The Canadian Nanny State
“Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavours to live at the expense of everybody else.” - Frédéric Bastiat
Canada and its provinces are rapidly opting for a welfare state system, or more politely called "social programs", where everyone has equal access and the same advantages. So far, from what I can see, it's been a complete disaster. Even though billions of our tax dollars are being spent each year on public healthcare, education, employment benefits etc., few are happy with the mediocre results. So, why can't our governments deliver the goods?
It wasn't until the early to mid 1800's in Britain that two Tories, Oastler and Lord Shaftesbury The 7th, implemented the Mad House act, County Lunatic Asylums Act and the Factory Act, that modern governments began looking after the welfare of the people. At this time, the elites took the position that they knew what was best for ordinary men and that the ordinary man should understand this view and be grateful. Today, it's Justin Trudeau's Liberals that are still clinging to this attitude. Government elites know best and are the only ones that can save us from ourselves and irreversible social collapse.
It wasn't until the 1930's depression that the idea of the welfare state entered North America, using Bismarck's social insurance model derived in Germany in the 1880's. Until this time, most social services were provided by religious charities and other private groups. These well-meaning groups collected funds from willing donors and passed all the benefits to the needy. Bismarck's social insurance programs were the first in the world and became the model for other countries and the basis of the modern welfare state.
AC Dicey, a noted British lawyer, was concerned that social service legislation in 1906 would follow a slippery slope in which each generation would depend on it more than its previous generation. Unfortunately, history proved him right. It's come to the point where country after country is crumbling under the weight of extravagant social programs that they can no longer afford. Frédéric Bastiat, an early free-market economist, said it best when he said, “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavours to live at the expense of everybody else.” Today, in Canada, we're half way to Bastiat's fiction, with the upper 50% of wage earners footing the tax bill for all.
Governments that are trying to do good with other people's money just don't get the results. No matter how good their intentions to help, most of the social schemes fail with the public dissatisfied at what they're getting. It's clear that just because governments get involved in social programs doesn't mean they are good at it. This point is well worth the public's attention.
Unlike the old days when the charities and donor's money all went to the needy, much of the government funding now goes to help the middle class who can actually afford to fund their own healthcare insurance, education, and retirement. How often do you hear that the government overspends on education? Never. Because the middle class benefits the most. How often do we hear about people misusing unemployment insurance? Lots. This is because the middle class is the biggest beneficiary of our social programs, and unemployment insurance isn't one many of them benefit from.
It's unfortunate that our governments took this position on social welfare. It's because of this nanny state mentality that we are all going to suffer with second-rate social services.
I fully support helping the needy, but when it comes to the middle class, I think we should let them help themselves. This would lift an enormous financial burden off the government so that they can focus on helping the ones that really need it. It would also put freedom of choice back in the hands of the public, spurring competition and better social services for all.
I doubt that anything can be done to save our sinking benefits ship this late in the game. Freebee's have become a way of life for Canadians, even though they are unsustainable in the long term. It would be political suicide to take a benefit away. So folks, unless you're prepared to support the freedom to choose your service providers, enjoy the fiction while it lasts.