Evil and Support for the Welfare State
By Bryan Caplan
I’ve been reflecting on Garett’s post on human evil and the welfare state ever since he wrote it. The most striking passage:
that by some moral standards, we don’t owe much to strangers in
general; if that’s right, how much less do we owe to strangers who, if
they are college-educated males, might have a 35% probability of
contemplating rape? And this is just one criminal proclivity, based
merely on surveys.I suspect that if people were more aware of the awfulness of their neighbors, support for the welfare state would decline.
I agree that’s one effect. But if Garett’s right about human evil, this also suggests that a lot of opposition to the welfare state is motivated by outright hatred of the poor! After all, if pure malevolence is common, and X opposes government help for Y, we have a strong reason to accept the leftist caricature that X affirmatively enjoys seeing Y suffer.
Yes, right-wingers may say “welfare hurts the very people it’s supposed to help,” or “charity is great but it should be voluntary.” But if people are as bad as Garett says, we should take these protests with a grain of salt.
So what? If people believed that many opponents of the welfare state simply hated the poor, support for the welfare state would probably increase. Net effect of belief in human evil on support for the welfare state: unclear.
P.S. For the record, I’m very suspicious of the rape surveys and related literature that Garett cites. In virtually every survey I’ve ever seen, people claim to be paragons of propriety. Any survey where many men admit to being potential rapists seems very fishy to me. Unfortunately, I don’t have the spare energy to investigate this anytime soon…