The Conservative Welfare State

When it comes to infringing on personal liberty, Ann Coulter is just as bad as her lefty enemies.

Conservative crank Ann Coulter has made a career out of bad manners, so it was no surprise when she slammed her libertarian hosts at the annual International Students for Liberty confab in February as “pussies.” That was almost a compliment, compared to “drunks” and “horny hicks,” two other terms Coulter has used to describe her political opponents. 

A student raised Coulter’s ire by questioning her hawkish drug war stance: “How is it your business what I choose to put in my body?”

“It is my business when we are living in a welfare state,” Coulter responded. “Right now, I have to pay for…your health care. I have to pay your unemployment.…I have to pay for your food, for your housing.…Get rid of the welfare state, then we’ll talk about drug legalization.”

One doesn’t have to choose between the drug war and the welfare state. But if one must, the drug war is worse. The welfare state confiscates one individual’s wealth to give to another. That’s unfair. But putting people behind bars for smoking a joint that is less harmful than the alcohol and tobacco that Coulter pumps into her body is a travesty. 

Before Richard Nixon kicked off the drug war in 1971, nonviolent drug offenders constituted less than 10 percent of Americans in state and federal prisons. Now they are more than 25 percent of the (much larger) prison population.

What’s really rich about Coulter’s jeremiad is that had it not been for libertarians, her anti-welfare-state sentiment might have been banished from respectable company. In the six decades between the New Deal and the 1996 welfare reform, Republicans had been largely content to play tax collectors for the welfare system. 

As Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jason Riley has noted, many of FDR’s New Deal redistributionist schemes, such as Social Security and Aid to Families with Dependent Children, had their roots in Republican initiatives, including those of his predecessor, Herbert Hoover. GOP presidents Nixon and Gerald Ford expanded Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. Even Ronald Reagan, a conservative hero, refused to touch Social Security or Medicare. And George W. Bush boosted everything from food stamps to prescription drug coverage. 

This didn’t happen in an intellectual vacuum. Conservative intellectuals over the decades criticized the welfare state but mostly on prudential grounds. Irving Kristol, the founding father of neoconservativism, averred in 1976 that the GOP must “fully reconcile” itself to the welfare state if it were to have a political future. Even National Review founder William F. Buckley, who came closer to being a principled advocate of liberty, mostly recommended petty reforms like requiring recipients to do “street cleaning or general prettification work.” 

Through all of this, libertarians were making the lonely, principled argument against the welfare state, noting that a government that habitually takes from one to give to another hurts both. It was this central insight that libertarian Charles Murray deployed to demonstrate welfare’s soul-killing consequences for its beneficiaries, paving the way for something resembling its genuine recalibration in 1996. 

The welfare state suits conservatives just fine. Its existence gives them an excuse to regulate individual choices. And it’s their trump card for stopping liberty-oriented reforms they dislike. 

Refusing to end the drug war is one example. But conservatives also have used the welfare state to rally public sentiment against immigration reforms, portraying poor Latino workers as welfare queens. And in the name of stopping abuse of taxpayer dollars, Republicans have enthusiastically backed invasive drug testing of welfare recipients and prohibited them from using cash assistance to buy morally dubious goods such as alcohol and lottery tickets.

The liberal welfare state and the conservative anti-sin state are two arms of the same statist pincer, squeezing out individual liberty. Libertarians should raise hell against both, because Ann Coulter doesn’t have the cojones to do so.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • wareagle||

    catfight disguised as argument? I don't recall anyone here holding Coulter up as an exemplar of the liberty-loving conservative.

  • CE||

    No, but the liberals think she's basically an anarchist.

  • zofediqosaliA1||

    Adrian. I agree that Judy`s c0mment is amazing, on tuesday I got a great Honda NSX since getting a check for $7227 this past 4 weeks and in excess of $10,000 last-month. it's definitly the nicest job I've ever had. I actually started 9-months ago and pretty much straight away startad bringin home over $80, per-hour. I use the details on this web-site grand4.com
    (Go to site and open "Home" for details)

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    She's a tranny, right?

  • Bill||

    No, just a horse-face.

  • ThomasD||

    When the liberaltarians start openly proclaiming to their leftist friends that the only way to reliably defeat the likes of Coulter is to disassemble the welfare state then I'll take this sort of bleating seriously.

    Until then?

    Not.

  • Acosmist||

    Portraying facts as facts! How dare they!

  • Hyperion||

    Girrafica strikes again.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Libertarians should raise hell against both, because Ann Coulter doesn’t have the cojones to do so.

    Not so sure Coulter doesn't have cojones. Just saying...

  • Hyperion||

    Damnit! You stole my post!

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Sucks to be you!

  • Almanian!||

    Shakira's hips don't lie.

    Neither does Coulter's Adam's Apple.

  • Jerryskids||

    Yeah, I don't know that Coulter is a conservative crank - maybe she just plays one on TV. Like most of the rest that make a living running their mouths, she's first and foremost an entertainer. You never know if they really believe what they're saying or if they just believe it pays to say it.

  • Hyperion||

    because Ann Coulter doesn’t have the cojones to do so

    I wouldn't be surprised if she does, indeed have a couple of those...

  • Homple||

    I wish she'd donate them to a cosmotarian.

  • Ray||

    One doesn’t have to choose between the drug war and the welfare state. But if one must, the drug war is worse.

    Most cosmotarian statement ever?

