David Stove was een Australische conservatieve filosoof. Hij pleegde zelfmoord in 1994 maar niet nadat hij een hele reeks interessante boeken en artikelen had nagelaten. Dit boek bevat een kritiek van de Verlichting.
- Stove was geen fan van de welvaartstaat, wat hij als de ultieme verwezenlijking van de Verlichting zag (en niet individuele vrijheden):
It doesn’t matter that the welfare state actually creates more of the poverty and dependence it was instituted to abolish: the intentions behind it are benevolent. Which is one of the reasons it is so seductive. It flatters the vanity of those who espouse it even as it nourishes the egalitarian ambitions that have always been at the center of Enlightened thought. This is why Stove describes benevolence as “the heroin of the Enlightened.” It is intoxicating, addictive, expensive, and ultimately ruinous.
- Terwijl Mill & Hayek zichzelf als liberaal en niet conservatief zagen, zette Stove de stap verder: conservatisme en liberalisme zijn niet tegengesteld maar hebben elkaar nodig:
Like John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, Stove’s essay on benevolence takes as its main focus the relationship between authority and the individual. But while Mill and Hayek are content to defend the classic liberal imperative, Stove goes a step further, asking whether liberalism and conservatism are in any important sense compatible. His answer is that they are, that conservative institutions flourish most when individual liberty is at its maximum and state authority is at its minimum. According to Stove, when people are free to live their lives as they see fit, they naturally choose to enter into relationships with one another that allow families, friendships, businesses and other non-governmental institutions to flourish. Far from being troubled by the apparently paradoxical observation that conservatism thrives in nations founded on liberal principles, Stove sees this as a natural and healthy consequence of liberalism. As the nineteenthcentury economist Thomas Malthus put it, once people are left to their own devices, “the apparently narrow principle of self-interest which prompts each individual to exert himself in bettering his condition” causes us to adopt not just the age-old “laws of property and marriage,” but other conservative principles and institutions as well.
- Hayek over liberalisme vs. conservatisme:
Hayek’s core argument is this: Liberalism requires the active defense of individual liberty. In contrast, conservatism requires only an opposition to dramatic change. In nations in which liberty is already at its maximum, conservatives and liberals will both want to preserve the status quo. But in nations in which state authority significantly hampers or limits individual liberty, liberals and conservatives will have dramatically different goals. The liberal will want to advance the cause of individual freedom. The conservative will want to protect the system of government currently in place, regardless of its strengths or weaknesses. The result, says Hayek, is that liberalism and conservatism are distinguishable on at least five grounds. First, conservatives have “no goal of their own.”3 Being merely reactionary, they are opposed to change regardless of its merits. Conservatism by its very nature “cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance.”4 Second, conservatives have an unjustified fear of progress. In contrast to liberalism, which “is based on courage and confidence, on a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead,”5 conservatism is based on “a fear of change, a timid distrust of the new.”6 This timid distrust of the new is often connected to a kind of anti-intellectualism: “Conservatives feel instinctively that it is new ideas more than anything else that cause change.”7 As a result, conservatism has a “propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it.”8 Underlying this fear of new ideas is the fact that conservatism “has no distinctive principles of its own to oppose to them; and, by its distrust of theory and its lack of imagination concerning anything except that which experience has already proved, it deprives itself of the weapons needed in the struggle of ideas.”9
Third, conservatives have an undue fondness for authority. When it is in their interest, they “are inclined to use the powers of government to prevent change.”
Fourth, conservatives have a “lack of understanding of economic forces.”14 Conservatives not only advocate protectionism and are opposed to internationalism, they often lack even a basic understanding of how economic growth is related to the need for liberty and to the “spontaneous forces on which a policy of freedom relies.”
Finally, conservatism is unprincipled. Put another way, conservatism lacks an underlying political philosophy.
- Stove's antwoord:
What are we to make of these five criticisms? Partly the modern conservative will want to point out that in the half century since Hayek wrote, conservatism has changed a great deal, not least as a result of Hayek’s own writings. To see this, we need only think of how influential Hayek has been in convincing conservatives to adopt policies favoring the free market. Perhaps more than any other author, it is because of Hayek that traditional liberals and modern conservatives have made common cause with regard to the economy. But what will the conservative say in response to Hayek’s other four criticisms? What will the conservative say in response to the suggestion that conservatives have no goal of their own, that they have a fear of progress and a fondness for authority, and that conservatism lacks an underlying political philosophy?
