality the poor will desire to get the wealth of the notables and do not know rightly how to rule, whereas the notables desire only to rule and do not know how to be ruled.[13] Aristotle says that there is in the aspirations of either side some injustice and inequality, for oligarchs believe that power should go to the propertied—violating the liberty and equality of the poor. But the masses would merely confiscate the wealth of the notables, thereby violating their liberty and equality. Neither the poor nor rich think to set up a moderate constitution, but rather “regard political supremacy as the spoils of victory.[14]” The separation in station and experience is also sufficient to render friendship and an understanding of common humanity unattainable, defeating the ultimate purpose of political association.[15]

The only means by which stability may be introduced into this tension, and by which political equality may be preserved, is if neither the rich nor the poor form a majority. The mean neither envies the rich, nor fears the poor. Moreover, being satisfied with their material station, but not burdened by the care of large properties, they more readily take an interest in politics and are more likely to govern in the interest of the whole and within the parameters of the laws.[16] Those regimes are best, where the class that is the mean is greater in number than both the rich and poor combined[17]. To this end it is necessary that the mean must grow and poverty be combated.

This would seem at first glance to be a line of thought sanctioning the welfare state as an entity conducive to the maintenance of a healthy democratic tradition, but such a leap would be unwarranted. It is written that it is desirable to grow the middle class in order to obtain the promise of democracy. How this might be done is a matter quite separate and still open for deeper inquiry. Aristotle does indeed speak of regime sponsored charity in his Politics, and of its potential goods and ills for a democratic order. He begins by writing about what it should not be; it should not be a stipend distributed by demagogues for “when people get it they want the same again: this sort of assistance to the poor is like the proverbial jug with a hole in it.[18]” Such a system would also play into the danger of a tyranny of the masses, wherein the multitude is a deviant monarch, which is in turned ruled by the influence of demagogues and not by law.[19]

Yet, it is “the duty of the true democrat…to see that the population is not destitute, for destitution is a cause of a corrupt democracy.[20]” In all versions of his stable democracies; it is necessary that the people be—to an extent—self sufficient; he uses farmers as an exemplar.[21] The goal of aid should be to establish the poor in positions of independence and dignity. To that end, Aristotle says that aid should be distributed in block grants, and directed into obtaining farmland, or furnishing the poor with businesses or the means to pursue a valuable trade.[22] He also makes note of how it is done in Carthage, where the notables take responsibility for the poor in their immediate neighborhoods, and look to setting up for them an occupation. This system is praiseworthy for multiple reasons, for it not only seeks to raise the destitute to a more dignified station, but the custom also teaches the notables that their assistance to the poor raises the whole.

Why does this virtue not come about by nature? The answer is found in the dangers inherent in freedom and equality, and in man’s self love,[23] for while man is possessed always of this self love, it is in democracy that he is freest to nurture it. Plato provides a necessary picture of the nature of democracy and the democratic man, particularly concentrating on his vices. Democracy is, says Plato, “a sweet regime, without rulers and many-colored, dispensing a certain equality to equals and unequals alike.” And in democracy the virtue and practices of man aren’t judged, so long as he is well disposed toward others. [24] Among the leading characteristics of democracy are its niceness and its plurality of persons, and in such a regime each man may “organize his life in it privately just as it pleaseth him.[25]” The democratic spirit delights in freedom and if it is not educated by good laws and customs it is left open to extreme license, to which the democratic man is naturally susceptible. For it is non-democratic to impose oneself on the freedom of another. The customs of the democratic man becoming thus unregulated, a young man, vulnerable to the opinions of his fellows, will soon be shamed out of his moderation. He is drawn into the license toward which the democratic man tends. Freedom being chief good sought by the democratic man, he will call his vices goods—for they are an act of his freedom—and he will learn to call “insolence good education; anarchy, freedom; wastefulness, magnificence; and shamelessness, courage.” He thus hands rule of himself over to his pleasures, and is a slave in his own body.[26]

