Work in the Private-Law Society

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A private-law society has no government safety net. In 2011, the Congressional Research Service found that the federal government had 83 welfare programs that were costing over $1 trillion. Welfare is the largest component of government spending. One trillion dollars is like 50 million people x $20,000 each. Welfare programs actually service 52.2 million people. That’s a lot of people, a lot of money, a lot of government theft, a lot of welfare dependency and a lot of incentive to stay out of work.

In a private-law society in America, these 50-odd million people have to find other means to live and eat. The main means is work. Work gains respect and value in the private-law society as compared with the welfare state. The work ethic makes a comeback. The broader meaning of equality, which is a value that’s used to justify wealth redistribution, takes a licking in the private-law society. There is equality before the law, but other meanings are shorn away.

The second or third largest welfare program is food stamps, now known in bureaucratic language as “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)”. This “aid” program aids recipients while robbing taxpayers and others. At its peak in 2013, the number of individuals on food stamps was 47.6 million.

In a private-law society, government does not exist, so that the number of people on food stamps falls to zero (0). Voluntary giving will aid some of these people; the criteria for acceptance will be stiffer than a government program. Many former recipients will be induced to find work. Employers will be induced to create work for people previously out of work, who may be employable at low wage rates.

The disappearance of food stamps will have powerful incentive effects as people realize the government is not there to bail them out. People who are not on food stamps but who may fall upon hard times on occasion will be induced to work harder and smarter. They will be induced to learn skills that are saleable. They will be induced to save, not spend all they earn, so as to have the means to ride out a period of unemployment. Since all unemployment is avoidable by lowering one’s price for labor, people will be induced to avoid unions that hold out for above-market wages. Entrepreneurs will be induced to devise insurance that protects at least partially against unemployment. Those who may be inclined to use drugs or alcohol to excess will be induced to restrain their proclivities, because if they cannot work they may not survive. The end of food stamps will induce families to pull together. It will raise the authority within families of those who are the breadwinners. Work itself will become more valued as an essential element of society, as the rule “No work, no eat” becomes known and effective.

All of the above incentives run in reverse when food stamps are a welfare program.

When I searched on “welfare and left-libertarians”, I found all sorts of arguments that claimed compatibility of the welfare state and libertarianism. The private-law society and its concomitant elimination of the welfare state are incompatible with all such versions of left-libertarianism. There is no way to sugarcoat this pill. If left-libertarians think that the welfare state is a good idea, they have my blessing to form their own “church” of welfare, to extract tithes forcibly from their members, and to redistribute them in any ways they like. But this activity should be at their own cost and risk, and not be imposed upon anyone who rejects such a church.


Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.