Reflections on the Evolution of the Welfare-Warfare State

By Duane Colyar.
Exclusive to STR
Expanding on the ideas presented in by the author in a previous column, the reader is invited to imagine a federation, such as the United States, where the central, federal government functioned within the limits imposed by a founding document, such as the Constitution of the United States. Now imagine everyday life for the citizens of the various member states of that federation. In our case, the only contact most of us would ever have with a federal agent and regulations would be with our mail carrier. The central government would be limited to a handful of powers, specifically 18 enumerated powers for the legislature and eight powers exclusively enumerated for the executive. The legislature, not the executive, would be able to send troops into war. Local communities working with local private charities would initiate and maintain social welfare programs. The vast alphabet soup of federal agencies regulating our everyday lives would be non-existent and federal taxes would be minimal. Indeed, for much of its life the federation we call the Unites States functioned in just this manner.
Now imagine, if you will, what would happen if this limited central government tried to militarily expand its influence around the world. Would it get wide domestic support? I think not. The states of the federation and their citizens would question what was in it for them and would remind the central government that it was created by the states and that the tail cannot and should not wag the dog. The central government would be required to return to its founding core.
Now consider what recourse a central government might have at its disposal to elicit popular support for its expansive foreign ambitions. For starters, the federation’s founding document may charge the central government with acting in the common defense. So it becomes relatively easy to create an outside threat against the security of the federation, a threat that, of course, must be militarily addressed. It has been said that war is the health of the state. Consequently, an outside threat will eventually be introduced that appears to have no end in sight, creating an effective scenario under which to expand military intervention. Yet, this still may not be enough to draw the states and people into supporting the central government over the long term. People can get weary of constant war.
What to do? 
Otto von Bismarck, German Chancellor, came up with the solution: make the states and people dependent on the federal government by introducing a federal social security program. The introduction of centralized welfare programs will create, over time, a subservient dependence toward the central government. The states and their citizens will then become the tail to be wagged on demand by the dog.
Perfect. Now the central government’s imperialist agenda can be pursued without impediment.
The central government, however, can’t simply offer a single social welfare program. As time goes on, wars will lead to violent policy “blow-backs,” leading to even more wars fought allegedly for national security and to spread the blessings of “freedom,” but in reality fought to control markets, secure resources and prop up an inflated currency. The ante must be raised. More and more federal welfare programs, individual and corporate, have to be introduced to encourage dependency and popular support. The role of private local charities becomes minimal and the growth of government mandates and regulation incrementally limit the peoples’ freedom of choice in the marketplace of goods, services and even ideas. Gradually the function of the once sovereign states is reduced to that of mere administrative units of the central government. 
The welfare-warfare state is thusly born, for welfare and warfare become interwoven when empire is the national goal. As with the empires of history from Rome’s bread and circuses, to Britannia ruling the seas, and to the one-time federal republic called the United States, empires eventually collapse from the weight of their national debt and military overreach. 
For nearly a century, Americans have been mesmerized by the delusion that we can live our lives at the expense of someone else. We wave flags in support for the very government that has bribed us into subservience. We say, in effect, “Whatever … just keep those checks coming in.” Meanwhile, the clock has been quietly ticking away through this long night of smoke and mirrors– a night into which we went ever so gently. We have been asleep while our heritage of liberty has slipped away into the darkness. Those in the remnant who understand what has happened must do as the poet once declared, we must “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Perhaps then the early dawn will reveal for all to see the cage we have built for ourselves, and the joy of a restored liberty will come with the morning.

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Duane Colyar's picture
Columns on STR: 10

Duane Colyar has published papers in professional journals regarding the residential treatment of children; is a retired state internal audit manager; a retired CEO of a not-for-profit charity; and current on-line instructor.


B.R. Merrick's picture

This is great. I think the author's on to something, and I have to admit to getting a little inspiration to write about something that occurred to me as I read it.

I also believe that the promise of welfare and "defensive" warfare is too much for most of the people on this land mass to turn down, so we're in it for the long haul, until it has become thoroughly exhausted.

The one thing I would add is that Colyar points out that the system was supposedly designed to "limit" the federal government. There may have been some people involved in creating The Constitution that felt this way, but there were others who were not, and it is personality types like that who always find a way around the legalisms inherent in the document. Furthermore, the "limited" nature that was experienced by earlier Americans was only truly available to white, Anglo-Saxon Christians, for the most part. I doubt the government felt "limited" to Negro slaves or the native tribes, although even here it is possible, given the more primitive technology in use at the time, for those who were the victims of the federal government's overreach, to suffer less intrusion into their lives, so in another way he's spot on by calling it "limited," in the way it is now becoming limited by the Internet.

In general, this article neatly points out the argument I have against minarchy. The very existence of a body that claims the only "right" to use initiatory coercion will ultimately skirt around written documents and do just what this government is doing. A fine exposé of the faulty belief in government and coercion.

Suverans2's picture

For nearly a century, Americans have been mesmerized by the delusion that we can live our lives at the expense of someone else. We wave flags in support for the very government that has bribed us into subservience. We say, in effect, “Whatever … just keep those checks coming in.” ~ Duane Colyar

There it is! Sound familiar?

"Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else." ~ Frederic Bastiat (1848)

So, now that we know that the "government has bribed us into subservience", what is the solution; how can the individual "strike the root"? Do we merely continue to “rage, rage against the dying of the light”, waiting for the rest of the world to join us?

"Sooner or later you’ve got to stand your ground whether anybody else does or not. That is what liberty is all about." ~ Michael Badnarik

In my opinion, tzo gave us a very strong clue in his Theory of Natural Hierarchy and Government:

"Government is an organization that consists not only of those who are "given the mandate" to assume authority, but also of all the "citizens" who support the imaginary enterprise. The citizen is just as integral a part of the definition of government as is the King, President, Parliament, or whatever other fancy label some of the participating humans choose to affix to themselves. All governments must have citizens in order to exist. If one calls himself a citizen, then he is actively choosing to participate in the government organization." ~

Paul's picture

"the reader is invited to imagine a federation, such as the United States, where the central, federal government functioned within the limits imposed by a founding document, such as the Constitution of the United States."

Sorry, I can't imagine it.