Imagine Grateful Welfare Recipients
By Bryan Caplan
Imagine the following scenario: Recipients of food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, and student loans suddenly start expressing daily heartfelt gratitude to the taxpayers who provide for them. The eager proponents of these programs stop angrily demanding more. Instead, they spend their days proclaiming their appreciation for everyone who forks over their hard-earned dollars to help those in need. When asked, “Should we spend more?,” proponents coyly reply, “You’re doing so much already. Can you really can afford it?”
What happens to the size of the welfare state in this scenario? It’s hard to be sure, but I tend to think the welfare state would expand. Sure, libertarians would press our rhetorical advantage; we’re boorish that way. But conservatives and moderates would no longer feel like suckers. In the current regime, the welfare state robs and insults them. Conservatives and moderates would feel far better about redistribution if everyone framed it as an exchange of cash for status.
Since I want the welfare state to vanish, I’m a little nervous to publicize these observations. But realistically, I don’t need to worry. In politics, hate is stronger than love. The biggest friends of the welfare state would rather see the welfare state disappear than publicly say “Please” or “Thank you” to the taxpayers who make their favorite programs possible.