  • Tman||

    That has to be in the running, if not top five.

  • Hugh Akston||

    haha inorite? The welfare state pays poor people not to work, whereas the WoD pays our heroic trigger happy first responder heroes to kill poor people. So it totes saves us money!

  • Jordan||

    In this thread, yokeltarians express their preference for a police state over higher tax rates.

  • Jordan||

    lower*

  • Jordan||

    No wait, it was right the first time... Fuck!

  • Bill Dalasio||

    And, yet, for some reason, we're to assume that your opponents in this argument are the "yokels".

  • Old Johnnie Goggabie||

    That's pretty rich, considering most of he intellectual heft in the libertarian movement, such as Murray Rothbard or Ludwig Von Misses, would definitely be counted among the "yokeltarians".

    Given that the intellectual firepower from the cosmotarian side is provided by a few over-educated metrosexuals like Tom Palmer and Nick Gillespie, who's work will likely be forgotten within an hour of their having breathed their last, you have to wonder who are really the yokels here.

  • gaoxiaen||

    New category- doofatarian

  • ||

    Because the only consequences of the welfare state, of course, are higher taxes. Which we're totally cool with as long as it makes a petty political point.

  • ThomasD||

    If only that were true, It might be tolerable.

    If also grossly unjust.

    As it really is?

    Tyrannical.

  • $park¥||

    Cosmotarians, yokeltarians, I don't know what to believe anymore. Except that anyone that uses either of those words is probably a retard.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Shut up, you homotarian retardtarian fagitarian!

  • $park¥||

    Isn't that a bit redundant? Like saying the same thing twice?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Don't be a pedantarian, you pedophiliotarian!

  • $park¥||

    In the land of the blinditarian, the oneeyedmanitarian is king.

  • anon||

    the oneeyedmanitarian is king.

    Is that something John fucked?

  • $park¥||

    You're thinking manateeitarian. It's reasonable mistake.

  • AlexInCT||

    Never pass on the funny fook man....

  • gaoxiaen||

    In the eye socket.

  • Hoofddorp Haarlemmermeer||

    the oneeyedmanitarian is king.

    I think that was Ozymandias.

  • Killazontherun||

    I only use the terms ironically which, of course, makes me extra dose of special kind of retard. It gets me through the day, barely.

  • grey||

    Lurked for many moons, then started posting, and have grown to dislike the defined terms cosmotarian and paleotarian. Unless I miss understand them? Cosmo lumps in liberal views on homosexaulity, drugs, and abortion. Paleo, dido, consevative on each. Seems a random grouping together. WTF would opposong abortion have to do with opposing gay marriage, or supporting gay marriage and therefore supporting abortion?

  • ThomasD||

    It all boils down to intention. There is a category that will tolerate/excuse all net result so long as predicated on good intentions/

  • Broseph of Invention||

    You know who else talked a lot about "arians" [sp]...

  • KPres||

    Shikha shouldn't have accepted Coulter's premise to begin with, ie, that drugs create welfare dependents. Maybe a little, but leechers gonna leech whether they smoke pot or not.

  • Bill||

    Leechitarians.

  • Lord Humungus||

    but the cocktails are worth it!

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    COCKTAIL PARTIEZ!

  • CE||

    So? The drug war is worse. I would much rather be deprived of some of my money than some of my freedom.

  • Homple||

    Sorry to inform you, the welfare state is depriving you of your freedom also.

  • grey||

    Sounds like more of the false choices I'm trying to leave behind.

  • ||

    It's not exactly a false choice, merely the acknowledgement that the options are not "lose a little money" and "go to jail for the rest of your life". THAT is the false choice. The welfare state, like the drug war, is also insidious and destructive in complex and far-reaching ways. To say that the only consequence of the welfare state is higher tax rates, which I thought libertarians were actually against anyway, is one of the more vast oversimplifications in the history of oversimplification.

  • ThomasD||

    Not liberal, leftist.

    To be liberal is to recognize that government has no business impinging on either freedom.

  • Ray||

    I probably ought to explain; we are discussing the government control of circa 35% of GDP vs. an extreme overreaction to people doing incredibly stupid shit. Obviously, both are bad, but it is clear which one creates the leviathan state that begets the other. We are supposed to be the heirs to the radical opposition to Hamilton, Clay, and the Roosevelts, not trying to channel Gary Hart.

  • Zeb||

    Most people doing drugs aren't doing "incredibly stupid shit". They are minding their own business and trying to enjoy themselves. And in order to stop that, the WOD maintains a situation where many thousands of people are murdered every year and many more have their lives ruined for no good reason whatsoever.

    In any case, there is never an either/or proposition here. We have not been offered the choice between an WOD and a welfare state. We get both. And both should go. I fucking hate idiots who think that you have to put everything in order of priority. If it's bad, oppose it and take whatever opportunities to do so.

    Also, go fuck yourself. I'm not supposed to be the heir to anything. I'm supposed to do what I think is right.

  • Erik Jay||

    That is not true, and I defy you to offer any rational, congruent, working definition of "hard drugs" anyway. They are ALL hard drugs to the Feds. Need I remind you that weed is Schedule 1, along with PCP? Most drug prisoners are brown, black, low- and mid-level user/dealers, and precious few are the Lily White Bosses of the whole government-created black market. So Wm Halsted, father of modern surgery, who took a nice dose of morphine daily, was "incredibly stupid"? And today, do you, like every stupid zero tolerance law, assume that ONE dirty drug test means someone's an ADDICT or ABUSER? Ridiculous, and I mean whatever drug is present -- cocaine, meth, whatever. The number of casual, not to mention veteran, users dwarfs the number of addicts, and most who try cocaine, meth, and psychedelics do not continue for long. Again, you are free to make specious calculations of levels of "stupid shit" for, say, YOURSELF and your minor children, but we adults who can maintain would ask you to please STFU in regards to what WE do.

