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Sunday, 17 March 2013

Should Charities Replace the Welfare State?

by David Rovick
Ayn Rand
The Russian philopsopher, Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand was a Russian Philosopher born in 1905. She is probably most famous for writing the novel ‘When Atlas Shrugged’ and developing a philosophy called Objectivism, a philosophy supposedly based on reason, self-esteem or selfishness, and fundamental human rights among other things. I am a huge fan of Ayn Rand and her ideas, but enough about her for now at least.

I will first attempt to answer the question: should charities replace the welfare state, using objectivist reasoning. First of all I will derive the answer to why welfare states are morally wrong almost all of the time.

To do this I will derive a philosophy using nothing but reason and logic, starting with a ‘clean slate’ of thought, and first ask what the purpose of philosophy, or moral code, or morality (I will use the terms interchangeably) should fulfil. I think we can all agree that the purpose of a human being should be to further and maintain human life, and therefore human life is the highest moral standard. Animals do it in nature, acting consistently in a way that will sustain and further life, indeed it is necessary for their survival, for their life. In the same way, a human’s morality must be what allows him to further and sustain his own life, so that he can live as joyful and fulfilling a life as possible and this is to be the purpose of our morality. What’s more, man’s morality must fulfil its purpose when applied consistently, for what good is a morality if it can only achieve its purpose when inconsistently applied, or even worse (and more commonly unfortunately when not applied at all?

Next I will make the observation that we are each observable individuals; that is we own our bodies, our minds and ourselves insofar as we are the ultimate deciders of our own thoughts and actions. This is evident in the fact that humans have free will, which is the ability to act and think independently, thusly the ability to use reason if we choose too in acting and thinking independently. And because we have given ourselves the purpose of using reason in order to further and sustain human life, it is morally right to use it, and morally wrong to not.


Next, we arrive at the conclusion that we need values to decide what will promote human life, and we must accept that each individual can use reason to deduce values different to our own. For example, one person may value their own good nutrition higher than another values their romance, and in the same way must accept that one person may value driving a fast car more than that same person values another’s desire to drive a nice car. Because of this we are to grant ourselves the right to deduce our own values and act upon them, and as we are not to have double standards we are to grant everyone that same right to pursue the moral standard, human life.

Using again the observation that we are each observable individuals; that is we own our bodies, our minds and ourselves insofar as we are the ultimate deciders of our thoughts and actions, then we are morally responsible for ourselves. Therefore it can only be said that if we do in fact own 100% of ourselves, then we cannot be owned at all by another, and by the same principle we cannot own another. In this sense we are morally responsible to ourselves and only ourselves, we cannot be held morally responsible for others because others do not own us, and we cannot hold other morally responsible for us because we do not own them.

Now many people have tried to argue that we are morally responsible for others. That is, that even if one has used reason derived from free will to decide that they value their own life more than the life of others, they are still morally obligated to place the values of others above the values of their own. In other words, to sacrifice what they place a higher value on for what they place a lower value on. This is the very definition of sacrifice, and it is what Altruists say should be practiced consistently, despite the fact that a consistent practice of sacrifice for others leads to a premature death in all instances. This means that a) altruism as a morality does not work, b) that altruism’s true purpose is to promote one’s own death or c) that altruism’s true purpose is to promote people who aren’t yourself’s welfare at the expense of your death. Is this what you want from your moral code?

Now at this point I’d like to settle any doubts you guys have. You may be reading this and have thought “How can you say sacrifice is always wrong. Even according to personal gain one must make sacrifices if one is to further their own life in romance, education, and their chosen career?” You would be right to ask this question, but you would have not understood properly what a true sacrifice is. Remember that a sacrifice is giving up what you value more for what you value less; thusly the student who spends time studying for an exam is not making a true sacrifice as he values his education and grades, upon which his career will depend, higher than he does free time spent relaxing.