Those who live under democracy, by nature, seek to be free of restraint, and consider such a state to be the only state worth living under[27]. Here, in the desire for absolute freedom, is where Plato finds the coming end of the democratic regime. For the desire for freedom in all things becomes a kind of anarchy, and even overturns just restrictions and societal order, so that pupil is insolent to teacher, and son to father. The least restriction of law is seen as a form of slavery, so that people cease to follow all statutes and customs in pursuit of freedom. [28] The citizens of a democracy, by this token, come to despise their political duties, and will only see to the governing of the city if they have something to gain from it. The leaders will begin to take the wealth of the notables and give it to the people, and the lower classes—forming the majority—will push for more of the same, and the result will be furious factional struggle.[29] Thus we draw from Plato a further word of caution as we go about the manner of putting together aid programs. Democracy is a regime in which men despise anything they see as a garnishment of their freedom; this extends not only to those things unjust, but in the absence of education it will extend to basic duty and responsibility. If he is not educated for virtue, the democratic man will put aside the good of the whole and pursue only his own pleasure and license. Therefore, any program of aid must simultaneously be targeted to educate for virtue.

With the foundation of the American republic modes of thought about politics would undergo a drastic change. As Hamilton states in Federalist 9 “The Science of politics…has received great improvement. The efficacy of various principles is now well understood, which were either not known at all, or imperfectly known to the ancients.”[30] The American republic is not going to be founded on the ancient models, and so the specific promise and problems of the American democracy will be separate from those of the ancients. The design of the American republic was put together with a key thought in mind: “Liberty is to faction as air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires.”[31] The republic is intended to reduce faction, thereby to avoid the turmoil into which the Greek states were continually plunged. There are three chief tenets to this control of faction. One is that the government must be representative, so to remove government from the immediate impulses of the public[32]. Next, that it must be spread over a large territory, so that the majority will be too far spread to have common sectarian interests. [33] Third, that there be instituted a constant economic struggle, and that avarice be promoted. [34]

Examining welfare against this threefold plan, some immediate problems rise to the forefront. In the event of the success of a national welfare system, there might conceivably be a reduction in motive for factional conflict. However, if it is not successful, it merely serves to divide the entire nation into the factions of rich and poor, givers and recipients. And since the giving and taking will be done on a national scale, there can be no question of fellowship or a benefactor and beneficiary relationship twixt those who give and receive; it is all impersonal and does not advance the Greek goal of educating citizens about the common good, even while it promotes class struggle. The representative form of government is meant to moderate and curtail any use of political power as a weapon by one class against another, but as the ancients understood imperfectly, democracies tend to become more democratic with time, and to cast off their limitations. This process is arguably accelerated by the promotion of avarice. Because profitable economic faction is encouraged above the goods and dangers of political faction, material wealth and consumption is correspondently raised to a higher place over civic virtue.

Despite this notion of encouraging competition and avarice—which would seem contradictory to an older idea of the common good—there yet remains an idea in the federalist that the union will exist to—among other things—“advance the prosperity…of the commonwealth.” Hamilton notes in his argument for the power to lay and collect taxes that, without those powers, “How can [the union] undertake or execute any liberal or enlarged plans of public good?”[35] The intent of those writing the federalist is clear; it was a valid function of government to tax citizens and then use the proceeds from the tax in the pursuit of the public good. In fact it was necessary to The Federalist’s model that the government should have the power to act in the perceived public good; particularly in the promotion of economic goods.

The American republic was formed in lieu of stronger democratic aspects for a simple reason: democracies destroy themselves. The Federalist set out to secure the promise of democracy, while giving it a more stable form. But their framework extends only to governmental form. Their understanding of the promise and problems of democracy is incomplete, and so their analysis is incomplete. It is fitting, if only briefly, to look the visionary writing of Alexis de Tocqueville to understand how welfare might aid or hinder the maintenance of a just democratic order; particularly the maintenance of democracy in America.

