Voluntaryism: We need to talk about Welfare.



Mick Philpott was responsible for his criminal acts.  The acts for which he (and his co-conspirators) have been convicted are entirely through their conscious volition. Who has claimed otherwise?

Yet the impression you get from the left is that had he not killed his children, things would have been “just fine”.  They would all happily have left Philpott to keep getting £92,000 a year gross income, most of it forcible extracted from taxpayers.


Harry Cole of the Guido Fawkes website debates Owen Jones on welfare.

That’s the moral element of the welfare state that most completely ignore – other people were forced to pay for Philpott.

How can anyone defend taxpayers being forced to pay for children born purely because you get money for them?  It is one step removed from breeding them to be bonded labour.  On top of that, Philpott was already a convicted violent criminal.   How many taxpayers would willingly have paid him a penny had they had the audacity to have that choice?

In defence of the compulsory welfare state, the left’s latest paltering polemical pinup, Owen Jones, regurgitates at every opportunity with aplomb the monologue that the rich utterly hate the poor.

The truth is that “the right” (whoever they are) alongside all other political stances, do not “hate the poor”.  It’s the strawman antithesis to socialism, to paint the all embracing welfare state as the epitome of compassion, and for those who reject it to be painted not as people who offer alternatives to addressing poverty, but those who either don’t care about it, or are positively sadistic towards the poor.

Yet the idea that without the welfare state people would let others starve or be homeless is absurd.  Most people are benevolent, as can be seen in fund raising for charities and how many look after family, friends and neighbours. It is ridiculous to claim you only “care for the poor” if you agree to having more of your money taken by tax for bureaucracies to dish out.

“It is ridiculous to claim you only “care for the poor” if you agree to having more of your money taken by tax for bureaucracies to dish out.”

So would libertarians let the poor be homeless or starve? No. Would you let people be homeless or starve?  The welfare state completely divorces those who claim to care from actually doing something about it. What libertarians say is that you have to put YOUR money where you mouth is, not force others to do so.

Libertarians take a positive view of humanity, that with much lower taxes, not only would the poor find the cost of living lower (and not face any taxation), but everyone else would have far more of their own money that they can be generous with.  Charity offers both a more moral and more effective (targeted) means to protect people from poverty. What charity would pay Mick Philpott for breeding?

Yet so many are dependent that any reform now needs to lead people towards more self-sufficiency and to remove the most malignant elements of the welfare state, whilst promoting a culture of voluntarism.


So I have a few modest ideas to move forward:


Convert national insurance into individual account based social insurance, with a choice of provider, covering income protection in the event of redundancy, sickness, disability or death for individuals and their dependents, including housing. This can also form the basis for a personal pension fund (that can be inherited).  Let everyone default into one scheme at a minimum level, but let people opt out into alternatives if they wish.   Have a subsidy for those on lowest incomes who can’t afford a basic level of coverage.


End welfare for anyone convicted of serious violent or sexual offences.  No one should be forced to pay for convicts, that should immediately be a matter for charities.


Make both parents financially responsible for their children, unless both agree otherwise.  Low incomes do not excuse parents from paying maintenance for their children.


Scrap future child benefit and child tax credits.  Parenting is a costly responsibility, it shouldn’t come with state financial reward.


Phase out new applications for all other benefits, except those based on incapacity to work, as everyone moves towards having their own income protection insurance.   Again, the response to that should be through charities.

It is supported by reductions in the cost of living by cutting VAT, scrapping green energy taxes and cutting income tax.  Most of all it is supported by a cultural change. No longer would welfare be forever and reward bad behaviour, and those who complain about the plight of the poor would be asked – why don’t YOU give some of YOUR money to help, or help fundraise for others to choose to give.

Compassion does not come from force or by rewarding irresponsibility.  That is the moral vacuum of the welfare state that must be filled.

Libertyscott is an objectivist libertarian who was President of Libertarianz, the small libertarian party of New Zealand until 2005 when he emigrated to the UK


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