Now despite this, Altruists still attempt to provide an argument for being Altruistic. The only problem we have in accepting these arguments is that they are not based in reason or logic. They are always one of the following:


  • Based on or appealing to emotion, i.e. sympathy and pity for those less fortunate than us. This is emotion, not reason and thus this argument is to be rejected.
  • Based on what society believes, i.e. you should sacrifice for others because others do. As objectivism promotes individual reason this is to be rejected.
  • Based on self-gain, i.e. if you sacrifice for others then society will think better of you, furthering your relationships with others, furthering you own life. This is merely diverting from what we originally asked: Why must society in the first place be altruistic and is therefore rejected.
  • Based on metaphysics, which means that which is not rooted in observable reality, which takes the form of religion. I.e. the bible says we should five to others. Now for this to be valid we must first accept the existence and authority of a God. But one man cannot request another to prove a negative, i.e. saying ‘I have a theory that there are parallel universes, and until you prove there are not (which is impossible with today’s technology) the whole scientific community must uphold this theory to be correct.’ Now this would be absurd in a scientific community, it is up for the person whose theory it is to provide evidence that the theory is correct, just as every scientist from Newton to Einstein had to. Now assuming we are to be a scientific community in the sense that we use reason to arrive at conclusions, the Altruists must provide us with satisfactory evidence that a higher authority exists, which they have not done.
  • Based on a personal attack or insult i.e. ‘You are not normal if you don’t understand’, only ‘psychopaths don’t care about others’ or ‘you are a horrible human being’. These are to be rejected on the grounds that whoever makes these arguments hasn’t given a reason, and has instead refused to acknowledge that we have free will and from it deduce different values.


All this points to the fact that if the welfare of others is not as valuable to one as the sustaining and advancement of one’s own life, and as had been established there is no reason for it to be, then we must accept the right of others to pursue their own Human Life, the right to morally own themselves, and the right to not be morally owned by another.

Now to answer the why welfare states are morally wrong almost all the time.

Welfare states are morally wrong, or evil, because they force one to make true sacrifice for others, which we have used reason to establish is not a moral obligation. Further, the only way to truly force someone to do something against their will is physical force or the threat of it, which we believe is wrong. Exactly as slavery forces people to sacrifice against their will through violence or the threat of it, people who are better off economically are physically are physically threatened, and thereby truly forced, to sacrifice, by people denying the basic right to morally own oneself 100%, and not to be morally owned by others at all. Let’s be trivial and call these people ‘Government’. They force people to do that which has been established as morally right by imposing, or forcing wealth redistribution by the physical threat of putting one in prison ,which can only be done against one’s will through physical force, and in doing so deny liberty.

So the answer we have so far is that if we wish to preserve liberty and individual rights, then welfare states must be abolished. Now, should charities be the institutions to replace them? Let’s see if they shape up to some criteria.

If there are still humans left who value the welfare of other humans, for whatever reason, do they serve the purpose of improving the welfare of those humans who have little? Yes. Are they private institutions, so as to be aligned with an objectivist’s view promoting laissez-faire Capitalism? Yes, they are private institutions. Are they aligned with respecting the human right to free will, and any deduction derived from it that the welfare of others is not valuable, allowing people to act on that deduction if they reach it? Yes, charities would be an optional thing to donate to. And finally, can charities do as good a job of government in improving the welfare of others? You would think not, simply because one can assume that the welfare of others would not receive any where near as much capital as a welfare state would.


However, unlike a Government, charities work to provide global equality, not just national equality. In addition, supporters of capitalism would argue through complex economic theories that completely free markets improve the quality of the human race, globally, for everyone, and in a sustainable way whereas Governments tend not to. Further, they supposedly do it faster than Government! These theories have tended to stand true in history, and capitalism is supposed to promote industry, growth, development, and ultimately modernisation which leads to a better quality of life for all, especially in poor countries where cheap labour is available. And the proof is in the pudding! Take China, for instance. Capitalists have taken advantage of its abundance of cheap labour, and this has brought wealth into China, stimulating the economy, modernising previously primitive settlements by attracting people to live in capital efficient cities, drawing capital to development, ultimately for the goal of human life. Further, we cannot deny the truth that in this modern society, welfare states are unsustainable, relying on success, growth and profit in the private sector, while crippling these three foundations that keep it alive.

Remember that living in poverty now would not have been living in poverty one hundred years ago. By being so concerned with equality, the world has not come to care about standard of living in absolute terms, only in relative terms.The only equality which a welfare program could sustain-ably  implement today is not one which makes everyone not equally rich, but one that makes everybody equally poor.


1 comment:

  1. An absolutely fantastic article, David! :D I love how you've argued your case in such a methodical manner. I'm busy writing my own article in response to this one, where I'll be arguing the complete opposite - that charities most definitely should not replace the welfare state. ;)

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