For Stove, the best argument for conservatism comes from the well-established empirical fact that because we are fallible beings, our actions, both individually and collectively, almost always have unforeseen and unwelcome consequences whose disadvantages often outweigh their benefits.
Put another way, good intentions alone are never enough to justify revolutionary social change. Given the intricacy of human society, it is a practical certainty that sweeping, revolutionary reform will have unanticipated results: results that will turn out to be worse than the hardship the reform is intended to eliminate. If reforms are to be made, they need to be well tested, local in scope and as non-coercive as possible.
It follows that large-scale social change needs to be made slowly and cautiously, and that the burden of proof in evaluating new political proposals will lie with the advocate of reform, not with the opponent. Conservatism thus finds itself universally opposed to sweeping, revolutionary change. It also finds itself in agreement with the traditional liberal’s claim that individual choices are a far more reliable basis of social policy than top-down government decisions.
In short, Stove’s law of unforeseen consequences and Mill’s law of individual responsibility together help form something of a bridge between traditional conservatism and traditional liberalism. By minimizing the role of government we maximize our protection against inevitable political calamity. By maximizing individual responsibility we minimize the effect of unforeseen harmful consequences.
The essence of conservatism is thus not mere opposition to change. Instead, it is the conviction that we are all subject to competing internal tensions,d tensions that may be mitigated but never completely eliminated by the political and social structures in which we live. Put another way, the goal of the conservative is not to avoid change but to enable change to be made safely, or at least as safely as possible. Given our inevitable shortcomings, and the inevitable human shortcomings of our political leaders, the conservative encourages a variety of social institutions–families, businesses, religious organizations, elected governments, NGOs–to flourish. By refusing to allow power to be concentrated in any single institution, conservatism diversifies risk, thereby cushioning society from the inevitable failure of any one institution.
Hayek is thus wrong on at least three counts. He is wrong to think that conservatism has no underlying political philosophy. He is wrong to think that conservatives have no positive goal of their own.e And he is wrong to think that conservatives have a special fondness for authority. In other words, he is wrong to think that “Like the socialist, [the conservative] is less concerned with the problem of how the powers of government should be limited than with that of who wields them.”23 On this point especially, the conservative shares a great deal with the traditional liberal.f The only significant difference is that while the liberal believes that the powers of government need to be limited by ensuring that each individual is sovereign within his own domain, the conservative recognizes that no man is an island, and that it is natural and right for individuals, once left to their own devices, to want to join together to form a variety of non-governmental institutions, many of which, although voluntarily formed, have significant power and influence over their members’ lives. This diversity of institutions not only allows individuals to benefit from each other’s varying abilities, it helps protect us from our unavoidable individual shortcomings.
- Er zijn twee vormen van "benevolence": een goede en een slechte:
Since benevolence is sometimes, yet obviously not always, productive of misery, what is it that makes the difference between the two outcomes? How is one to tell in advance the dangerous kind of benevolence from the other? This question is not easy to answer; but there are certain features which, when they are all present at once,are a very strong indication of the dangerous kind. One of these features is universality. Benign or harmless benevolence is typically local in its objects, or confined to a special class of people (the sick, for example); whereas dangerous benevolence typically has for its object all present and future human beings. A second warning feature is disinterestedness . When a Condorcet, a Bentham, or a Marx plans for universal happiness, there is “nothing in it” (as we say) for Condorcet, Bentham, or Marx himself. Whereas, of course, when a father plans his child’s happiness, or a teacher his pupil’s, or a friend his friend’s, there is something in it, should the plan succeed, for the father, teacher, or friend: there is the increased affection of the child, the gratitude of the pupil, strengthened friendship with the friend. The third warning sign of dangerous benevolence is externality. That is, it is proposed to bring about the happiness of others, not by changing them, but by changing their circumstances: by giving them money, for example, or better surroundings, or legal rights which they did not have before.