In de Tocqueville are means by which democracy might be restrained from self annihilation. The first is retaining administration to localities, and withholding it from centralization, which would allow the national majority, “which has the tastes and instincts of the despot,” to use the vehicle of central government to impose its will on all.[36] The need for a decentralized government is coupled with the need for municipal involvement, for it is “in the municipality that the strength of free peoples resides.” And it is in the town that men are educated for liberty.[37] It is in this municipal life that men receive “a taste for order,” and come to appreciate the harmony of the different powers present in the state and to understand their rights and obligations.[38] The life of the township educates men for civic virtue. Indeed, individualism, egotism, and the ultimate tyranny of the majority are combated through the development of local liberty, which teaches men to value the affection and respect of their neighbors, and allows them to participate in a fuller and more satisfying political life.[39] And the true excellence of the federal constitution is that it allows for localized rule, while providing the security afforded by a federation.

Yet it is toward individualism that democracy tends. Equality of condition is the defining characteristic of the democratic epoch, and is most desirable to the democratic citizen,[40] and equality of condition begets an even stronger love for equality.[41] Further, the dangers of extreme equality are difficult to comprehend, whereas the evils which may stem from abuse of liberty are more immediately visible. Conversely, the goods of liberty must “be purchased by some sacrifices,” while the smaller pleasures of equality are more immediately felt, and do not require the same sacrifice to obtain. The “charms of equality…are within the reach of everyone” therefore “the passion that equality causes to be born…is powerful and general[42]” The democratic man wants liberty, but he wants it in equality. If he cannot have equality in liberty, then they will “want it in slavery.”[43] When men engage in political liberty they are “drawn away…from looking at themselves.”[44] As equality takes greater precedence over liberty, and the members of the regime become more alike to one another and simultaneously more self-sufficient, it gives rise to individualism, and the belief that one is free of the need for others.[45] This individualism has another name: egotism, an excessive love and preoccupation with self. So it is, individualistic and cut off from one another, that identity is lost, and man conforms himself to the dictates of the majority, resulting in overarching uniformity. In this uniformity, animosity toward any privilege is unbridled. Men gladly concede political prerogatives to the government, if they believe it will enforce equality of condition. It is in this state where, if a citizen needs help, he does not turn to his equals, to do so would admit an inequality, but he turns to the one unchanging and powerful entity he knows, which is the power of government.[46] And it is here that a democracy offers itself up to despotism. For the government becomes “an immense and tutelary power,” which seeks to secure happiness and comfort for all the citizens, desiring the citizens to enjoy themselves, it “anticipates and assures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs,” indeed, he continues, “Why may it not entirely spare them the trouble of thinking and the effort of living?”[47] This odd engine of popular sovereignty and paternalism is termed a democracy of unfreedom, which looks disturbingly like a strong, centralized, state with a robust national welfare system.

There is another problem—an evil, as he terms it—particular to the American democracy, which de Tocqueville noted in his work; that evil is slavery and the plight of the black race. Slavery raises many issues for de Tocqueville. He predicts that the differences between north and south, wrought by slavery, will lead to a civil war.[48] History shows that he was correct in his prediction, and yet the union came through the war intact. It is in his second prediction that we find a particular problem of modern American democracy, and that rests in the damage done by slavery to the ability of the slaves to participate in political liberty. For in enslaving only one single race, and casting it as an inferior to justify the slavery, the white race made it nearly impossible that white and black might be assimilated.[49] The end result being that a black race, long enslaved, will not enjoy the fellowship and support of the white race, so when they finally obtain liberty “they will not be long in abusing it.”[50] The question then arises, could welfare help to close the great rift in equality between the two races, and restore respect and dignity to that race so long held in bonds.

