In his by-request post on safety nets, Tyler writes:
Most of all, the welfare state liberates the productive and the creative from their sometimes burdensome family ties. The welfare state is the Randian’s secret dream, and that is what clinches the case for a government safety net.
I don’t think I understand. How many productive and creative people take advantage of government assistance programs for the poor, or are liberated by them? It would seem that genuinely productive, creative people would need them least.
Probably Tyler means that Social Security and Medicare allow the productive and creative to foist their poor parents off on the state. True. But increasing incomes also allow the productive and creative to foist their not-so-poor parents off on “assisted living” facilities. Wealthier parents don’t need their kids’ money, and wealthier kids can afford to have somebody else worry about their parents. How much has the deadweight loss of our actually existing, almost entirely middle class to middle class “social insurance” tranfer system decreased economic growth over the last half-century? It is not obvious that the history of our real system compares favorably to even a slightly higher-growth counterfactual in terms of the kind of liberation from burdensome family ties Tyler is talking about.
If you’re a Sen-type positive liberty advocate like Tyler, and don’t so much care about the coercion implicit in transfers, your problem with safety nets ought to be the potentially psychologically debilitating effects of transfers on the recipients with respect to a sense of control, self-efficacy, motivation, etc. I do not doubt for a second that many, many people have been genuinely helped by public assistance. I do, however, have some doubt that the overall effect has been positive relative to some of the potentially feasible alternatives.