- Hoe werd "benevolence" de hoogste waarde ten koste van alle anderen? Dit is de erfenis van de Verlichting:
How did the Enlightenment erect benevolence into our highest virtue? It did so partly by the elimination of rival candidates. It laughed or shamed almost every other virtue out of court. The “monkish virtues,” as it called such things as humility, chastity, and obedience, were the principal victims. But the military virtues (such as courage), the feudal virtues (such as loyalty), the patriarchal virtues, the feminine virtues, and others all suffered the same fate. Likewise the idea of an individual’s moral responsibilities being assigned to him by his birth: the idea of “my station and its duties.” Benevolence won, then, partly by the default of rival virtues.
- Het genie van Rousseau:
Suddenly, the softening of human life became the great, almost the only, moral desideratum. The genius of Rousseau made the shedding of tears the hallmark of moral elevation: a thing which was, with good reason, without precedent in European life. Classes of people who had previously been only on the margin of the moral map, or off the map altogether –children, women, servants, the poor, prisoners, the insane, slaves–found themselves all at once at the center, and the object of a powerful outpouring of benevolence. Every earlier human landmark of moral authority, whether dating from antiquity or the Christian centuries, was buried under a tidal wave of benevolence. Leonidas and St. Anthony, Cato the Elder and Joan of Arc, Luther and Loyola, all met a common doom; and the new moral hero, to replace all these, who was he? Why, the benevolent man, “The Man of Feeling.”
- Utilatirisme was een axioma van de Verlichting:
Utilitarianism, as I have said elsewhere,l was an axiom of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment measured the morality both of actions and of persons by their tendency to maximize the happiness of the greatest number of people. Its elevation of benevolence into the highest virtue was, therefore, an inevitable theorem.
- De hoogste waarde was echter niet vrijheid, maar gelijkheid, of beter: egalitairmse.
Equality as a moral value is, of course, something quite distinct from the egalitarianism which was also an axiom of the Enlightenment. That was the belief that human beings are naturally equal. What I am here speaking of is the conviction that every privilege, advantage, or superiority of one human being over another is morally wrong.
- Van het axioma komen volgende theorema: vrijandigheid tegenover autoriteiten (van welke aard ook) maar ook ten aanzien van private eigendom (de Verlichtingsdenkers waren GEEN verdedigers van private eigendom maar van communisme: gelijk bezit, al bleef daar op het einde niet zo veel meer van over):
From this axiom, many important Enlightenment theorems obviously flow: for example, an enmity to kings, and to parents. But another and even more important theorem flows from this same axiom: communism, or an enmity to private property. This has often not been recognized as an Enlightenment theorem at all; yet its derivation is very obvious.
For what inequality is more cruel, more glaring, or more arbitrary than inequality of property? What inequality brings so many other inequalities in its train? There ought always, therefore, to be equality of property, and there is only one way of ensuring permanent equality of property: community of property.
It is very widely believed that the Enlightenment was an ideological expression of bourgeois economic interests. This belief originated with Marx and it is, accordingly, an article of faith among his followers; but it has also slowly become common among non-Marxist and even anti-Marxist thinkers. Nevertheless, it is false and, indeed, almost the exact opposite of the truth. The institution of private property never had, among the Enlightened, a single unqualified friend; only enemies of different degrees of intransigence and consistency. It could not have been otherwise: the derivation of communism, whether from the equality axiom or from the greatest-happiness axiom, was obvious and irresistible. It still is.
Communism was not, as contraception was, a secret theorem of the Enlightenment;m but it gradually became a semi-secret one. At first it was not a secret at all: unqualified condemnations of private property were common enough. Among the contemporaries of Rousseau, such minor Enlightenment figures as Morelly and Mably were avowed communists.5 The famous slogan “La propriété, c’est le vol”–property is theft–was first coined, not by Proudhon in 1840, but by one Brissot de Warville some time before 1789.6 Robert Wallace, who corresponded with Hume about population and who was one of Malthus’s acknowledged influences, recommended the abolition of private property in his Various Prospects of Mankind, Nature, and Providence (1761). Babeuf’s secret movement, the discovery of which took him to the guillotine in 1797, was a communist one: the selfstyled “conspiracy of the equals.”7 This list of examples could easily be extended.
Nor can there be any serious doubt as to Godwin’s attitude toward private property.
