“It’s not an endlessly expanding list of rights, the right to education, the right to health care, the right to food and housing. That’s not freedom, that’s dependency. Those aren’t rights, those are the rations of slavery, hay and a barn for human cattle.” Tocqueville
All too often we are introduced by politicians and the media to new “rights”, which aren’t actually rights but demands for the expropriation of the rights of others; it’s as if rights are a zero sum game in which all resources available are divisible, regardless of who owns them, by the calculus of political power. The idea that such things as Tocqueville enumerates in the above quote are a right would of necessity mean they are freely available to whoever needs them. In reality this creation of such rights means someone must pay the cost; inevitably it’s the government who, through taxes, takes money from some to spend it to the benefit of others. Those on the receiving end of these rights, or more appropriately tax funded benefits, become in effect dependents of the state.
Such a system is a common element of socialism where the state becomes the arbiter of who has the right to the benefits it has created through the confiscation from those whose rights have been violated. Thus the beneficiaries lose their self-reliance and become dependent on and indebted to the state, and in effect they become enslaved; the benefactors, i.e. the tax payers, having lost the right to their own life, liberty and property, are likewise enslaved.
It is and always has been a parasitical relationship made possible by the majoritarianism of democracy empowering political elites the creation of what we know today as the “Welfare State”; this is a phenomenon that Karl Marx observed when he said that “Democracy is the road to socialism.” The process begins with politicians selling the fiction that the public is entitled to rights that are actually not rights at all, but a means for them to create powers that constitutionally do not exist. It’s a confidence game in order to make the public dependent on them, when in fact they are actually dependent on the gullibility of the public.
All scams require good marketing, which in this case is found in the idea of social justice, which is simply a catch-all best described by Thomas Sowell for what it is when he said that “Envy was once considered to be one of the seven deadly sins before it became one of the most admired virtues under its new name, social justice.”; it can mean or pertain to whatever the cause of the moment may be, but invariably it involves creating rights that previously did not exist, or rights whose definition has been altered in the Newspeak of the day. If that all it were, it could be dismissed as misguided compassion, but unfortunately in the hands of the state it becomes a tool for coercion. Apparently what socialists and progressives miss is that if you require compulsion to achieve your desires, then you are effectively more like a mobster than an idealist.
There is no shortage of proposals to achieve all sorts of rights from income equality to climate justice, but all such plans have in common the essential idea that there is a plan to be followed, so laws are passed, usually with such tortuous and incomprehensible rules and conflicting regulations that no one can be held in compliance. The government knows this, which is why the Inflation Reduction Act includes an appropriation of $80B for 87K additional IRS agents. It doesn’t take all those additional agents to go after the 1% or inforce a minimum corporate tax of 15%. According to the Tax Foundation, the U.S. is ranked number 31 out of 35 developed countries in terms of a comprehensible and compliable tax code; wonder why that is?
Of course there are other ways the US funds this endless array of rights, such as tariffs that are actually taxes on consumers, manipulated interest rates to provide for lower government debt service, and currency inflation in order to monetize debt. There are also sleight of hand gimmicks like selling the American people that the minimum 15% corporate tax is there to make business pay its fair share. The reality is that corporations will never pay taxes because taxes are the cost of doing business, and like all costs they become part of the calculation for the price of goods and services that corporations sell to the American people; corporations are in effect tax collectors for government.
Welfare is not only expensive but corrosive, a burden for the productive and a narcotic for the recipients and the power hungry politicians. There is an old saying by Ayn Rand about where this situation leads that we should keep in mind, especially on election days, and that is “The difference between a welfare state and a totalitarian state is a matter of time.”