  • ||

    HURRR DURRR

    Drugs are good for you!

    Have you any cites for the "facts" you've posted, anymore than the person you are responding to? Hinging your argument in favor of legalization on demonstrably harmful and addictive substances being neither harmful nor addictive is a good way to get yourself treated like a Big Foot chaser. This is why most people think libertarians are retards (and are, sadly, sometimes right).

    Just because you should have the free choice to be a fuck up and an idiot and put your body through the ringer for your own amusement doesn't mean it's a particularly smart thing to do, whether the source of your satisfaction is cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine, ethanol, caffeine, cage fighting, or jumping out of airplanes.

    Also, someone else's judgment of what constitutes "stupid shit" is equally as valid as yours, being, as it, subjective. So, with all due respect to your obviously enormous e-penis and clear internet tough guy bona fides, take your own advice and shut the fuck up. You don't get to shut down other people's right to their opinion because they disagree with you.

  • Cervantes||

    It's not about whether it's a "stupid decision" or not, prohibition harms ore people than letting people make their own bad choices, that's pretty much a fact.

  • ||

    That was more or less my point. I support 100% the right of people to make stupid decisions, whatever they may be, and accept the consequences. I'm just not prepared to put on a full-scale assault on reality and pretend that risks don't exist in order to underpin that point. I don't do it with alcohol, which is legal. Why should I do it with other drugs just because they aren't? It makes the anti-prohibition argument much weaker by making it contingent on the safety of the drug being used. All it takes is one broken family, one overdose, one homeless addict, etc to blow the argument apart and shut down the conversation.

  • Jacurdy||

    While the war on drugs is a huge waste of money and I am all for ending it, I still think the welfare state is a bigger issue. The number of dependents keeps growing and, once acclimated to the system, it will be hard to pull them away from the taxpayer teat. Taking my money and giving it to another is unfair, just as a person who gets thrown in jail for smoking a joint while I legally pour alcohol down my throat is unfair. Drugs aren't legal and the war on them is a shame, but one person who is too lazy to work depending on another is worse, IMO

  • Hugh Akston||

    Tell that to the people who are imprisoned/ruined/shot by cops for possessing the wrong chemicals or just being in the right place at the wrong time.

  • Tman||

    The point is that this is a useless argument. They are BOTH ridiculous and counterproductive, and any liberty respecting individual shouldn't need to pick one over the other.

  • From the Tundra||

    This. Welfare is welfare, regardless of the recipient or means of delievry. Fuck, let's have a fight over music or something, instead.

  • From the Tundra||

    Or delivery.

  • Cervantes||

    Can we all agree that pop is shit?

    BLUES MASTER RACE

  • KPres||

    Plus, can we stop pretending that Coulter actually gives a fuck about anybody's liberty? She's just trying to couch the self-righteous Republican stance in libertarian terms as best she can.

  • Gordilocks||

    ^THIS

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Yep

  • ||

    Coulter has never billed herself as a libertarian, and to the extent she's been involved with libertarianism, it has mostly been as the conservative antagonist to what she views as liberty run amok. So I don't entirely get why she gets so much press here at Reason, especially months after the fact, although I'm sure she and her publisher appreciate it quite a bit.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Wefare for the rich or because someone is married, buys a house (or two), or has kids (tax exemptions) is much worse. I pay for their shit.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    The WoD and the welfare state both suck. But Coulter is presenting a false choice. She uses the WoD because she knows people are emotionally for or against the WoD. But think about the argument in terms of increasing liberty. What if the question was about economic liberty? Had the student in the anecdote asked, “How is it your business what type of investment I choose to make?” Would Coulter's response still make sense?

  • gaoxiaen||

    Well we pay welfare recipients with badges to run around and shoot people, who, if they survive the assault, get kidnapped and imprisoned, and all at a higher cost than money spent on aid for food, shelter, and medicine. Hell, I'd pay higher taxes to make them stop doing that.

  • Virginian||

    I mean if I had to pick one, it would be the welfare state, purely on cost.

  • Dweebston||

    If I had to pick one it would be Dalmia's exotic twang over Coulter's grating, reedy drawl.

  • KPres||

    Ending the WoD would result in almost no change in wealth redistribution. Hell, maybe it would even be positive. There's probably as much productive income lost because some innocent person can't get a job with their (victimless) criminal record as there is from people that suck off the state because they're hopeless addicts.

  • anon||

    It'd definitely impact wealth redistribution. Instead of buying pot from Mexico we'd probably buy it from NC/TN/KY/VA, hurting all those poor mexicans! Must send moar monies out of country!

  • CE||

    You're forgetting the huge savings of not having to fight all the drug gangs, which would be run out of business by more efficient competitors like Budweiser and Coors.

  • ||

    There's still an entire planet outside of America where drugs are largely illegal, so the cartels and the black market would still exist, albeit they'd probably change locales. Besides, Philip Morris is more probably going to be the model for "Big Pot" should the day ever come. I'm guessing wholly owned subsidiaries of major pharmaceutical companies will take up the "hard drug" market. Beer distributors would be operating way outside their markets, expertise, and efficiencies.