But communism was, of course, the most terrifying of all the Enlightenment theorems. Hence, even before the Revolution of 1789n had brought it home to everyone that the Enlightenment was in earnest, few people were resolute enough to remain consistent communists. Rousseau, in his Discourse on Political Economy (1758)–a mere three years after his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality–candidly contradicted what he had said in that earlier work about private property: “It is certain that the right of property is the most sacred of all the rights of citizenship. . . .”10 Godwin, writing in 1793, was obliged to contradict himself in one and the same book. There, he simply intersperses his passages of communist rhetoric (of which an example has just been given) with opposite rhetoric about the “sacredness” of property.11 By the 1820s, the retreat of the Enlightened from communism was almost universal. The Saint-Simonians,o for example, qualified the equality axiom itself, and sanctioned inequality of wealth where, though only where, it was based on merit.12 Many others–Tom Paine, for example–decided that their real opposition was only to inherited inequalities of wealth, and so on.p Only a very few of the Enlightened, such as Robert Owen and Karl Marx, remained faithful to the original communist theorem. These few, however, very naturally derided the illogicality, the timidity, or (in some cases) the venality of the great majority of the Enlightened who had lost, or qualified, their earlier faith in that theorem.
- Maar de Verlichting is een huis met vele kamers: in één kamer waren er gelukkige economen die voor tegenwicht zorgden. Gelijkheid van bezit = gelijkheid van armoede. En verdeling van welvaart maakt ongelukkig.
But in Enlightenment’s house there are many mansions. At the same time as benevolence and community of property were unfolding as obligations upon the Enlightened in general, certain quite opposite convictions on these same subjects were becoming established among a particular subgroup of the Enlightened: those, namely, whom we would nowadays call economists. One of these opposite convictions was that equality of property, if it is possible at all, could only come about through equality of poverty. Another was that benevolence, when it is exercised in an attempt to equalize wealth, produces –as we have seen that it certainly does in some other cases– the very opposite of the happiness it is intended to produce. Malthus was the ablest representative of such ideas as these, but he did not originate any of them. On the contrary, every essential element of Malthus’s book was in circulation well before he published his Essay on Population in 1798.13 Even Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees (1714) is in some respects a forerunner of the Essay, and Malthus himself refers with approval to a pamphlet by Defoe, titled Giving Alms No Charity , which was published in 1704. But it will be worthwhile to mention some later, and more weighty, forerunners.
Malthus believed that any human society, unless it falls into communist poverty, will always contain a majority of laborers and a minority of proprietors. More generally, he believed that there are only two possible forms which human society can take: one in which most people are comparatively poor, and one in which everyone is absolutely poor. This is the thesis that equality of property (and a fortiori community of property) must be equality in poverty.
Malthus devoted his mind for several decades exclusively to this one thing: the economic consequences of the Enlightenment morality of benevolence and equality. It is the resulting comprehensiveness of treatment which gives his Essay, at least after the first edition, its unique merit. Malthus patiently and fairly examines every known version of the belief that economic distress can be removed by benevolence directed to the equalization or the communization of property. His conclusion is always, indeed, that benevolence so directed can in fact only increase economic distress. But he is never partisan, or even hasty, in coming to that conclusion.
The course of history since Malthus wrote has been such as to invest his Essay with ever-increasing value. At the time at which I write, 1989, his study of the economic consequences of Enlightenment ethics is even more important than it has ever been before. As a critic of communist utopianism, Malthus indeed partly botched his work. There he attempted too much, namely, to prove it impossible for a communist economy to exist at all: to exist not just for thirty years, but even for one second. Yet the only thing he could point to as preventing its possibility–the fact that if communism were once established, population would press with the utmost severity upon the supply of food–was something which, according to Malthus himself, exists already and always. His argument therefore, if it had been a good one, would equally have proved the impossibility of the economic status quo which he was defending.
- De "poor laws" (een gevolg van de Verlichting) waren een totaal fiasco:
Nevertheless, every fifteen years or so found the beneficiaries of the Poor Laws being a larger proportion of the population than they had been before, and the occupiers of the land, accordingly, being burdened with a higher rate of taxation than they had been before. Writers around 1800 generally estimated that about one person in seven in Britain was to some extent dependent on the Poor Laws. The rate of taxation, around the same time, had risen quickly to extraordinary levels: nearly eighteen shillings in the pound. In 1817, two parishes in Dorsetshire were taxed at the rate of nineteen and twenty-one shillings in the pound respectively.17 Since this was the subject of a complaint to Parliament, it was evidently exceptional; but it was not very exceptional. No wonder, then, that Malthus, and very many others, feared that the Poor Laws would soon ruin first the poorest tenants, then all the other tenants, and ultimately all the landowners. And how would the poor, so vastly increased by the addition of such numbers, be fed then?
