Social democracy has failed. The fiscal excesses of Welfare States all over Europe have come home to haunt them. My generation has to pay for those excesses and face poorer services than our parents enjoyed. Cradle-to-grave welfare has been an unsuccessful experiment and very few have been brave enough to articulate an alternative vision. One of these brave men is Tom Palmer and his new book, a collaboration with Students for Liberty, entitled ‘After the Welfare State’ is a must read – your future depends on it.
In ‘After the Welfare State,’ Palmer provides a compelling case for a return to mutual aid. Destroyed in the social upheaval of the two World Wars, mutual aid organisations, also known as friendly societies, thrived in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The narrative some would like you to believe is that the poor were helpless and bereft of the means to better their lot before the advent of the Welfare State. This is one of the most damaging historical falsehoods ever told. Indeed, the story of America would not be the same were it not for mutual aid. It’s demise was engineered by motivations that were sometimes rascist deliberately seeking to inhibit the self-sufficiency of immigrant and ethnic groups.
These remarkable organisations were vital to communities and provided many different products such as sickness benefit, health care coverage and pensions. Far from being powerless, friendly societies were an efficient, localised and voluntary solution to the everyday challenges facing the working class without interference from a higher class or power seeking to control or engineer outcomes.
Localised solutions beat top-down solutions every time. Despite the best of intentions, modern politicians still fail to do right by the body public because they do not really know ‘what’s best’ and they exist in a system that makes poor short-term decisions the most attractive option. Politicians borrow money to provide services (not to mention bailouts and subsidies); they literally buy the votes of one generation with money that their children pay back with interest. They have a caricatured idea of what it is like to live on a council estate or claim job-seekers allowance because so few of them have lived that life themselves. Despite this detachment they still feel qualified to dictate what is wrong with our personal habits or tastes and wag their finger in judgement.
Some say that people should be forced to help others and some say that individuals should only help themselves. Both have got it wrong. Human beings are simultaneously selfish and altruistic and individuals are happiest when they are helping themselves and others at the same time. This is why trade works so well and is so conducive to the wellbeing of mankind. By trading with someone you help yourself and him or her. The same is true of mutual aid. They are structured in a way that provides a massive incentive for the organisation to make sound long-term decisions and to self-police.
To my generation, I say this – government is neither the cause of nor the solution to all our problems. Not only will government not help you; it can’t help you – but we can help each other.
If you want to learn more about the mutual aid you can download a free copy of ‘After the Welfare State’ here.