Educating those on Conservatism, Lesson 1: Tackling ‘Welfarism’

Barry Goldwater, from the book on ‘Conscience of a Conservative’;

Indeed, this is one of the great evils of Welfarism—that it transforms the individual from a dignified, industrious, self-reliant spiritual being into a dependent animal creature without his knowing it. There is no avoiding this damage to character under the Welfare State.

Welfare programs cannot help but promote the idea that the government owes the benefits it confers on the individual, and that the individual is entitled, by right, to receive them. Such programs are sold to the country precisely on the argument that government has an obligation to care for the needs of its citizens. Is it possible that the message will reach those who vote for the benefits, but not those who receive them?

How different it is with private charity where both the giver and the receiver understand that charity is the product of the humanitarian impulses of the giver, not the due of the receiver.

The Welfare State is not inevitable, as its proponents are so fond of telling us. There is nothing inherent in an industrialized economy, or in democratic processes of government that must produce de Tocqueville’s “guardian society.” Our future, like our past, will be what we make it. And we can shatter the collectivists’ designs on individual freedom if we will impress upon the men who conduct our affairs this one truth: that the material and spiritual sides of man are intertwined; that it is impossible for the State to assume responsibility for one without intruding on the essential nature of the other; that if we take from a man the personal responsibility for caring for his material needs, we take from him also the will and the opportunity to be free.