- Het antwoord vand e communisten tegen de argumenten van Malthus waren evenzeer een fiasco:
The response of Marxists and other communists, when they hear Malthus’s arguments, has always been to the following effect: “But these arguments, even on the very face of them, assume the ‘laws’ of supply and demand, and the subjection of labour to those ‘laws.’ This, however, is simply to assume the inevitability of capitalism; whereas in a communist economy, those ‘laws’ are abolished.” But no response could be more ignorant or foolish than this. It is simply not true that Malthus assumed the inevitability of capitalism: he did not assume the inevitability of any particular economic system. He discussed, fairly and on their own terms, the communist “systems of equality” which such people as Godwin and Owen had advocated. When Malthus is not attempting, as I said before, to prove communism utterly impossible, his objection to it, though exceedingly simple, is still devastating enough; and it by no means assumes the inevitability of capitalism. In a communist system of equality, Malthus points out, no one need fear to worsen his own economic position, or to leave his children unprovided for, through his own improvidence or idleness. There is therefore no inducement for any man to limit the number of his children. At the same time, in a communist system, no one can hope to improve his own economic position, or his children’s, by industry, sobriety, and economy. The joint result of these two circumstances must be that “the whole nation would shortly become a nation of paupers with a community of goods.”
- De argumenten van Malthus tegen de "poor laws" staan nog altijd overeind:
Neither of Malthus’s arguments against the Poor Laws was ever answered. The reason is that they are unanswerable. Exemption from anxiety about how your children are to live must tend to produce a larger number of children than you would otherwise have had. A tax for the benefit of the poorest, falling on some of the not-quite-so-poor, must tend to convert some of the latter into the former.
WHAT A MESSAGE from a vanished world is that quotation! Malthus was the last thinker of major importance who was an unqualified supporter of private property, the bourgeois family, and “the apparently narrow principle of self-interest.” Indeed, for a hundred years he was the last thinker of any importance at all to be an unswerving defender of these three things. His Essay opened the fateful nineteenth-century contest between capitalism on the one hand and, on the other, the benevolent determination to relieve poverty and equalize wealth. That determination included, of course, a determination to acknowledge the economic and social “rights of women,” both within and without marriage, as being equal to those of men.
- De strijd voor en tegen "benevolence" was dus een strijd binnenin de Verlichting en Malthus verloor:
This contest was not one between Enlightenment and something else. It was a contest within the Enlightenment, between Enlightened economics and Enlightened ethics. But it was not, on that account, a contest any the less fateful for the entire civilized world. Nor, for all its fatefulness, did it even last long. The outcome could be read off the face of Britain as early as 1860.t Malthus lost. Benevolence won, as Australians say, “with daylight second.”
For a few decades it might have seemed as though Malthus might win. British governments, almost from the time the Essay was first published, recognized the value of his economic advice. The Benthamites embraced his economics enthusiastically, except for his attitude towards contraception, which they thought merely quaint. Through their influence, the Poor Laws were reformed in 1834 along the lines of which Malthus (who died that year) would have approved. But after the mid-century, the triumph of benevolence and equality was never in doubt. In theory, of course, the Liberal Party was the champion of capitalism, but in fact it became, as every political party then had to become, simply one of the contenders in the benevolence competition.
- Liberale partijen zijn dus nooit echte verdedigers van het kapitalisme geweest. Ze gingen gewoon m.b.t. "benevolence" en de uitbouw van een welvaartsstaat minder ver dan de anderen, al wordt ook dat onderscheid minder en minder (dat had David Stove zeer goed gezien). Verlichting, liberalisme en kapitalisme zijn dus geen natuurlijke bondgenoten, integendeel:
So utterly false, then, is the widespread belief that capitalism and religious Enlightenment are natural allies; still more false is the belief that the latter is a secret servant of the former. Quite the contrary: Robert Owen and Karl Marx spoke the truth when they said that only illogicality or timidity prevented most Enlightened people from being communists. But, as we have just seen, even in real life they fell only a little short of being so. The Enlightenment, then, remained substantially faithful to those of its axioms which had all along prescribed communism.
