The Welfare State

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The history of the welfare state is the history of the state’s savage war of aggrandizement and seizure of authority against civil society. Whether in Germany, in the United Kingdom, in Australia, in Canada, in Scandinavia, or in the United States, the coercive state systematically destroyed the “voluntary sector” of civil society and those intermediary institutions that protected the individual from the direct contact and control by the state [much as the Church did for nearly all of the previous two millennia]. Within the short space of two or three decades the protective sphere covered by workingmen’s social and other fraternal duties had been stripped to nothing more than drinking associations, with all other matters taken over by the state apparatus. Henceforth, the workingman and much of the middle class reported directly to the bureaucracy of the state’s intrusive regime. Everything they did was in some way or another regulated, regimented and overseen by the state. The dire effects of this calculated collectivism was malevolence not benevolence, aggression not altruism, genocide not generosity.

Highly recommended as a beginning scholarly examination of this topic is the online Mises Institute article by economist/historian Murray N. Rothbard, Origins of the Welfare State in America.

1. The Origin of the Welfare State in England and Germany, 1850-1914: Social Policies Compared by E. P. Hennock

Hennock examines the array of independent and only loosely connected Friendly Society health and unemployment [social insurance] regime throughout Britain & Wales. He sees that this motley ‘organization’ of free & voluntary organizations that dealt amazingly well with the delivery of social, medical, or burial services should have been ‘rationalized,’ centralized, & brought under state control.

2. British Social Reform and German Precedents: The Case of Social Insurance 1880-1914 by E. P. Hennock

The title pretty much sums up the contents of this very informative and useful study. The flow of ideas and policies from Germany to England are as important as the slightly later flow of those ideas and policies (as modified by the Brits) from the UK to America. This book also serves, in part, as a foundation and as an introduction to Hennock’s later book, above.

3. No Wealth but Life: Welfare Economics and the Welfare State in Britain, 1880-1945 by Roger E. Backhouse

This is an extraordinary collection; all of the essays are extremely good and helpful towards understanding the first principles and the initial foundation of the welfare state in the UK.

4. Citizen, State, and Social Welfare in Britain 1830-1990 by Geoffrey B. A. M. Finlayson

The state in the UK systematically destroyed the ‘voluntary sector’ and the intermediary institutions that protected the individual from the direct contact and control by the state. Within two or three decades the sphere covered by workingmen’ social and other fraternal duties had been stripped to nothing more than drinking associations.

5. The British Political Tradition: The Rise of Collectivism by W. H. Greenleaf

This volume establishes the central theme that the most important feature of British political life since the nineteenth century has been the extension of the role of government at all levels. Part of an outstanding three part series.

6. The Oxford Handbook of the Welfare State (Oxford Handbooks) by Francis G. Castles

Described as the authoritative and definitive guide to the contemporary welfare state, consisting of nearly fifty newly-written chapters, a broad range of the world’s leading scholars offer a comprehensive account of the modern welfare state. Divided into eight sections, it opens with three chapters that evaluate the philosophical case for (and against) the welfare state.

7. The Welfare State Reader by Christopher Pierson

The Welfare State Reader has rapidly established itself as a vital source of outstanding original research.

8. The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc

Belloc famously predicted the rise of the ‘Servile State,’ along the lines adopted by Parliament as the Welfare State.

9. Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age by Daniel T. Rodgers

While this is a sweeping and substantial study of how the ideas that ultimately created the social welfare state were transferred back and forth between England and the United States, it is an ultimately flawed analysis.

10. Before Beveridge – Welfare Before the Welfare State (Choice in Welfare 47) by David A. Green

These are three works by David A. Greene (items #10, 11 and 12) which must read together in order to get a properly balanced account of the heyday of the mutual society system of social and medical insurance on the one hand, and on the other hand, the complete strangulation of civil society by the British state.

11. Reinventing Civil Society: Rediscovery of Welfare without Politics (Choice in Welfare) by David G. Green

12. Mutual Aid or Welfare State?: Australia’s Friendly Societies by David G. Green

13. From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967 by David T. Beito

Just as David Green’s studies above are mainly about the UK, Beito’s study is about the similar story in America. This is a deep and meticulous scholarly study of America’s mutual aid societies and all of the social insurance sorts of personal distresses and misfortunes that often afflicted the workingman and the middle classes [i.e., civil society].

14. Imperialism and social reform: English social-imperial thought 1895-1914 by Bernard Semmel (Studies in society [5]) by Bernard Semmel

The spawning of the welfare state and the warfare state went hand in hand. In particular note the pivotal role of the Fabian Society and race imperialist Viscount Alfred Milner, the force behind Cecil Rhodes’s Round Table movement to consolidate the British Empire (see Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope, and The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden).

15. Fabianism and the Empire A Manifesto by the Fabian Society by Bernard Shaw

Fabian socialists such as George Bernard Shaw supported both the welfare and warfare state as essential to the survival of the British Empire. It was called “Social Imperialism.

16. The British Socialist Ill-Fare State; an Examination of Its Political, Social, Moral, and Economic Consequences by Cecil Palmer

Palmer details how the Fabian-led British socialists of the Labor Party were destroying Great Britain.