  • gaoxiaen||

    They're not too productive when they're in prison, either.

  • Virginian||

    http://reason.com/24-7/2013/05.....om#comment

    Because no one reads Reason 24/7

    This new anchor who questioned Obama about his travel expenses then became the target of an audit. Then the news station fired him for posting on Facebook about it.

    It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

  • Zeb||

    It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

    I think "Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you" is more accurate. Or maybe I've been thinking about Catch 22 too much lately.

  • ||

    Speaking of conservatives vs libertarians, anyone see the bitch fight between McCain, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz on C-SPAN this morning?

  • MWG||

    Link pleeeeeze...

  • Muzzle of Bees||

  • Zeb||

    Did they pull each others hair and tear each others clothes off?

  • John Galt||

    Who won?

  • gaoxiaen||

    Well, McCain smeared his Kotex on Cruz' face.

  • ||

    What is they say about wrestling with pigs? You both get dirty, but the pig enjoys it...

  • triclops||

    IMO, the police state aspect of the drug war trumps the dependency created by the welfare state. Teaching our police to think of themselves as a paramilitary force is pretty fucking evil.
    And throwing every black guy with drugs in the slammer only exacerbates the welfare problem.

  • Dweebston||

    Yep. I'm not so worried about imploding welfarism as I am the increasingly sovereign vanguard of the State, but to act as if either is fully extricable from the other, the way Coulter does, is purely partisan fluff. The left's welfarism lends credibility to the right's social conservatism by presenting to voters precisely the false dichotomy Coulter defends.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah. People often fail to think of all the secondary effects of the drugwar. Not only is it directly immoral to lock someone up for using or selling drugs, it creates terrible incentives for the police and creates a whole industry feeding off of people's misery.

    And though it is impossible to quantify, locking one innocent (and in innocent I include all people convicted simply of drug use possession or sales) up is way worse than depriving a whole bunch of people of a little bit of their money in my book. Economic freedom is extremely important but basic freedom in the sense of not being forceably physically constrained or confined is even more important.

  • gaoxiaen||

    But hey, it makes the unemployment statistics look better.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    And though it is impossible to quantify, locking one innocent (and in innocent I include all people convicted simply of drug use possession or sales) up is way worse than depriving a whole bunch of people of a little bit of their money in my book.

    The welfare state is not only, or even primarily, about income redistribution.

    It's about control, as evinced by stats like only 20% of the money spent on income support programs actually going to the supported people.

    And the welfare state send plenty of people to jail too.

  • ||

    People often fail to think of all the secondary effects of the drugwarwelfare state. Not only is it directly immoral to lock someone up for using or selling drugstake someone's money on threat of imprisonment or violence and give it to somebody else, it creates terrible incentives for the policepolitical class and the dependents they create and creates a whole industry feeding off of people's miserydependency.

    You can make every bit as persuasive an argument regarding the welfare state on the exact same grounds. To say it is any less insidious or destructive than drug prohibition is to either oversimplify or not understand the welfare state.

    But in any case, to even engage in this absolutely ridiculous debate is essentially to play a fantastical game of "would you rather" at a national policy level. I don't (or didn't until I got to Reason anyway) think most libertarians would quibble over the order of operations when presented with an actual opportunity to end drug prohibition or the welfare state. This is a purely theoretical false dichotomy presented by Coulter and it shouldn't be addressed as if it were a serious dilemma.

  • ||

    The welfare state confiscates one individual’s wealth to give to another. That’s unfair. But putting people behind bars for smoking a joint that is less harmful than the alcohol and tobacco that Coulter pumps into her body is a travesty.

    So, if more people stopped paying their taxes and started getting thrown in jail for not supporting the welfare state, would the welfare state become worse than the drug war?

  • anon||

    Problem is you'd have to build more jails to throw the people building the jails into. I don't think that'd go over too well. It'd be an awesome way for a government to collapse, which I'm all for.

  • ||

    Yeah, if everyone decided to stop paying their taxes, all at once. Ah, what a dreamy day that would be.

    I think it's questionable for Dalmia to propose that we can measure the goodness or badness of a government program by how many people end up in jail. People don't end up going to jail for a lot of things.

  • Zeb||

    But the WOD is somewhat special in that it focuses exclusively on locking people up for no good reason at all. In my view, putting someone in prison for drug sales or possession is exactly the same morally as if I abducted someone off the street at random and locked them in my basement.

    The WOD is uniquely evil because it's entire purpose is to punish people who have done nothing wrong.

  • ||

    Right, but here's how I look at it:
    WOD = threatening to kidnap people and throw them in jail for using drugs
    Welfare state = threatening to kidnap people and throw them in jail if they don't pay taxes that can be redistributed

    The main difference, to me, is that it seems that more people seem to be kidnapped much more frequently for the WOD than the welfare state. This has more to do with people's compliance with taxes vs WOD, and if people's compliance changed, it would change the frequency of arrest for each. Therefore, they both seem like kidnapping, and I don't think judging by frequency of kidnapping is a very good method.

  • ||

    IOW, why pick a side in a false dilemma?

  • gaoxiaen||

    Or we could just use a guillotine. Then have a big soccer tournament with their heads.