- Terug naar Malthus, hij was voorstander van private vrijgevigheid, maar de Verlichtingspartijen gingen net de andere richting uit: een welvaartstaat. Deze won en het "kapitalisme" verloor:
Malthus had proposed that the relief provided by the Poor Laws should be reduced almost to nothing, by gradual stages well publicized in advance, and that it should then be replaced by nothing except private charity. In fact, the Poor Laws lost their importance in the 1870s, but only because they were merging by then into a system of the same kind, only on a scale many times larger: the welfare state. This economic system first began to take shape in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and gathered increasing momentum for the next hundred years. Its growth was spectacularly accelerated after each of the two world wars.
In short, the scheme proposed by the revolutionary Thomas Paine that wealth should be equalized by redistributive taxation is now, and has been for a hundred years, the actual economic practice of Britain, as it is (with some differences of degree) in all advanced free countries. Yet Malthus had considered Paine’s scheme too self-evidently fatal to human happiness to deserve detailed criticism.
So staggeringly complete, then, was the victory of Enlightened benevolence over capitalism; or so completely, in other words, did the determination to relieve poverty and equalize wealth triumph over “the laws of property and marriage” and “the apparently narrow principle of self-interest.”
- Het gevolg was "dwang" op een schaal die nog niet was voorgekomen:
Again exactly as Malthus had predicted, coercion was introduced on a scale without precedent in human history. It had to be. For, in the absence of that “cash-nexus”x which Marx and Lenin hated so much, there is only one corrective to idleness and improvidence: the terror-nexus.
Over a large part of Europe, the Enlightenment had already broken the priestly and political fetters that seemingly had been placed so arbitrarily on the human spirit. Only the economic fetters remained and, in Russia in 1917, these too were broken at long last. Shelley’s Prometheus finally was unbound–and turned out to be Joseph Stalin unbound.
- Een welvaarsstaat is een positief feedback systeem: het creëert méér armoede en bijgevolg de nood voor méér welvaartsstaat enz...dit verklaart ook de overgang van de "poor laws" naar een welvaartsstaat: de poor laws creëerden meer armoede vandaar de nood voor iets anders en groters:
Malthus had proposed a “very gradual” abolition of the Poor Laws.46 But in doing so he was, unfortunately, forgetting his own fundamental insight: that a system like the Poor Laws, or the welfare state, is what we now call a “positive feedback system.” It constantly creates more of the poverty which it exists to relieve. A very gradual abolition of the welfare state, therefore, would have to contend against the mournful fact that the more gradual it was, the more welfare state there would be to abolish. This obstacle is quite independent of the electoral one: it would remain, whether there were a universal franchise, a restricted franchise, or no elections at all. We have seen that Malthus’s basic argument, slightly generalized, was the following: any attempt to relieve widespread poverty from outside rewards the recipient of the relief and thus brings more people into the relief system. It also penalizes the non-recipients and thus forces some of the poorest of them into the relief system. Hence, every attempt to relieve widespread poverty from outside actually tends to make the poverty more widespread.
I repeat–but it cannot be emphasized too much–that this argument does not depend on any assumption in favor of capitalism. All it depends on are certain assumptions of a commonsense kind about human psychology. It makes no difference whatever to Malthus’s argument where the wealth which is supposed to be going to relieve poverty comes from. It must, of course, come from someone or something that has it; but this someone or something might be the rich, or the community, or the “surplus value” of labor, or benevolent Martians, or whatever. Wherever the wealth comes from, it will still have the two effects which Malthus said it would: rewarding the recipients and penalizing the poorest of the non-recipients, and in both of these ways increasing the number of those who qualify for relief. We ought therefore to try to reconcile ourselves to Malthus’s general conclusion: that it is impossible to relieve widespread poverty from outside.
People were puzzled in Malthus’s time why the Poor Laws never effectively relieved poverty but, on the contrary, always found more poverty needing to be relieved. People are similarly puzzled now why the welfare state never achieves its objects but, instead, always finds that a greater proportion of people is entitled to its assistance. But Malthus solved this mystery by pointing out that such systems must tend to create more of the very poverty which they are meant to relieve. It does not follow, of course, that this tendency will always be realized in fact, or that the welfare state cannot now be reversed, or at least prevented from growing. But it does follow that it will continue to grow unless it is prevented from doing so by some counteracting cause. Any such counteracting cause will have to be new: there has been nothing in the last hundred years which has been able to prevent the welfare state from increasing. It will also have to be powerful: more powerful, at any rate, than the resolutions of democratic governments which have been resolving for twenty years to “cut back on welfare,” with no visible result whatsoever. All right: look around at our present society and ask yourself what new and powerful force is at work which might be equal to the task of stopping the growth of the welfare state. Who or what will bell the cat?