17. The Higher Circles by G. William Domhoff

Domhoff details the origins of the welfare-warfare state from Otto von Bismarck to Richard T. Ely to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

18. Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government by Robert Higgs

Higgs charts the accellerated growth and development of the welfare-warfare state in war and peace during the 20th century.

19. Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, 10th Anniversary Edition by Charles A Murray

Murray relentlessly destroys the empirical and ideological basis of the modern welfare state.

20. The Welfare State We’re in by James Bartholomew

This is by far the best book on England’s welfare state. It describes how the welfare system operates, day to day, how it punishes both the young and the elderly just for trying to get ahead, or just trying to keep one’s head above water.

21. Welfare As We Knew It: A Political History of the American Welfare State by Charles Noble

22. Is the Welfare State Justified? by Daniel Shapiro

In this book, Daniel Shapiro argues that the dominant positions in contemporary political philosophy – egalitarianism, positive rights theory, communitarianism, and many forms of liberalism – should converge in a rejection of central welfare state institutions.

23. Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State by Sheldon Richman

Richman further details the orgins of the welfare state in Bismarck’s Prussia and antebellum Civil War pensions in America.

24. A Life of One’s Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State by David Kelley

The welfare state rests on the assumption that people have rights to food, shelter, health care, retirement income, and other goods provided by the government. Kelley examines the historical origins of that assumption, and the rationale used to support it today.

25. From Poor Law to Welfare State, 6th Edition: A History of Social Welfare in America by Walter I. Trattner

26. From Warfare State to Welfare State: World War I, Compensatory State Building, and the Limits of the Modern Order by Marc Allen Eisner

Eisner further outlines the tremendous impact and rationale World War I ‘war collectivism’ played in ushering in FDR’s New Deal welfare state. (see Murray N. Rothbard’s two pivotal essays, ‘War Collectivism in World War I,’ and ‘World War I as Fulfillment: Power and the Intellectuals.’ Both available online.)

27. Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass by Theodore Dalrymple

Dalrymple’s key insight in Life at the Bottom is that long-term poverty is caused not by economics but by a dysfunctional set of values, one that is continually reinforced by an elite culture searching for victims. This culture persuades those at the bottom that they have no responsibility for their actions and are not the molders of their own lives.

28. Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare by Frances Fox Piven

Marshaling a vast array of research, Piven and Cloward persuasively demonstrate how public relief has been used to avert civil chaos during economic downturns and to exert pressure on the work force during periods of stability.

29. Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg

Critics such as David Gordon have pointed out its factual flaws in interpretation but Goldberg gets 90% of it brilliantly correct. Not a scholarly treatise but a fast-paced polemic showing the common ideological roots of American progressivism and European fascism, a legacy continuing with today’s welfare-warfare state.

30. As We Go Marching by John T. Flynn

Flynn’s brilliant expose of the fascist orgins of FDR’s New Deal, and its close ideological relationship to Mussolini’s and Hitler’s regimes.

31. Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939 by Wolfgang Schivelbusch

Schivelbusch dares compare the collectivist ideology and pragmatic public policy applications of Roosevelt’s New Deal, Mussolini’s Corporate State, and Hitler’s National Socialist Third Reich. Excellent companion volume to Flynn’s As We Go Marching above.

32. Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State by Götz Aly

In this groundbreaking book, historian Götz Aly addresses one of modern history’s greatest conundrums: How did Hitler win the allegiance of ordinary Germans? The answer is as shocking as it is persuasive: by engaging in a campaign of theft on an almost unimaginable scale – and by channeling the proceeds into generous social programs – Hitler literally ‘bought’ his people’s consent.

33. The Third Reich: A New History by Michael Burleigh

Excellent in documenting the social welfare component of National Socialist Germany under Hitler.

34. New Totalitarians by Roland Huntford

Huntsford dissects the fascist model of the social welfare state of Sweden.

35. War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, Expanded Edition by Edwin Black

Eugenics was not new in the Progressive Era, but acquired impetus with the advent of a more expansive government. Expansion of state coercion meant that it became possible to have not only eugenic thought, but also eugenic practice. Millions of ‘the unfit’ were targeted for sterilization and elimination. Weimar and National Socialist Germany looked to the US as a model.

36. Ex America: The 50th Anniversary of the People’s Pottage by Garet Garrett

Garrett’s classic expose’ of the destructive nature of the welfare-warfare state under presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

37. The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents – The Definitive Edition (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, Volume 2) by F. A. Hayek

Originally published in 1944, this book was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

38. The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America by David A. Stockman

A searing look at Washington’s craven response to the recent myriad of financial crises and fiscal cliffs. It counters conventional wisdom with an eighty-year revisionist history of how the American state – especially the Federal Reserve – has fallen prey to the politics of crony capitalism and the ideologies of fiscal stimulus, monetary central planning, and financial bailouts.

39. Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse by Thomas E. Woods

America is on the brink of financial collapse. Decades of political overpromising and underfunding have created a wave of debt that could swamp our already feeble economy. And the politicians’ favorite tricks – raising taxes, borrowing from foreign governments, and printing more money – will only make it worse. Only one thing might save us: Roll back the government.

 

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