Volume 6 of The Collected Works of Arthur Seldon examines the failure of state-supported welfare programs to benefit the people most in need of help. The eight articles and one book in this volume encompass almost forty years of criticism of the welfare state.
Seldon argues that the welfare state cannot, in the long run, solve the problem of poverty. It is driven by misguided egalitarian views which make it universalist, providing benefits for the middle classes as well as the poor. Because it finances welfare through taxation, it damages incentives to work. Moreover it diminishes motivations to save and to provide for one’s family as the state appears to take over such responsibilities.
Once “free” welfare services are begun they are very difficult to stop. But, says Seldon, permanent state welfare is unnecessary: as people’s incomes rise, most are capable of providing for themselves and their families. In the end, people will revolt against inferior state services and the state will have to retreat.
Arthur Seldon has been writing on classical liberal economics since the 1930s, when he was a student at the London School of Economics during Friedrich Hayek’s time there. For over thirty years, from the late 1950s, he was Editorial Director of the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs, where his publishing program was one of the principal influences on governments all around the world, persuading them to liberalize their economies. His Collected Works in these seven volumes are a major contribution to classical liberal thought.