- Er is dus een tegenkracht nodig om de groei van de welvaartsstaat te stoppen: het neoliberalisme? Nee dat heeft gefaald. Misschien de hoge belastingen die het meebrengt?
The chidings of economists certainly will not do it, and still less the chidings of essayists. What is to do it, then? Only one answer ever seems to be so much as suggested. This is the immense burden of taxation which is required to pay for welfare programs. But this hope is groundless. The taxpayers groan, indeed, but something like a fifth of them are also dependent upon government by way of employment or some type of welfare program. They might be better off in the long run if the welfare state were reduced; but at least in the short run they simply would be out of a job, or at least poorer than they are at present, and how many citizens of the welfare state are in a position to cope with even middle-term economic setbacks?
- Het voorbeeld van George Orwell:
Let us make a test closer to our own time. George Orwell was not one of the poor, but in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) he recorded his experiences during a time when he was pretending to be poor. Orwell never mentions, though he almost certainly knew, that this charade was a reenactment of an earlier one by another socialist, Jack London, as described in his book People of the Abyss (1903). Orwell’s book has been very widely read, and deservedly admired. One of the most vivid parts of it concerns the tramps who then walked English roads in considerable numbers. Their misery was extreme: always underfed or badly fed, without shelter by day, and enduring at night the intense discomforts and humiliations of a workhouse–when they were lucky enough to gain admission to one. Now, it is perfectly certain that Orwell intended his readers to conclude that the lives of these people ought to be made less miserable.
It is equally certain that virtually every one of his readers did draw that conclusion. Indeed, the possibility of not drawing it never crossed their minds, any more than it had crossed Orwell’s. Yet from what were the readers supposed to conclude this? Why, just from the obvious fact that there were all these very poor people. . . .
But this, of course, is simply the old and fatal inference which Malthus had exposed long before. Tramps are supported entirely at the expense of non-tramps; hence you cannot improve the economic condition of tramps without depressing some non-tramps into tramphood. Nor can you do so without rewarding existing tramps, and thus encouraging some other people to be tramps. Yet how many of Orwell’s readers, from that day to this, ever thought, however dimly, thoughts like these? It is safe to say, not one in a hundred thousand.
Orwell, being a socialist, probably thought that the misery of the tramps had some special connection with capitalism, but it had not. Under any economic system whatever, and wherever the money supposed to relieve tramp misery comes from, it must at least come from non-tramps, and therefore depress their condition, while also making tramphood more attractive than it was before.
- Armoede oplossen dankzij overheidsingrijpen was dan ook de grote illusie van de Verlichting:
This craze for economic benevolence–the belief that it is possible to relieve widespread poverty from outside– deserves to be called the economic illusion of the Enlightenment epoch, which began around 1700. What I have tried to bring home to the reader, by referring to Holyoake and Orwell, is the fact that this craze has continued to the present hour, and is now even stronger than ever. So far are we from having learned, from the communist example, what economic effects to expect from benevolence that we are even more in love with benevolence now than we were before 1917.
But one must not be too severe on dull-witted journalists, or on welfare workers who are “high” on Enlightened benevolence. The disastrous inference they make is only the inference which everyone around them makes. Malthus may have won the argument, but the anti-capitalists won everything else. It was the revolutionary Thomas Paine who proposed the system, and the level, of taxation under which we actually live. It was the revolutionary socialists Margaret Sanger and Emma Goldman, two of the bourgeois family’s fiercest enemies, who converted America and then the world to contraception. 49 The man who tested homemade bombs for some of his political friends, and coined the word “secularism” for his own position, G. J. Holyoake, was a complete embodiment of the religion and politics of a century later.50 Havelock Ellis, who did more than any other man to Enlighten our sexual lives (though himself childless, impotent, and indeed without any sexual interests except in women urinating) was also the man who invented the National Health Service of Britain.51 And so on.
