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Those who advocate so strongly for a welfare state in the basis of Rawlsian principles of social justice usually neglect the well-established counter-principle of reciprocity that is inherent in the resulting master-client relationships. A one-way flow of resources from the better-off to those worse-off — whether “deserving” or not — creates both perverse incentives for those on the margin and, predictably, a tendency to backlash from taxpayers who, with at least some justification, feel exploited.

Before the present era of welfare capitalism support for the poor had been accomplished through private charity funded primarily by the highest economic layers of society, or else coordinated by religious institutions. In return for the support, charity recipients had been expected to pay homage to their donors and to show their “deserving” status through obedience and surrender of a large measure of liberty. Not infrequently, this surrender would have involved conscription to workhouses, prayer societies, conscription, private mobs for use in street disturbance, and other forms of compulsory service.

If charity is to be subsumed in large measure by state welfare, and such welfare is to remain as self-sustaining, it would follow that such a system will ultimately result a loss of liberty on the part of the resulting welfare class. Already we begin to see the early stages of this development in the advent of “workfare”, and the trajectory toward unfreedom for the poor is only likely to get steeper as societal resources for welfare support become subject to an ever-greater strain.