  • anon||

    “Right now, I have to pay for…your health care. I have to pay your unemployment.…I have to pay for your food, for your housing.…Get rid of the welfare state, then we’ll talk about drug legalization.”

    So why would she be against dismantling the system that perpetuates the welfare state? I go to prison for snorting some coke and then can't get a job, so I turn to the government is somehow better than doing blow with hookers and not becoming a felon?

    Fucking retards, THE WHOLE GODDAMN LOT OF THEM.

  • ||

    The solution to that situation is just to exclude drug users from the welfare state in the minds of the people who make that argument. It's all about tweaking these institutions so they "work". Whether or not they are legitimate functions of government never even enters the picture.

  • gaoxiaen||

    I'd like to see how much tax she really pays. Probably less than my poverty-stricken (and enjoying it) self

  • acidovorax||

    “It is my business when we are living in a welfare state,” Coulter responded. “Right now, I have to pay for…your health care. I have to pay your unemployment.…I have to pay for your food, for your housing.…Get rid of the welfare state, then we’ll talk about drug legalization.”

    Then what argument can she have over Bloomberg style nannyism? If she can control others because their actions cost her via the welfare state, then any action that is subsidized by the State is fair game. Any argument Coulter might raise against say, bans on fast food restaurants, or kids cereals, or Oreos, ad nauseum, would reek of selective preference. Conservatives and liberals are fundamentally statists who simply seek different ends.

  • anon||

    She's not actually against the welfare state when she can use it to bludgeon you into what she wants you to do. She's a hypocrite.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • anon||

    You don't 'neg' yourself, you fucking moron.

    Self-deprecation has its comedic value; however, I do agree, that was just beta.

  • KPres||

    What do you expect? He despises himself. Wouldn't you if you were him?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    If I were him, I'd build up my self-esteem by waging some wars and invoking the power of the federal government against my enemies.

  • Curtisls87||

    Wait, Obama was an underaged drinker, too? Wow, didn't see that coming.

    /sarcasm off

  • Floridian||

    The worlds not perfect so we can't change anything until it is perfect. How it will become perfect without change, I don't know.

  • anomdebus||

    The right comparison isn't the whole of welfare vs the costs of the drug war, but the (presumptive) change in welfare costs due to stopping the drug war vs the cost of the drug war.

  • CE||

    Bingo.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Especially if you pool all welfare costs like business subsidies, make-work projects (incuding a substantial portion of military expenditure), the injustice and punishment system, and tax write-offs for the well-to-do with welfare costs. Another thing people don't consider is the increase in the crime rate that ending welfare would cause. Very few poor people would just sit around and starve if they couldn't get a job. Just think class warfare on steroids and meth.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Sorry, and I hate to say this, but Coulter has the better of this argument, at least on a philosophical level. If you accept the idea that the government has the right to confiscate part of one person's wealth or income and give it to another person, as Dalmia seems to do, you've signed off on the notion that the individual belongs to the state. To turn around and say that restricting the behavior of the beneficiary of that redistribution ("And in the name of stopping abuse of taxpayer dollars, Republicans have enthusiastically backed invasive drug testing of welfare recipients and prohibited them from using cash assistance to buy morally dubious goods such as alcohol and lottery tickets.") doesn't put you on the moral or intellectual high ground.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I hate to say this, but your argument can be completely inverted:

    "If you accept the idea the government has the right to tell you what you can put into your own body, as Coulter seems to do, you've signed off on the notion that the individual belongs to the State"

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Except one of the things Dalmia objects to isn't just the notion that the state restricts the right of the individual to put what they want in their body, but the right to do so while placing demands on others. That strikes me as trying to create a position of self-ownership for the dependents while negating it for those paying the bills.

  • gaoxiaen||

    If welfare recipients get cheap legal dope, it would probably drive welfare costs down(not too expensive to sit around and watch TV)and probably eliminate most obesity issues. Just make it contingent on sterilization.

  • Acosmist||

    But Coulter doesn't believe that as a premise. She believes that as something entailed by the welfare state premise.

    You don't get to invent your own logic, unless you're Richard Routley.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    And if you accept the premise of the welfare state - that the individual exists as a resource for society - I'm hard-pressed to say that she's wrong.

  • Sta|ker||

    Read this as, "Two wrongs make a right!"

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Err, no. Read it as, Dalmia's just more wrong than Coulter if she's going to claim there's no right of the state to restrict its largesse based on behavior.

  • Zeb||

    That's not what she is claiming, though. She is claiming that the state can restrict the behavior of everyone because of the largess that some receive. If she was just arguing for drug tests for welfare, it might be more valid.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    I have to disagree. From the article above:

    And in the name of stopping abuse of taxpayer dollars, Republicans have enthusiastically backed invasive drug testing of welfare recipients and prohibited them from using cash assistance to buy morally dubious goods such as alcohol and lottery tickets.
  • Zeb||

    Sorry, by "she" I meant Coulter. Coulter is not just saying that people who use drugs shouldn't get welfare. She is saying that it is OK to imprison innocent people because some people get welfare.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    And I think Coulter is dead wrong in this. And if Dalmia's response focused on what you note, I'd wholeheartedly agree. But, her stance suggests strongly a bogus "right" to government largesse.

  • SIV||

    "Strongly"?

    Shikha is on record as supporting the welfare state. The whole point of her post is:

    But conservatives also have used the welfare state to rally public sentiment against immigration reforms

    The Senate immigration bill allows the newly legal to immediately get Earned Income Credit payments. That makes it DOA in the House.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Because, you know, people can't use drugs AND have a job. Unpossible.

