All Commentary
Sunday, June 1, 1997

The Welfare State: No Mercy for the Middle Class by John McKay

A Book That Will Help Us Achieve a Free and Prosperous America

Liberty Books • 1995 • 298 pages • $22.00

Dr. Sabrin is professor of finance, Ramapo College of New Jersey, and author of Tax Free 2000: The Rebirth of American Liberty.

If policymakers want to learn about the debilitating effects of the welfare state, John McKay’s readable and passionate defense of limited government is a good place to begin. McKay’s book is sprinkled with the kind of rhetoric that is bound to drive liberals (I prefer statists) up a wall. For example, on page three he states: An entitlement beneficiary is a person or special interest group who didn’t earn your money, but demands the right to take your money because they want it (original emphasis). On page 14, McKay puts a stake in the heart of so-called compassionate proponents of the welfare state: It’s easy to be noble with other people’s money (original emphasis).

In The Welfare State, McKay tackles such issues as discrimination, regulation, health care, taxation, and entitlements. He shows how the free market has been hampered by government intervention, and makes the moral case for free enterprise an integral part of his argument. McKay sums up his case against the welfare state with the following: Entitlement programs violate our property rights. They confiscate what we earn and give our money to total strangers without our consent. Government assumes it has the right to steal, because it does so by majority rule. It does not have that right. As individual citizens, we don’t have the right to steal from our neighbors. We therefore can’t delegate such a right to a government who is simply our agent.

To end the welfare state McKay proposes a constitutional amendment that would protect individual rights and restrict government depredations on the American people. In addition, he virtually calls for a tax-free America by advocating fees to be paid by citizens to maintain the courts, police, and armed forces.

Overall, The Welfare State is a welcome addition to the growing literature of freedom. However, some repetition of phrases and statements should have been edited for redundancy. In addition, the factual material is abundant, but one error stands out; the population of Canada is cited on page 123 as around 15 million. According to the latest data, our neighbor to the north has a population of approximately 25 million. Also, McKay blames the welfare state for higher prices. Yes, if we assume the monetary authorities crank up the printing presses. A brief overview of the welfare state’s necessary ally, the central bank—our Federal Reserve—would have been welcome.

The welfare state is in retreat around the world—ideologically, financially, and culturally. Unfortunately, U.S. proponents of the entitlement philosophy will be fighting tooth and nail to postpone the inevitable. If the Berlin Wall can come down, if the Soviet Empire can disappear, then America’s welfare state is living on borrowed time.

Leonard Read, Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, Murray Rothbard, and the other giants of liberty are not alive to see the vindication of their lifetime work. But today’s cohort of conservatives and libertarians are gallantly carrying the torch of liberty into the 21st century. A free and prosperous America is on the horizon. John McKay’s The Welfare State will help us reach that destination.