When will liberty’s day arrive?

Life without socks would be… "undignified," but no one recommends government provision or even sock vouchers.  Relative to income, socks are sufficiently cheap.  There is some inequality of socks, but it seems that just about everybody — even the poor — "has enough."  We don’t even force people to buy socks for their kids.

Might there come a time when health care and education fall under the same rubric?

Yes, I know that, due to rising labor costs, health care and education might continue to eat up an increasing percentage of national income.  But still, can’t "rich enough" people make do?  Living in Aspen might cost half your income, but if you’re a multi-millionaire no one weeps for you.

Of course today’s poor aren’t rich enough for us to remove government aid.  But when will the splendid era of libertarian freedom be possible?  Today’s poor are much richer than the poor fifty years ago, and the poor of the future are likely to be richer yet.  Won’t the welfare state, at some point, simply become unnecessary?

Readers, please tell me in the comments when the time will come for dismantling the welfare state.  Will you sign your name to a pledge:

"I am a left-winger, but only until 2078"?

More elegant would be:

"I’m a 2096 libertarian."

Social democracy is but a mere transitional strategy.

If this were 1890, what Year of Libertarian Freedom would you have named?


Never (using that measure). Preferences change over time and so does the perception of what is undignified.

Never ever. While there are people in the U.S. who do actually live in squalor, the label "the poor" covers an enormous number of people who are amazingly rich by historical standards. Tons of interesting-tasting food to eat, powered transportation, broad variety of entertainment, etc.

The label does not properly refer to an objective reality. Rather, it is politically useful in triggering group association based on envy and greed.

I'm on board for dismantling it today on moral and Constitutional grounds, if not economic ones!

The poor have gotten a lot richer, which is good, but in a lot of cases they haven't gotten less miserable (crime, addiction, social exclusion, etc.). I don't know exactly why this is, nor do I know when it will stop being true, if ever. But I'm not OK with getting rid of the welfare state until it does, though the kinds of programs we need might change over time.

Two questions for your list:
1. How much different would things have turned out if Abraham Lincoln had lived?
2. What's the best restaraunt in the DC area for someone who is not an adventurous foodie, but just wants a really, really high quality nice meal?

Might there come a time when health care and education fall under the same rubric?

Both (especially health care) are labour intensive and so surely fall prey to Baumol's cost-disease at various levels

The ability to solve this relies on increased automation - so draw your own conclusions.

We've already seen a move from talking about poverty to talking about equality. People will find a way to tell other people what to do while making themselves feel righteous.

"It therefore all balances out since a single individual gets the benefits of low taxes early in life, which allows them to accumulate capital quickly so as to be more productive and engage in risk taking/wealth-generating activities earlier than they would otherwise."

Um, Cactus, did nobody ever teach you about distortionary costs of taxation? Those would still exist under this scheme. In this case, the person early in life then wouldn't have the same incentives to save and invest and accumulate capital given their high future tax burden.

um, cactus,

Economists wouldn't exactly expect increasing the price of social mobility to increase the quantity of social mobility.

Think "Star Trek": Health care costs too can be reduced by letting machines do more of the work. For starters, think of a nanodevice that can do hundreds of different blood tests in a second. It might only be when it comes to surgery that you need a highly skilled human.

I tend to ask people "Is Star Trek capitalist and socialist?" and it's hard to give an answer. Things would look the same either way. Politics, indeed, are dependent on our circumstances.

Even in 2078 someone can still be left-wing, but the issues of the day will be very different.

welfare state cannot end until warfare state ends. fascism and communism are two sides of the same coin.

warfare state can only end if (1) people wake up and demand it and government policies are enacted accordigly (highly unlikely in my opinion, given the amount of apathy, misinformation, disinformation, and corruption) or (2) the government collapses or self-destructs.

Health care yes, education no. Education is mostly about signaling and status, so good slots will always be expensive. I could learn more today from reading blogs than I did from my private high school, but I'm not going to get a job with a resume that says "6 years of reading blogs."

Health care, OTH, is scalable and we have already seen a shift of health care spending from doctors (labor intensive) to drugs (not labor intensive), which decline in price as they go off patent and as better drugs become available. How many of today's surgeries and hospitalizations will be unnecessary when we have a good weight loss drug and a stem cell injection to fix diabetes?

I'd give health care 50 years to reach this point for the non-elderly, although many people who grew old before superdrugs were available will continue to need expensive care.

The poverty industry is too powerful and well-entrenched to ever get rid of it.

That's probably the funniest thing I've read all month.

Ah, were it so that practical material comforts was the defining criteria in determining when to scale back the redistributive state--rather than the relative and comparative differences between the members thereof.