- De ontmanteling van deze welvaartsstaat zal niet gebeuren:
Let me summarize what I have said so far in this section. The dismantling of the welfare state, or even any significant reduction in its size, is not going to happen for three reasons: because it is electorally impossible, at least while universal suffrage, or any close approach to it, exists; because the welfare state has a built-in tendency to increase in size, and there is nothing in sight capable of counteracting that tendency; and because Enlightened benevolence, which first brought the welfare state into being, is far more intense and widespread now than it ever was before.
- Maar Malthus heeft nog steeds overschot van gelijk:
The truths which Malthus vainly strove to impart cannot be too often repeated. These are that widespread poverty cannot be relieved from the outside and, therefore, can be relieved (if at all) only by the industry, selfreliance, and prudence of the poor themselves. But the worldwide triumph of Enlightened benevolence has been at the expense of precisely these traits of character. Indeed, it has even made their names objects of disgust, as I said earlier, and this is where these words are understood at all, for it’s likely that half the present voters in the welfare states have never so much as heard these words in their lives. Nowadays, a politician at election time might just as well deplore “imdrupence” as deplore imprudence; either way, at least half of his listeners would not have the faintest idea what he was talking about.
- De ultieme consequentie van de WS is communisme: armoede en terreur gaan dan hand in hand. De waarschuwing van David Stove lijkt intussen werkelijkheid te worden:
As well as poverty, another thing always arrives wherever communism does, and as soon as it does: terror. Without terror, communist poverty must be even worse than it is with terror. Where nothing else remains to put a spring in the collective farmer’s step, terror can. So since I believe, for the reasons given in the last few pages, that communist poverty is irreversible, I predict that terror will soon resume its accustomed position in those communist countries which have lately relaxed it to a greater or lesser degree. Of course it will be extremely unwelcome to the vast majority of citizens. But what of that? It always was, but that was never sufficient to prevent it.
Of all the people we ourselves have met, who are the ones that have been most deeply influenced by the Enlightenment ideal of benevolence? Why, of course, those hardened Communist Party functionaries who, between about 1930 and 1976,ae devoted their lives to running the Teachers’ Federation, the Postal Workers’ Union, or whatever it might be. The type is much less common now, perhaps even extinct; but at the time, it was often observed that such people had something very parched and cold about them. The future happiness of the workers was the only subject at all capable of warming them into any enthusiasm. Their actual feelings towards actual workers, especially if the latter showed any signs of present happiness, were generally not benevolent at all, but rather (to speak plainly) murderous. These communists used to imitate Christ at least in this, that they never laughed;52 and, in the 1920s, visitors to Russia who had first visited it before 1917 often remarked upon the utter disappearance of laughter from Russian life.
So to repeat: how can an ideal so unreal and so unattractive have produced so much change in the world? I do not know. I merely insist that both sides of the paradox are true: that Enlightened benevolence is unreal, and has no attraction except for a few cold-blooded people who exist on the margins of normal life, and that it rules our world.
Stalin had certain false beliefs, of course, about what would increase human happiness, especially the belief that community of property would bring about an immense increase of happiness; but then, as we have seen, this belief had been shared for nearly two hundred years by very many of the most Enlightened and benevolent people of Europe. (It still is.) Stalin’s benevolence, combined with this false belief, led him to do many things which were, of course, enormously destructive of happiness. But again, as we have also seen, neither an unhappy outcome nor the influence of false beliefs about how to increase happiness makes a man’s benevolent actions any the less benevolent.
Marx’s Capital (1867) pretends to be a work of science and of sober economic history, but this pretense is so transparent that it could scarcely deceive an intelligent child of nine. The book is simply one of the hundreds of literary explosions by Enlightened and benevolent people of the nineteenth century writing about “the social problem,” “the deplorable condition of the working class,” etc., etc. That is, Capital belongs to exactly the same species of literature, as well as to the same decade, as Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies (1863). Capital is an appeal to our hearts about the working class in general. The Water Babies is an appeal to our hearts about the particular case of child chimney sweeps. No one denies the obvious fact that Kingsley wrote his book with a benevolent intention, or the fact that the book actually had some of its intended effect: the laws protecting child chimney sweeps were strengthened the very next year. Nor should anyone deny the obvious fact that Marx wrote his book with a benevolent intention, even though, far from having its intended effect, it has caused the most stupendous amount of misery.