A Foundation, Not a Net

Under laissez-faire capitalism, income is only distributed to the factors of production, i.e. labor and capital. If you don’t own a whole bunch of capital or have the capacity and opportunity to work, capitalism has no use for you and would, left alone, starve you to death. The welfare state exists not because some people just randomly fall on hard times, but rather because capitalism has no way of getting huge numbers of people (around half of the population is not working at any given time) the income and services that they need.

A better metaphor, both in terms of accuracy and rhetoric, would be the foundation. The welfare foundation provides a universal set of services on top of which people can build their lives. It is a permanent support structure, not a temporary failsafe. The precise mix of welfare benefits individuals get will of course vary depending on what stage of life they are in, but the welfare state as a whole is there for them at all times, giving them the stability to do everything else they want to do with their lives.

A Foundation, Not a Net by Matt Bruenig