A democratic harbor filled with everything from multiple rowboats to the Queen Mary ensures those in the smaller vessels will vote themselves their share. Similarly, a democratic harbor filled with yachts of varying degrees of creature comforts will also find that those with the slightly less well-appointed will vote themselves a share of the grandiose.

close your tags, people geez

didn't a wise man once say that the poor will always be with us?

so long as there are always alcoholics and drug addicts, there will always be people without adequate socks, or healthcare...

Let's see if I can close this tag. I'm a left winger, but only until 5000 BC.

Oddly enough, the richer we are, the more poverty we can afford. So we could get even more poverty.

Example: in olden days, a woman would have to put up with an unpleasant or abusive husband, and the prospects of starvation kept her from leaving him. Now, we are rich enough so such a woman can leave her husband; she is likely to have a spell of poverty on her own, but at higher incomes, she prefers that to staying in the marriage.

Another example: single women having babies without marriage. It was a dead end centuries ago; now woman can afford it, even though many of them will be in poverty.

Another example: drug addiction or alcoholism -- a quick trip to death's door in older days, but now people with such problems can live, but likely in poverty.

Another example: in olden days, old people did not live long. Now, old people have much longer life expectancies, thanks to higher GDP and the technology that produced it. That means more old people, many of whom will be in poverty because of inadequate savings.

So I don't expect poverty to diminish even as per capital GDP rises. Quite the contrary.

Lefties, fess up, the welfare state/equal opportunity etc. is the project that makes a "we" doing something for "us." It's all about identity and the people's romance.

Greed is widely condemned by society, to the point that those who are not greedy are condemned for achieving a large amount of wealth, whatever their intentions. Envy is barely mentioned, yet it is equivalent to greed at least in the eyes of the Catholic Church- and it fuels the taxation and redistribution of wealth. The libertarian future will not arrive until greed and envy are placed on equal footing.

The cost of being destitute, at least in America, has progressively declined over the last century. I have always found America unique in that you can be homeless, and still be morbidly obese, or have a dog, or any number of strange things. Being a city dweller and living near public libraries for the last 5 years, I've had the luxury of befriending a few of the less fortunate "neighbours" of mine. I've come to find many aren't particularly discontent about their lot. In many ways their lives aren't so different, they spend their hours reading or on the web at the library, relax in the park, drink amongst friends, and usually put aside enough scratch to sleep at the shelter. In short, they live a life that most of us aspire to live in retirement, without any of the responsibility. It used to be if you were homeless, life was pretty swift and severe, you just died and that right soon. Not to say life is roses for the homeless by any means, but it's at least no longer a death sentence.

I'd say between 2050 and 2100.

- Government programs for the not-poor (SS, Medicare, etc.) will face a turning-point first and will need to be phased out.

- New forms of private insurance will partly take their places and will become refined over time and therefore cheaper.

- Healthcare services will also become cheaper, through better technology (such as distance diagnosis and automated systems for record-sharing).

- With experience, the idea will then become both true and accepted that anyone of normal intelligence and normal health can earn enough to buy his/her own insurance for catastrophic health problems and can afford to pay out-of-pocket for regular healthcare services.

- More and more successful state-wide experiments with school vouchers will similarly bring about the acceptance of wholly private education funding.

- At the same time, private organizations will gradually step up funding for those incapable of working and their children.

Ironically, that day will be the same day that Marx's ideal of pure communism will
hold, in which, just to remind everybody, the state is to "wither away," and we shall
see "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

As for Tyler's question, in 1890 I would have supported the existing system, which was pretty libertarian, and today I still support the existing system, which isn't. In 2040, if I'm alive, I expect to still support the existing system. Transaction costs for major shifts in policy are HUGE and increase the rents to political activity greatly, so they usually destroy much more wealth than they create.
OTOH, in 1890 I would have expected continuation of existing policies to create a society MUCH MUCH wealthier than that I see around me, and would have expected private charity to be sufficient to provide about today's 40th percentile standard of living for free to everyone in the US.

> The poverty industry...

a.k.a. Big Poverty

I'm a 2007 libertarian.

I don't have the time (nor the intellectual firepower, in all likelihood) to delve into this too deeply, but I would dismantle the welfare state today on moral grounds alone.

When we think of welfare we almost reflexively think of those of limited means, though the government subsidizes the poorest of families and the richest of corporations, and anything in between. Just look at the latest "emergency" spending bill for the Iraq war.

If we were truly concerned about the most destitute and downtrodden, we could subsidize them for a fraction of the taxpayer's money that today goes toward federal and state funding of public education, health care, sports stadiums, guaranteed government loans, and every earmark to a special interest group under the sun. And I'd imagine we could provide such a safety net with relatively little opposition.

However, it seems that as we grow richer, the government accordingly recognizes the opportunity to enrich itself, seizing more and more tax revenue as a means to justify the adoption of more and more unnecessary and intrusive regulatory and subsidy programs.

In this light, it's hard to see how the continual expansion of government could in any way lead to greater liberty.