  • gaoxiaen||

    And the powers-that-be make every effort to ensure this.

  • Calidissident||

    Infringing on one right does not give the government the right to infringe on another. Not to mention, the WOD almost certainly costs more than any possible savings in welfare spending (and in fact, because people convicted of drug crimes have poor job prospects, it probably increases welfare spending)

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Except that only works to the extent that an infringement of rights is recognized. To arrive at the conclusion that it is acceptable to rob Peter to pay Paul, you have to assume Peter can be treated as a means to society's ends. Unless you want to claim Paul is some sort of special creature with extra rights, you have to assume the same of Paul. Otherwise, the entire scheme falls apart. And controlling what drugs Paul takes simply falls under the same premise.
    More to the point, Paul certainly can't claim a right to the benefit of violating Peter's rights. If that's the case, conditionality on Paul's benefits is less a violation than the theft from Peter.

  • Zeb||

    I see what you are getting at, but you can't just limit that to drugs. If you accept that arguemt, then you can extend it to pretty much every choice anyone can make about what to do with their lives.

  • Calidissident||

    Except that we aren't even talking about simply limiting the rights of people who take welfare benefits. We're making substances illegal for everybody because supposedly they will make some people more likely to go on welfare. Similar logic is used by immigration restrictionists or nanny statists regarding food, smoking, and other laws supposedly aimed at lowering health care costs.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    See my response above. Yes, I think Coulter is wrong. I just think Dalmia's response is more so.

  • Not Sure||

    Big gulp?

  • ||

    the WOD almost certainly costs more than any possible savings in welfare spending

    I'm not sure how broadly you are using the term "welfare spending", but if you include health care and social security entitlements... I don't think the spending argument is on your side. You've got 100 trillion + dollhairs in unfunded liability there. Unless your butterfly effect calculations on drug prohibition include missing revenue from the diamond-mining operation on Mars that we could be experiencing if it weren't for the drug war, I think you're talking orders of magnitude higher spending on the welfare state.

    It doesn't really make a tremendous difference anyway to the overall argument. The cost is pretty much irrelevant. Wrong is wrong.

  • Sta|ker||

    -I have to pay for your health care.
    Nope, I'm paying for my own.

    -I have to pay your unemployment.
    Never had to take it, so nope.

    -I have to pay for your food
    What? Uhh, the last time I checked my grocery receipts, they're charged to my debit card.

    -for your housing
    Once again, my mortgage payments haven't been charged to anyone's account but my own.

    I have a feeling Ann's not only ill-informed but a tad bit retarded as well.

  • Wesley Mouch||

    How is someone in jail for a non-violent "crime" any less a ward of the state than someone on welfare?

    Ann Coulter would put you in jail; Barak Obama would put you on food stamps. What's the difference?

  • CE||

    Food stamps are cheaper.

  • gaoxiaen||

    They can do this job at home.

  • Jordan||

    Barak Obama would put you on food stamps.

    No, he'd put you in jail too.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    You'd simply get your food stamps in jail.

  • John Galt||

    ..or he might send you a Hellfire missile.

  • Wesley Mouch||

    Most of my money I spent on cocaine and hookers.

    The rest, I just wasted.

    ---Charlie Sheen

  • John Galt||

    Charlie kind of stole that one from W.C. Fields.

  • Jon Lester||

    A friend of mine adapted it to describe his erstwhile marriage, and said "beer and cigarettes" instead.

  • John Galt||

    If we're sincere enough to practice our core belief in non-coercion it stands to reason that we would appear to be "pussies" to not only conservatives and progressives, but even to every other flavor of statist including the pacifist crowd.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Someone said it here better the other day, but it seems so obvious that there has to be something more to human interaction than a gun to the ribs.

  • SonofSanfordandSon||

    Serious people don't take her seriously

  • ||

    But do unserious people take her unseriously?

  • Jon Lester||

    I'm glad to see there's no real love lost between Coulter and the commentariat. I don't have much use for professional pundits of any persuasion, which is a big reason why I don't watch cable news at all anymore. Coulter just stands out a little more because her shtick is ad hominem name calling that never offers anything constructive.

    As for the larger argument, I think both the WoD and our out-of-control foreign adventurism need to be reeled in ahead of what's called the "welfare state," because those contractors and others who benefit from our many hundreds of strategically useless overseas installations are not more deserving of our "welfare" than Social Security and Medicare recipients. Flawed as they may be, at least those are programs that people pay into and redeem later, whereas our defense budget artificially creates thousands of jobs that wouldn't exist in a truly free market. That's especially true for the plan to spend something like $750 billion over 10 years modernizing our vast nuclear arsenal, when there is no reason for any world power to have more such weapons than China, even aside from the fact that there's no great likelihood of conflict between the strongest nuclear powers.

  • ||

    those are programs that people pay into and redeem later

    Whoa now! They most certainly are not. You do not redeem the benefits you pay into those programs. The money you paid into those programs is a tax, and those dollars are already spoken for by the people collecting currently. You redeem your share of younger people's taxes when your time comes. Your money was already spent. These are not health savings or retirement accounts. They are taxes. Recall if you will Fleming vs. Nestor:

    “To engraft upon the Social Security system a concept of ‘accrued property rights’ would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever changing conditions which it demands... It is apparent that the non-contractual interest of an employee covered by the [Social Security] Act cannot be soundly analogized to that of the holder of an annuity, whose right to benefits is bottomed on his contractual premium payments.”