Booker T. Washington is among the first generation of newly freed slaves, and Up From Slavery is a firsthand account of the problem faced by the black community. His stance is that the black community must become economically successful before they seek political and social equality[51]. The first menace to black progress is that slavery has destroyed the value of labor in the eyes of the ex-slaves.[52] An appreciation for work has to be rekindled, and so he recommends an industrial, practical, education.[53] He expects whites to be more cooperative on economic matters, and so it is a base on which the black community may build up the esteem in which their race is held, by whites and blacks alike. His goal is separate but equal.[54] W.E.B. Du Bois understands that an industrial education is not sufficient, and that separate is not equal. In The Souls of Black Folk Du Bois is addressing a great truth which Washington overlooked, which is that freedom requires political equality. And that the manhood of the race will be destroyed by this lack of political self-determination.[55] He also understands the need for a respect for labor. Not work alone, but “work, culture, liberty, all these we need, not singly, but together.”[56]

The key to obtaining these is education, specifically a liberal arts education, which is the education of the soul. “It must develop men” and teach them that there are higher goods than money or physical pleasures.[57] The top tenth, therefore, are to seek a liberal education in order to lead and teach all others. “To make men,” he writes, “requires ideals, broad, pure, and inspiring ends of living.” The liberal arts education of the few is aimed at truth and righteousness, and from those so educated proceeds the common schools, and from the common schools, the industrial. In this manner, a standard is set, which points the endeavors of all at the attainment of ideals; that the workers learn to “work for the glory of his handiwork, not simply for pay,” and that the thinkers “think for truth, not for fame.” [58] He understands the need for a higher goal than the attainment of wealth, for a political goal. The need for these goods is not confined to blacks. He includes both white and black in the need for this education.[59] Indeed, where blacks needed this badly in the south, one might point to the plight of white immigrants in the north. It is not, however, clear how our present welfare system might help with the attainment of these higher goals. On the contrary, it shifts dependence from the community to the nation, a whole too general for friendship. It also provides an escape for those who do have no appreciation for work, never elevating them beyond their lowly state, but keeping them perpetually at a level of subsistence just high enough to that it is not necessary for them to better themselves or turn to the philanthropic benefit of their fellow men.

The goals that characterized the beginning of the American welfare state had an idea of the common good in mind. Josephine Lowell Shaw wrote that it was not right to spend the public treasury on any place, unless it benefits the whole. Simultaneously, that caring for those physically incapable of caring for themselves is a public prerogative; it is merely something that human beings ought to do for others.[60] But she also understands the danger that it poses to industry, and that this generosity might lead to a never ending succession of open hands. Her fundamental principle of charity is one that all might find laudable “that all charity must tend to raise the character and elevate the moral nature, and so to improve the condition of those toward whom it is exercised,” and it must not “injure the character or condition of others.[61]” She does not, however, allow for doles to capable men as “this will often retard or entirely prevent the energetic action required on the part of the sufferers…to lift themselves out of their difficulty”[62]

Taking this early American view one might be staggered as they tried to apprehend the nature of our welfare system. Somewhere along the lines, the emphasis switched from societal good, to distributive justice. In this view, the purpose of society is to produce efficiency gains among the members. It is still understood that some are more naturally gifted, and make greater gains than others.[63] Therefore the welfare state must act as the arbiter of egalitarianism, and work toward social justice “by distributing social resources according to a principle of entitlement.”[64] The greater the separation created by a difference in capability, the less just it is.[65] And the chief importance of citizenship is in creating a legitimate claim to—and collectively pursuing—material entitlement.[66]

Any attempt to achieve social justice by such means requires a massive centralization of power, and does not begin to address how one decides merit, need, or what is an egalitarian distribution.[67] Merit is a matter infinitely more understandable on a localized basis, and national attempts to bring about equality are more likely to be a cause of inequality. They also must be perpetual, for “government must continually restrict human freedom” and transfer wealth from one group to another, in order to meet the demands of social equality.[68] In fact, in matters of combating poverty, the more economic freedom a country has—stronger property rights and less government interference in market transactions—the greater the per capita income.

