As I have an essay in To My Countrymen called by this name, I had thought to name it something else, like "Be Careful What You Wish For…”
But here we are with this stale but tried and true, title.
Imagine that you are an extreme libertarian and do not believe in any government-sponsored safety nets, like welfare, food stamps, CHIP programs, etc. They don’t exist. “If you want to eat, you work!” is your motto.
But not all of this sorry group will go silently to their eternal rest; some will fight back, some will rob and steal rather than go hungry, rather than see their family go hungry and perish. Some will break the law and get food one way or another. So, in exchange for the end of the social safety net, society will experience a rise in “unrest,” a rise in crime. This will of course impose an extra load on the police, and if some get caught, it will impose an extra load on … prisons.
They tell us that each prisoner costs the state annually some $30,000 to much much more to provide room and board, etc. And there is no pay back, YOU dear reader pay for it. So, the consequences of no social safety nets are: a rise in mortality, a rise in hunger and starvation, a rise in crime, a rise in police, and a rise in the cost of maintaining our penal system, prisons. So, some die, some procure food one way or another, often forcibly, and some go to prison. Those who complete their terms in prison go back to the original cycle and end up in prison again, because who is hiring someone who was not hirable before and now has a prison record?
The money that pays for indefinite incarceration might have been spent on welfare or education. Even so, not all of those who learn new skills will be employable in this economy, an economy that increasingly is losing its need for human workers. Or it may be spent on re-building our tattered physical infrastructure. Maybe not all government spending is a waste.
Are you sure that you want to give up the social safety nets that keep some from starving or having to commit to a life of petty crime and imprisonment? And at what point does THAT world stop being sustainable? This is the question, and we had better start asking it.