The Purpose of the Welfare State

From Alexander William Salter…

Already I may have gotten myself into trouble with my title. Strictly speaking, it is misleading to discuss social processes as having a purpose. For example, many people assert that the purpose of a market economy is to allocate resources to their highest-valued uses. That is not correct. A market economy is the constantly evolving trade network that comprises billions of people, all pursuing their separate ends. As individual persons pursue their ends in the market, the allocation of resources to their highest-valued uses does take place, but it is not the purpose of any of its participants. Strictly speaking, an economy has no purpose; only the persons who constitute it do. Persons participate in the market economy to further their purposes, and the emergent and unintended consequence of their participation — what we call a market economy — is the result.

Flea Market Saturdays

To some extent that insight applies to political processes as well. Republics, democracies, dictatorships, commonwealths, corporatist states, welfare states, and countless other governance structures are indeed designed in ways that free markets are not, but each also has a spontaneous element that emerges from purposeful individual action.

Read more via The Purpose of the Welfare State The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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