Compare the above with the present situation of the American welfare system, where 59% of the national budget is dedicated to such programs,[69] a number that is set to increase exponentially.[70] The form is centralized, paternalistic, and often shields individuals from the natural consequences of their actions or the necessity of self-improvement. So it is that, in the wake of the “failure of socialist regimes to generate economic growth” that the “[social] fabric of the welfare state is now falling apart.[71] The welfare state rose out of the weakening of the family and community ensuing from industrialization,[72] but if one reflects on earlier thought, it becomes clear that, even while the national welfare system was designed to combat the problem of human inequality; it was not designed with regard to the specific promise and problems of democracy as seen in the great writers of history.

The present crisis provides an opening for true reform of the welfare system. The first principle is laying out our new system, is that it must encourage participation in the constitution. Next, it must be targeted to engender an idea of the common good. Also, it must be on a local scale, more reflecting the truth found in the Greeks and de Tocqueville, that civic virtue is found more in the politics of the municipality. And any welfare system must encourage the beneficiary and the administrators to act with merit, dignity, and strive for a higher ideal. The system I propose is a local system. Welfare requests would be heard by a council of citizens, selected by lot, as with jury duty; the council being comprised thirty persons for a number of population no greater than 50,000. The participants would be subjected to tests of knowledge and literacy, and would be required to surpass a moderate property threshold, in order to acquaint and interest those of comfortable means with the plight of their poorer brethren. Council members would hold office for 6 months on good behavior. Except in cases of extreme disability or old age, welfare would not be a stipend; it would be delivered in block grants in order to help the applicant achieve significant life goals on the road to personal improvement and independence. The money for such a program would ideally be drawn from a consumption tax, placing higher tariffs on luxury items than on necessities; thereby encouraging moderation as it funds the work of public charity. Whether or not there resides in my idea any greater wisdom than that of egalitarian redistribution, I know not. It is, however, the best solution of which I could conceive to deal with welfare and the promise and problems of democracy in contemporary America.


Aristotle. Poltics. Translated by T.A. Sinclair. London: Penguin, 1981.

Bois, W.E.B. Du. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2003.

Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2011. september 27, 2011. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/ (accessed november 2011).

Hibbert, Neil. "Exchange and Social Justice." Theoria, 2010: 26-50.

Hill, Peter. "Creating and Distributing Wealth." In Wealth, Poverty, and Human Destiny, edited by David Schindler, 1-17. Wilmington, De: ISI Books, 2003.

Kaplan, Amit, Noah Lewin-Epstein, and Asaf Levanon. "Distributive Justice and Attitudes Toward the Welfare State." Social Justice Research, 2003: 1-27.

Lowell, Josephine Shaw. "Public Relief and Private Charity." In Welfare: A Documentary History of U.S. Policy and Politics, edited by Frances Fox Piven, 3-11. New York: New York University, 2003.

Plato. The Republic. Translated by Allan Bloom. Basicbooks, 1991.

The Long Term Outlook for Health Care Spending. 2008. http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/87xx/doc8758/maintext.3.1.shtml (accessed november 2011).

The Long Term Outlook for Social Security Spending. 2008. http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/88xx/doc8877/chapte3.6.1.shtml (accessed November 2011).

Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Translated by Stephen Grant. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000.

Washington, Booker T. Up From Slavery. New York: Penguin, 2000.



[1] This view does not necessitate a wholesale rejection of a Rawlsian point of view; while fairness might not directly equal justice, it might be posited a just regime will almost certainly tend toward fairness.

[2] T.A.Sinclair, Trans., Aristotle. Politics, 60.

[3] He notes that humanity alone has design in its vices and that “Injustice armed is hardest to deal with” and the same capacity which allows them to attain higher things aids can also be turned to more bestial uses.

[4] Aristotle. Politics, 61. A sense of justice (dikaiosune) comes out of the arrangement of the state; there is no understanding of conscience. Sense of right is conveyed by form of government and laws.