  • Jon Lester||

    Still beats those taxes that go straight into some contractor's pocket, or literally go up in smoke when a bomb is dropped.

  • ||

    Well, whatever makes it easier for you to write the check. I don't really see one iota of difference.

  • XM||

    I have to disagree. The welfare state is a much more of a long term problem compared to the drug war.

    Drug wars in Mexico is a symptom of a weak, corrupt state that we can't do anything about. Cartels will still make money selling weapons and other drugs if all 50 states legalized pot. From what I've read, Mexican and Latin drug cartels do most business selling coccaine or engaging in human trafficking, and there's no chance either will be legalized. Cheap Mexican pot isn't well received in the states, supposedly.

    And if these cartels infiltrate us to undercut legal business, who will stop him? Obama and Mccain? Heh.

    I can smell weed in my local park that's literally 50 steps from a elementary school. You can get this stuff anywhere, it seems. It's not drugs that's going to topple this country. It's a the welfare state.

  • Jon Lester||

    Hey, that's one area where consumers really should "buy American!"

  • Old Johnnie Goggabie||

    Conservative crank Ann Coulter

    Pot, meet Kettle.

  • lap83||

    "Republicans have enthusiastically backed invasive drug testing of welfare recipients and prohibited them from using cash assistance to buy morally dubious goods such as alcohol and lottery tickets."

    This objection sounds like the progressive definition of freedom: free to do whatever you want with other people's money.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Booze is food. Seven calories per gram for pure alcohol. Wine has sugar. Beer has carbs-"liquid bread" . Hard liquor (yummy)is healthier.

  • ||

    I have the right to make moral judgements... when my money is involved.

    And that is the slippery slope of the welfare state. Before too long, it's hard not to impose arbitrary judgments on any particular behavior because someone else's money is involved. Provides a lot of flexibility for regulators and statists of all stripes. Which is why it's so important to minimize the influence of the state, regardless of who is running it.

  • SIV||

    What is so wrong with drugs "other than pot"?

  • ||

    I'm not sure if his argument is that "hard drugs" are worse, but he's still got a point. The "war on drugs" doesn't end if marijuana gets descheduled - there's still quite a few more steps to go after that. A lot of libertarians, or at least people who are willing to take on the mantle, while paying lip service to anti-prohibition, really don't give two shits about most of the other scheduled drugs.

  • SIV||

    Selling a product to a willing buyer for a mutually agreed on price is "non-violent".

  • gaoxiaen||

    I'm a legalization proponent, but I noticed that pot=hard drug discrepancy in arguments. Sort of like when prohibitionists conflate costs of drug ABuse with alcohol (ab)use for statistical purposes.

  • SeaCaptain(Yokeltarian)||

    "Tell that to the people who are imprisoned/ruined/shot by cops for possessing the wrong chemicals or just being in the right place at the wrong time."
    .....Just another lame cosmo straw man.

    Tell the people imprisoned by the IRS for not paying their "fair share" to the welfare state.

  • Wm||

    TIL a lot of so called libertarians care more about doing drugs than government taking their money and controlling their lives through the welfare state. Interesting. They sound like liberals, but not the smart ones who are in control, only the stupid ones who provide the fodder.

  • setTHEline||

    I'm not fully convinced that Ann Coulter is human. Judging from this picture, perhaps sith lord?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    WOD vs Welfare State

    One tastes like shit, the other ruins lives.
    Which is which only depends on your perspective.

    But seriously, the WOD is a feature of the Welfare State, so in that sense, the latter is worse.

  • madbowler6||

    I'm sorry, this article is just dumb and is more libertarian nitpicking.

    what the author conveniently left out is that a student made this very point to Ann Coulter and asked her if there was no welfare state, what would she think about drug use. Her answer: "I wouldn't care." So it is completely intellectually dishonest to say the welfare state suits conservatives just fine and they use it as an excuse to regulate people's behavior. The logic of that statement is backwards. They would have no interest in regulating individuals' behavior if not for the welfare state, as stated by Coulter.

    The author blithely states that the drug war is worse than the welfare state. I disagree. I think the welfare state is abysmal for reasons of cost/benefit alone, let alone on natural rights grounds. But it's WORSE than the welfare state?? GTFOH. We might hate to admit it, but Coulter has a legit point here: considering the welfare state has been foisted upon us, does drug legalization make sense? Should people who, essentially, vote for a living be entitled to take your hard earned money and get high with it? Reasonable people SHOULD disagree on this point, because both arguments have their merits. Isn't this the Reason Foundation? Perhaps the author ought to live up to the standard the name suggests rather than peddling such simplistic, blockheaded thinking and attempting to pass it off as principle.

    Nothing is worse than the welfare state. Nothing. Blithely stated, in kind.

  • madbowler6||

    Lemme make one final point: audiences like the one at Stossel's Q&A with Ann Coulter make me embarrassed to be a libertarian. It was a freaking dog and pony show. STANDING OVATIONS for stating the most basic, bedrock libertarian principles on the mic?? Are you kidding me? That should no more motivate a libertarian to jump to his feet than hearing someone say "Yeah the sky is blue today". Well, maybe if a Barry Obama expressed one it might warrant an eyebrow-raise. But coming from another libertarian?? Pffff. It was just a libertarian circle jerk. The best kind of circle jerk, to be sure, but still, in the end, no one's getting laid...not that cool...