We can eliminate food stamps when there are advertising-supported fast-food restaurants (you get a hamburger for free, as long as you're willing to eat it in front of a big screen running ads).

I predict that will happen in 2015.

Of course today's poor aren't rich enough for us to remove government aid.

Sure they are. If private methods can supply people with socks and food, they can also supply charitable aid. Just because the poor are (arguably) too poor to buy their own health care and education and housing and transportation and legal services and vacation time and retirement funds doesn't mean that they'll be best served by having those things provided by the government.

The time to demolish the welfare state was when it drew its first wretched breath.

I'm a liberal leftie forever. Because here in the US, it's not a welfare state so much as a safety net. As the correct part of John Goes' post points out, in Britain that bit goes back to the 1890s, and the need is still with us today. Misfortune and capitalism will always have their random bits. I don't see that going away. We are getting better at delivering the safety net, but I don't see it or the need going away.

John Goes said:
We did well enough before the welfare state, even during the revolutionary days of industry.

If by "we" you mean the middle class and above, then you're largely right. But the part of your "we" that would refer to the poor would be a great big BZZT. Time to reread your Dickens!

Independent George said:
the labor costs of healthcare become irrelevant the day we are able to move our brains into shiny new robot bodies

Speaking as an engineer...what makes you think robot bodies will be trouble-free? Same deal with uploads. Higher complexity is inextricably paired with higher bug rates. And higher complexity is implicit in superhuman AI.

mobile wrote:
When nanotech comes of age, and when you can satisfy all your material needs for 40 cents a pound, only a small fringe will worry about the deprivations of the poor.

Services are getting more expensive, a reflection of rising labor rates. Medicine and robot/avatar repair are both services. They'll still sock it to the budget plenty hard.

"So I don't expect poverty to diminish even as per capital GDP rises. Quite the contrary."

Per capita GDP and poverty are not always connected. Look at Equatorial Guinea. Second highest Per Capita GDP in the world, but most people there are poor as all hell.

51 years ago the minimum wage was $7.50/hr in today's dollars -- at 40% of today's per capita GDP. Were the American poor really much poorer, then, than the poor of de-unionized America, today -- I don't know. By 39 years ago the minimum wage was $9.50.

Steve, I am with you, and look forward to the benefits of removing corporate welfare trickling down to the rest of us.

However, I have more faith in government than you, as long as crooks and incompetents are not running it. I do believe that is possible, just not under a Republican administration.

As for a libertarian society, I am of the opinion that the movie Road Warrior is the most accurate depiction of such a society that I can think of. So I hope the answer to Tyler's question is 'never'.

As for a libertarian society, I am of the opinion that the movie Road Warrior is the most accurate depiction of such a society that I can think of.

It's important to distinguish between anarcho-capitalist libertarianism and minarchist libertarianism. Most libertarians are minarchists, not anarcho-capitalists. In other words, we see an ongoing need for government, but with its role limited to national defense, domestic peace-keeping, dispute resolution, and little else (about the precise contours of which there's disagreement). Unfortunately, a lot of people tend to view all libertarians as anarcho-capitalists.

Socialists are always going to call for more government at higher prices because it is in their vested interest. What better way to get a safer, higher paying government job than to build in a new layer of employees underneath what is currently in place? The poor are just an excuse for greater job security. If they were interested in providing better education, they would at least consider school vouchers to offer a choice of school districts. Instead the argument is that vouchers take money away where we should be giving more. That's genius. The worse you do the more funding you should receive.

Last Christmas my grandfather told me a story of a time during the Great Depression when he and his friends in rural Alabama were trying to earn enough money to buy some .22 bullets. They built a snare and soon trapped an opossum. They were bringing the 'possum to town to try and sell it when they happened upon a WPA road crew. My grandfather said he'd never forget the look in the eyes of some of those men staring at that 'possum. My grandfather was the tenth child of a sharecropper, but he told me that their family always had enough to eat because they owned a mule.

So anyway, that was poverty in 1936. Today, most households below the poverty line don't own a mule or eat 'possum, but they do have cable and are more likely than not to be overweight anyway. That's a big transformation, and it took just 70 years. That's why I believe health care and education will be far below the value of my grandfather's 'possum in 1936 by 2040. Heck, within 20 years most "health care" will be a pill delivering a drug "developed" by software. By 2080, the definition of a poor person will be someone who can't go wherever they want whenever they want to go.

Anyhoo, to comply with the requested format, I'm a 2040 Liberal Capitalist.


As data propagation becomes cheaper learning algorithms become more valuable. One could say that's been the entire goal of management software. Eliminating useless managers who just copied data to people and sucked tons of cash to do it.

Machines can calculate and copy way faster than some ex-QB who was in the right frat.

資金を増やそうとするのに不動産投資をするのが手っ取り早い。日本で不動産で東京 賃貸をさがすのはきわめて難しくシステム開発は日本の会社が良い。

Comments for this post are closed