[5] Aristotle. Politics, 246-7. He speaks of a state are as the organs of a body, and that each state will de different based on the members, and also that organs dot not live aside from the function of the whole.

[6] Ibid, 247.

[7] Found in Plato’s The Republic 5.473d and in the Politics 1288a15-30.

[8] Aristotle. Politics, 212

[9] Ibid, 362.

[10]Ibid, 250.

[11]Ibid, 298.

[12]Ibid, 266.

[13] Ibid, 411, 266-7.

[14] Ibid, 269.

[15] Ibid 207; 267 Justice must be aimed at benefit of whole community, and friendship is necessary to any sort of consideration of state as greater whole, which is only realistically possible for the middle

[16] Ibid, 267-8.

[17] Ibid, 268-9.

[18] Ibid, 374.

[19] Ibid, 250-1. “Such a democracy is the counterpart of tyranny among monarchies.”

[20] Ibid, 375.

[21] Ibid, 370.

[22] Ibid, 373-4.

[23] Ibid, 115.

[24] Allan Bloom, trans., The Republic of Plato, 236.

[25] Plato. Republic. pp.235

[26] Ibid. pp.239

[27]Ibid, 240.

[28] Ibid, 241-2.

[29] Ibid, 243-4.

[30] Clinton Rossiter, ed., Charles Kesler, comp. The Federalist Papers. 67.

[31] Federalist, 70 “The latent causes of faction are sown in the nature of man.”

[32] Federalist, 76-7.

[33] Ibid, 78.

[34] Ibid, 86.

[35] Ibid, 187.

[36] Tocqueville. Democracy in America, 117-8.

[37] Tocqueville. Democracy in America, 46.

[38]Ibid, 54-55. Those powers being the liberty of the participants.

[39] Ibid, 208-11.

[40]Ibid, 202. Equality is necessarily a feature of democracy, where liberty may be found in other forms.

[41]Ibid, 201.

[42]Ibid, 203.

[43]Ibid, 204.

[44]Ibid, 207.

[45]Ibid, 205-6. The ultimate logical conclusion of popular sovereignty.

[46]Ibid, 300-3.

[47]Ibid, 306-7.

[48]Ibid, 160, 163-4.

[49]Ibid, 160-1.

[50]Ibid, 162.

[51] Booker T. Washington. Up From Slavery. (New York: Penguin, 2000). 154.

[52] Washington. Up From Slavery, 56-8.

[53] Ibid, 82-3.

[54]Ibid. 154. Metaphor of the hand; connected, but separate.

[55]W.E.B. Du Bois. The Souls of Black Folk. (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2003). 42.

[56] Du Bois. The Souls of Black Folk, 14.

[57]Ibid, 80.

[58]Ibid, 66. Performing works of labor and thought because they are virtuous in and of themselves.

[59]Ibid, 65. Part of purpose is to show universality of plight of blacks.

[60] Lowell. “Public relief and private Charity,” 3-4.

[61] Lowell. “Charity”. 10.

[62] Lowell. “Charity”. 11.

[63] Neil Hibbert. Exchange and social Justice, 26-7.

[64] Hibbert. Exchange, 28.

[65]Ibid, 35.

[66] Ibid, 45.

[67] Peter Hill. Creating and Distributing Wealth: Whose Responsibility. 7-8

[68] Hill. Wealth. 8-9.

[69] Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2011. Last modified Sep.27, 2011, http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/

[70] The Long-Term Outlook for Social Security Spending. http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/88xx/doc8877/Chapter3.6.1.shtml. SS will account for 6.1% of gdp by 2030.

The Long-Term Outlook for Health Care Spending. http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/87xx/doc8758/maintext.3.1.shtml. Medicare will account for 7% of gdp in 2025.

[71] Epstein, Kaplan, and Levanon. “Distributive justice and attitudes toward the welfare state.” 2.

[72] Epstein, Kaplan, and Levanon. “attitudes toward the welfare state.” 2-3