  • ||

    The welfare state suits conservatives just fine. Its existence gives them an excuse to regulate individual choices. And it’s their trump card for stopping liberty-oriented reforms they dislike.

    Conservative mendacity. The truth is, if you can get them to admit it, is that their objections to liberty come from their belief that your body doesnt belong to you. It is a temple and belongs to jesus.

  • Jeff21379||

    We really are supporting two welfare classes.
    On one hand we have the poor who in some cases are lying to gain access to money to supplement their income and get more food, drugs, alcohol, needs, and/or luxuries.
    On the other hand we have the rich who are lying to drive up the market and inflate the economy to gain access to money to supplement their income and get more food, drugs, alcohol, and/or luxuries.
    Every time you pull into a gas station and pay the price that has been over inflated by a corrupt investment market to line their pockets is it any different than the tax dollars we pay to line the pockets of those taking advantage of the welfare system?

  • ||

    All Coulter is advocating is that if you allow free actions, drug use or immigration, then you must allow the natural consequences of those actions, without expecting others to support you. That seems obvious. If you throw welfare into the equation, then there are no consequences. Am I missing something? Do libertarians not believe that actions have consequences?

  • nathan76||

    Nolan. I just agree... Leslie`s bl0g is really cool, on monday I bought a great new Lotus Esprit after having earned $4034 this-last/4 weeks and in excess of $10k last month. this is definitely my favourite work Ive ever done. I started this 10-months ago and practically straight away startad bringin home over $81, per-hour. I work through this link, http://www.fox86.com

  • Tony||

    If you're able to get rich selling insipid demagoguery and being a "pundit"--occupations that generate no known use for human beings--then it seems that capitalism is doing quite fine. The welfare state works. "Welfare state" is a redundant term. All states redistribute wealth to provide for common interests. The rich will always want to pay less in taxes, and the poor will always favor more redistribution. (Only the rich get publishing houses, TV channels, university chairs, etc. to make their case, however.)

    If Ms. Coulter really wants to argue that the existence of the welfare state means government gets to control personal behavior, then I endorse the jailing of rude, obnoxious demagogues on the grounds that they are far more foul and harmful than a little weed.

  • ||

  • Yerkov Markakis||

    I've got a message for Shikha Dalmia and the rest of the hate filled libertarians here: YOU ARE ALL ENABLERS OF THE PROGRESSIVE STATE.

    It begins with this fact: You are NOT a threat to the progressives. If you were then YOU would be politically targeted.

    You libertarians may disagree philisophically with the progressives but you are directly in line with the progressives POLITICALLY as this article perfectly displays.

    Whereas you may disagree with progressives on policy, you have no problem doing their bidding by attacking conservatives and conservatism wherever you can on the issues that matter to progressives:

    You attack conservatives on immigration.

    You attack conservatives on the environment.

    You attack conservatives on gay marriage.

    You attack conservatives on marijuana.

    You attack conservative media.

    You attack conservative personalities.

    You attack conservatism, period!

    SO...PHILISOPHICALLY you libertarians are nothing more than a gnat that progressives swat away but POLITICALLY you libertarians are a freaking gold mine.

    Thus, you are part and parcel to the tyrannical progressive state we are all saddled with.

  • johnl||

    Conservatives aren't anti-immigration. Reagan, GHWB, and GWB were all in favor of increased immigration from Mexico. But to continue with your list, libertarians attack conservatives for military adventurism, censorship of privately funded pop art, and pro-prosecution bias.

  • Polo Ralph Lauren outlet||

    The looks need echo lightness perfectly as kinship that's lgt attire lids featherweight will likely constancy by investing in insight similar to angelic ruffles, Flounces as suspended in making the white grace associated with men or women. Lacoste english, Rob Lauren Polo, Abercrombie Fitch, Are some of the rand user business specify band possess the highest quality of products in the shop shelves, The particular ron lauren polo tt-tee shirts, Which are receiving constructed just Polo rob Lauren, Generally in the best choice condition.Chaussure Air Jordan:http://www.chaussureairjordan.fr/

  • Polo Ralph Lauren outlet||

    Soon after you will go out in forex and stop by the retailers most typically associated with Polo ron Lauren, You will get available very large fixed in varieties polo tt-tee shirts of RL. This type of polo t tops are thought of as to be the better really being and they are underneath the offered group rare listed of RL, That can be the pair of men keep on. Oakley Óculoshttp://www.oakleyoculos.net/

  • Polo Ralph Lauren outlet||

    Many users materialize to be returning design and style throughout their lives by putting on Abercrombie ensemble. They know that virtually certainly nada will these people flavorful, Other than tied to the dress this content tag. España Ralph Lauren
    Ralph Lauren España
    Ralph Lauren outlet

  • PD Quig||

    I don't care what you put into your body. I support drug legalization--it couldn't possibly be worse than the current situation.

    But I do question why this issue garners so much press and focus from libertarians. I would put it WELL down on the list of our problems. Maybe that's just because I quit using drugs decades ago and know that the only reason I used them back then was because I was young enough to take the bodily punishment--and foolish enough to think they would never become a problem for me. My position is poison yourself if you want.

    Drug legalization is going to me moot if we don't dismember the out of control government and corruption it breeds.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement