The Instigator
Andromeda_Z
Pro (for)
Losing
6 Points
The Contender
larztheloser
Con (against)
Winning
14 Points

That a welfare state does more harm than good

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
larztheloser
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/7/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,902 times Debate No: 17816
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (4)

 

Andromeda_Z

Pro

Definitions
Welfare State - a social system based on the assumption by a political state of primary responsibility for the individual and social welfare of its citizens . [1]

Arguments

1. A welfare state does not provide as high of quality of welfare as the free market can. A welfare state would have a guaranteed monopoly on services such as health care, social security, and education, and as such, has no incentive to perform efficiently. In a free market, companies would have to provide a good service at a fair price in order to have a significant portion of the market. If they do not, they will lose money and go out of business. If a monopoly is guaranteed (such as when services are provided by the government), then this incentive no longer exists. If there is no reason to provide quality services at a competitive price (because the taxpayers will pay for it anyway), then this likely won't happen, which is detrimental to the citizen.

2. Welfare creates a cycle of dependence. If health care, for example, is provided by the government, then people will use the health care that is provided by the government and paid for through tax revenue. As the private health care providers don't have as many customers because more people are using the government health care, they will either make less money and eventually go out of business or raise prices to compensate and stay in business. either way, the result is a lack of affordable private health care providers. As most people can't afford health care on their own, it becomes more important for the government to provide it for them.

Sources
[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...
larztheloser

Con

I'd like to thank Andromeda for opening her argument, and apologise for the delay.

Rebuttal

First, pro claims a free market produces lower prices and therefore better welfare. There are four problems with this argument.
  • First, unlike private companies, governments do not aim to profit out of welfare. As governments do not need to add a margin to the cost of their services, governments are able to supply the market at a lower price than a free market, because each firm in a free market still need to make a profit.
  • Second, many welfare markets are natural monopolies. Social security, for instance, tends towards a monopoly because when run as a private scheme, low buy-in either makes it unprofitable (because the people who most need it - the middle and lower classes - are those who can least afford it) or a monopoly by decree. If a monopoly, there is no incentive to lower prices to snatch the market share, no threat of competition due to the effect of economies of scale, and welfare fails.
  • Third, privatization has never worked in practice. I challenge my opponent to find me one example of where a government has privatized welfare, and the result has been better welfare. We tried it in New Zealand, by the way. More than 50% of our country lost (nominal) income over a 12-year-period [1], while prices rose 110.6%, or a 52.5% decline in purchasing power [2]. It may, of course, be just coincidence that our productivity and income fell, or that our prices and inequality rose, from the moment we sold our state assets to when we bought them back. That, however, is not what the economists tell us.
  • Fourth, the only firms that can deliver welfare to a whole country are large firms. Large firms tend to get owned by the rich. Those most likely to need to buy in to social welfare are the poor. Social welfare will thus be a means of moving money from the pockets of the poor to the rich.
Second, pro claims state welfare drives out businesses as it can offer lower prices, creating monopolies. Three responses.
  • First, she fails to justify why a monopolised welfare market would be a bad thing.
  • Secondly and more importantly, however, most companies in welfare markets are able to exist quite nicely alongside the cheaper government alternatives. Look at the water market. Tap water is much cheaper than bottled water, but people still buy bottled water en masse! This is because bottled water does not compete on price. It competes by differentiating itself - usually by calling itself "pure", "natural" and "spring." Differentiation is also how private companies usually compete against governments. Healthcare is a good example. Private firms often emphasize their "caring service" and "world-class treatment" to create a high-quality brand image. Not all customers buy exclusively based on price.
  • Third, this argument contradicts her earlier narrative that free markets are cheaper than governments.
Arguments

1. Duty of state
The reason why the state is charged with defending human rights in their country is because nobody but the state is accountable (at least in theory) to all its members. It is generally accepted by most of society that there should be some sort of minimum safety net provided by somebody for everybody - my opponent does not contest this point. The difference between a state provider and any other provider is that the stakeholders in the other provider may not include everyone in the state. A welfare state, however, by definition covers everybody in the state. With a non-state actor providing welfare, there is no guarentee of equal treatment of all within the state. While it is true some states do abuse their power, this is a violation of the state's role, not the general rule. We accept, for instance, that it is the state's role to defend human rights and basic liberties. Why not welfare?

2. Poor quality
In order to steal market share, firms are going to try to price their services more and more competitively (unless there is a welfare state, meaning they cannot win a price war as I told you already). The best way to do this is to cut costs. These cost-cuts translate directly into less welfare available. That means increased employer power, decreased healthcare, decreased educational quality, reduced benefits and so on. These in turn have corresponding harms on society, including reduced life expectancy, literacy rates, increased turnover, and increased inequality - all of which lead to flow-on harms such as crime and unemployment.

I'm really looking forward to reading my opponent's responses and wish her the best of luck with her case.

Sources

[1] - http://www.commondreams.org...
[2] - http://www.rbnz.govt.nz...
Debate Round No. 1
Andromeda_Z

Pro

Defense

Argument 1
  • Each company may still need to make a profit, but there is also the necessity of remaining competitive. If a doctor, for example, charges far more than what his services are worth, he will not have very many patients. Instead, the patients will go to the doctors who are only making a modest profit off of each patient. The other doctor will either have to lower his prices or go out of business.
  • "If a monopoly, there is no incentive to lower prices to snatch the market share." In order to maintain the monopoly, prices must be maintained at a competitive level. If prices are deemed too high by too many of the customers, they will obtain social security from someone else and there will no longer be a monopoly.
  • "I challenge my opponent to find me one example of where a government has privatized welfare, and the result has been better welfare." This is not relevant to the scope of the debate. We are debating the effects of a welfare state, not how privatization works in practice. "...our productivity and income fell, or that our prices and inequality rose..." There are many factors contributing to the state of the economy, not all of the blame can be placed on the privatization of welfare. "That, however, is not what the economists tell us." This is an appeal to an unidentified authority. You stated that the economists say that the privatization of welfare is the cause of the problems, but you do not provide any reason for me to believe your claim.
  • " the only firms that can deliver welfare to a whole country are large firms." This is true, but I fail to see why a single firm would need to provide welfare for the whole country. What is wrong with small firms providing welfare to a specific area? " "Social welfare will thus be a means of moving money from the pockets of the poor to the rich." The money will move from the poor to the rich, but the rich will be providing a service in return. This isn't theft, it's a business transaction. If the poor have multiple choices of welfare providers (such as in a free market), then they can choose one that they are happy transacting with.



Argument 2

  • As the people are dependent on the government for welfare, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to enact change if necessary. The government may be doing all sorts of unreasonable and ridiculous things, but there's not much you can do about it if you depend on the government for your welfare.
  • If you look at my point below, you will see that you have misinterpreted my argument. I did not say that there can't be competition, I said that, if forced to purchase welfare from one source, people would not necessarily be able to purchase welfare elsewhere. This is where your analogy fails. People aren't forced to pay for water unless they actually use it. People are forced to pay for welfare, it is included in the taxes. If people want different water, they don't have to pay for he tap water. If people want different welfare, they have to pay for both.
  • How so? My argument was that people can't always afford to both pay taxes that are used to provide welfare and purchase welfare from private companies. I didn't say that government-provided welfare was cheaper, I said that it was cheaper to only pay for one source of welfare.

Rebuttal

Argument 1

  • "It is generally accepted by most of society that there should be some sort of minimum safety net provided by somebody for everybody - my opponent does not contest this point." No, but I do contest that this makes it right, or that this somebody should be the state. It doesn't matter how many people think something, they can still be wrong. Even if they are correct, why the state, rather than charites?
  • "With a non-state actor providing welfare, there is no guarentee of equal treatment of all within the state." As you stated, not all states do guarantee equal treatment. What is there to prevent them from treating perople unequally?
          • "We accept, for instance, that it is the state's role to defend human rights and basic liberties." Why? Defense of liberites and rights can occur without a state.
        • "Why not welfare?" It contradicts the freedom to spend your money on what you consider important. If the resonsibility of the state is to protect liberties as you stated, then it would be a contradiction for them to decide how your money is spent.

Argument 2

  • You stated earlier that rice is not the sole reason people make a choice when deciding what to purchase. There is also the issue of quality. Parents still send their children to private schools, even though they are more expensive than public schools. They provide a better quality of education. In a free market, businesses would have to provide a good service at a fair price.

larztheloser

Con

I thank Andromeda for answering my contentions. My structure will be the same as before.

Lower prices means better welfare
  • First my opponent restates that low prices are needed to remain competitive. This is an obvious dodge of my analysis that regardless of the level of competition, states are always cheaper as they don't need to make any profit. A doctor who attempted the same tactic would go out of business just as quickly as one who overcharged.
  • Second, my opponent states that consumers offered high prices by a social security company would simply change providers. This is an obvious dodge of my analysis that social security is a natural monopoly. Unless the vast majority of a large population buys into a single provider, the whole system necessarily collapses.
  • Third, my opponent states that privatization in practice is beyond the scope of the debate. Need I say that this is an obvious dodge of my analysis that privatization has never worked. As we are debating the effects of a welfare state, and your stated alternative to a welfare state is privatization, the effects of privatization are completely relevant.
  • Fourth, that not all blame can be placed on welfare in the New Zealand example. On what then? If the New Zealand example was unique perhaps I'd be willing to grant it as an exception. However, studies show[1&2] that, in welfare states, poverty decreases after countries adopt welfare programs, and vice versa.
  • Fifth, that I appealed to an unidentified authority. If my opponent had simply scrolled down to the section entitled "sources" he would notice that I did, in fact, identify my authority.
  • Finally, that there is no problem with money moving from the poor to the rich if the rich are providing a service in return. Insurance against losing your job, however, is not providing anything in return unless you actually lose your job. Meanwhile, the rich get to stuff their pockets with the hard-earned cash of the poor without having to do anything for them until they get fired. Since the wealthy are also generally those doing the firing, a caste-based system can emerge very quickly. This is known as inequality, and one of the fastest ways to get it is agreeing with my opponent.
State welfare drives out businesses
  • First, Andromeda supposes that the government can do all manner of ridiculous things with welfare. This is false, because the government's actions are restricted by voters and the wide range of political viewpoints that need to negotiate to get welfare. As a result governments tend to act in an incremental fashion rather than suddenly doing ridiculous things nobody expected. However, if they were doing ridiculous things, there is a simple mechanism available to fix things. It's called "vote for somebody else." It works every time - we did it in New Zealand and now we've recovered a little bit.
  • Second, my opponent says there is a harm in not being able to pay both your own provider and the government provider. Who would be stupid enough to pay a free market provider INSTEAD of a government provider though? The government provider would be cheaper and pay out more. Why? Cheaper because the free market provider needs to generate a profit. Pay out more because more people buy in to the government provider, meaning the government has a bigger pool of income from which to pay you out. So with lower cost and higher payout, the only way you'd ever pay anybody else is if you wanted additional cover and/or additional service beyond the government minimum, not as an alternative. If you can't afford that because you're poor, at least you have the government cover. If you can because you're rich, then great for you. Nobody loses. Alternatively, if you take away the
  • If you admit state welfare needs the buy-in of as many people as possible in order to operate, then so does a private firm. That's the contradiction. For clarification, when I said "cheaper" in the last round, I meant cheaper for the firm, not cheaper for a consumer. Sorry about the lack of clarity.
Duty of state
  • Why the state, rather than charities? Because everybody has a stake in the state - the state has an established social contract with everybody. There is no such stake in a charity. This point is not to suggest welfare should be a popularity contest, but rather to question the role of the free market in providing welfare when there is no established contract between the free market and any random person.
  • To prevent unequal treatment, there is a system called democracy, and several international treaties (such as the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which restricts a government's ability to discriminate). No firm is a democracy, as you cannot rock up to the board of directors and attempt to vote them out unless you're a shareholder. There is no obligation on firms to serve any particular customer so they can discriminate as much as they want. Firms thus have fewer safeguards than governments.
  • Third, can the defense of liberties and rights occur without a state? This is a supermassive assertion. Show me one stateless society with rights and liberties absolutely protected. There are none. Here's why. You cannot have the protection of liberties without punishment if somebody breaks those liberties. For that, you need to know what your liberties and rights are and are not. This necessitates a legislature to document what rights/obligations you have. You also need somebody to actually carry out the punishing, protecting and so on. This necessitates an executive. Finally you need somebody to handle all the allegations that somebody has stepped outside the bounds. This necessitates a judiciary. As you can see, the defense of liberties and rights necessitates all three branches of government. That's why you need a state.
  • "If the responsibility of the state is to protect liberties as you stated, then it would be a contradiction for them to decide how your money is spent." That would only be logically true if one is absolutely at liberty to spend money however one wishes. There are, however, some reasonable restrictions we impose. You cannot, for example, spend money on buying slaves or child prostitutes. The reason for this is that the only owners of money, legally speaking, are states. People may control money, but ultimate ownership rests with the government that issued the money. That is why it is illegal (most of the time) to destroy a banknote or coin - it isn't yours. You are at liberty to do with your stuff as you please (unless you'd be seriously injuring another person's liberty in doing so), but not with other people's stuff. Money isn't yours.
Poor quality
  • The problem is that firms in a free market can't compete on quality. Right now firms aren't supplying the whole market - only those wealthy enough to afford welfare beyond the state welfare. Their ability to compete on quality is premised on their exclusivity. The same is true of private schools - if just anybody could go to them, lots of kids would, and as a result class sizes would go up as teaching quality and school standards declined. Private healthcare providers are only better than the government because the treatment they offer is to a smaller number of clients, and thus they are able to attract better doctors who give more attention to each. The same is true of all forms of welfare. When the market increases to the size that the government supplies (ie the whole country) then you lose your ability to be exclusive. If you do continue to be exclusive you won't be charging a "fair price," and if you do, you lose your quality advantage. Either way this argument is true.
So I hope that has dealt with all of my opponent's objections. I'm really looking forward to the final round.

Sources
Debate Round No. 2
Andromeda_Z

Pro

Lower prices Means Better Welfare
  • They may not need to make a profit, but they also have no incentive to keep prices low. There is no competition, so they can charge whatever they want.
  • The welfare market is large enough that it can support several large firms. It's like the automobile insurance industry - there has to be a significant amount of customers, but there are also choices of which company you would lik to do business with.
  • Sweden's welfare was originally privatized. It was only recently that they became a welfare state. [1] Sweden is now showing signs of returning to private welfare, due to the inefficiency and high costs fo their current system. [2]
  • At the time, New Zealand was also working to reduce the deficit. To reduce a deficit, you need to have more money than you are spending. They were taking money from people without prviding anythingin return, so businesses had to price things higher to make a profit for the shareholders.
  • Sorry about that. One source is an inflation calculator. The other acknowledges that it is a website dedicated to progressive views. [3] Even though you did identify your sources, they still don't show that the concensus among economists is that privatization of welfare doesn't work.
  • If the wealthy are the ones in charge of firing people, a charge of paying them if they lose their job, then there is no reson to fire them.

State Welfare Drives Out the Businesses

  • I never stated that the ridiculous things would happen immediately; they probably wouldn't. The prolem is that it would happen gradually. Changes would happen at a slow enough rate that we wouldn't take much notice of it. The government would get away with much more simply because it wasn't drastic enough to be broadcasted all over the news. voting only works at election tie, there is no option to fix things immediately and no promise that the person you elected will do as he promised.
  • It is the large amount of customers that is the problem in this scenario. The government has all of the market, so there is often long waiting lists and red tape. People don't always choose private health care companies because they provide additional service, some choose this because the quality of service is better.
  • Private firms do need as many customers as possible. Even so, there can be more than one firm large enough to operate, providing competition.

Duty of State

  • A welfare state would have to provide welfare for everyone. I suggest charity and privatization because the people with more money would have to pay for their welfare and the people that couldn't afford that would have their welfare taken care of by charities. The lack of a contract betewwn th free market and a random person is not a negative.
  • Democracy is inherently unequl. As longas you can get enough people to vote for what you want, you can have whaever you want.
  • Contracts can be made without a state as long as there is a person to write up a contract and another to agree to it. In the contract, the two parties can agree on what wil happen if the terms of the contract are broken, such as what will happen in terms of punishment.
  • If w can do as we please with the state (as you suggested when you said that policies could be changes by electing someone else), then logically we should be able to either do what we want with the states' money or change the policies so that the state does not own the money.

Poor Quality

  • The problem withthis is that the market isn't only one market. There sredifferent markets depending on the eeds of the customer. Again, I'm going to compare this to the car insurance industry. Dpending on what you need (motorcycle insurance, someone that will still insure you after many accidents, etc.), there are different providers. They still charge a fair price, but it is a fair price for that specific market.

Sources[1] http://www.lewrockwell.com...
[2] http://www.mjpa.umich.edu... pages 3 and 4
[3] http://www.commondreams.org...

larztheloser

Con

I'd like to thank my opponent once again for a very engaging debate. For each point I'm going to summarise why my opponent has not met her burden of proof - to show conclusively that a welfare state (remember, that is the state taking primary responsibility for stuff like healthcare and education) does more harm than good.

Lower prices Means Better Welfare
  • I've already told you the incentive govts have to keep prices low - getting elected.
  • Automobile insurance is different from welfare in that it costs the rich (with rich cars) more than the poor (with poor cars). Social security must be equal for every person because every person has the same value (or else that would be discrimination), so there must be an equal cost also.
  • Sweden's welfare has not had huge costs - indeed, getting rid of privatization directly led to a huge growth boost and sudden reversal in their government books [1]. Note how my source is an economist and yours are a biochemist and a medical doctor. They point to a single example of how it did badly in the early-mid 1990s, but then (as my source explains) so was the rest of Europe. Sweden was actually doing well compared to its neighbours.
  • In New Zealand, we tried to reduce the deficit by the means of privatization, not robbing people as my opponent supposes.
  • I didn't prove privatization didn't work, but your burden of proof was first to show that it did.
  • "then there is no reason to fire them" unless it becomes more profitable to put them on welfare. It's a win-win for the rich; profits can be perfectly optimised to flow to their pockets.
State Welfare Drives out the Businesses
  • If things only happen gradually, there is no need for an immediate fix and we can wait until election time. Obviously politicians can lie, but it really only works once or twice before people lose confidence in them.
  • When I say "additional service," I do not mean to preclude "higher-quality service." Quality of service may be added to the government package as can anything else. The insurer will be foolish, however, not to claim from the government on your behalf a reimbursement that they're freely entitled to.
  • Private firms do need as many customers as possible. To survive a private firm must make long-run above-average returns. This necessitates either increasing the size of the market or constantly gaining market share. Either way the firm is always grasping for more customers to meet the demands of the shareholders.
Duty of State
  • The problem with your elaborate system is that it won't work for all but the very small countries, even if we put aside the inefficiency of privatization and the fact buy-in won't be as amazing as you suppose. Charities do not have the infrastructure to reach even all the people in America below the poverty line, let alone the 15% of China that lives at this level, let alone pretty much the entire continent of Africa. Furthermore, very few are willing to give charity to people who they have no established contract with. Charities are already stretched today, and that's with many countries being welfare states. Just imagine how much more work they'd have to do, reaching out to the poor of the whole world. I say this quite earnestly - I work for an NGO (World Vision) and it isn't easy.
  • Voter power is more equal than the private system or charities, where the public has no power whatsoever.
  • My opponent gives a good model of a contract, but - Who shall enforce it if it goes bad? I simply name the enforcer the "executive." Who shall judge my guilt? I simply name the judge the "judiciary." Who shall say what defines a contract? I simply name the definer the "legislature."
  • Of course you could change the rules, but the state is not presently deviating from its role of protecting existing liberties. That's all I need to prove.
Poor Quality
  • Already refuted my opponent's sole counter-example.
  • Take note of my opponent's lack of rebuttal on this point.

The motion falls. Vote Con.

Sources
1 - http://www.iticu.edu.tr...
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by darkkermit 6 years ago
darkkermit
Err...less clear cut. My ideological bias tells me that private firms do better than government. However unless there's sufficient evidence that Andromeda_Z showed that then I can't vote for her. She did argue it quite effectively, however I'm not sure If it is enough. I'll reread it.
Posted by larztheloser 6 years ago
larztheloser
Darkkermit, the previous time I called it "vote for somebody else." That was in my admittedly horribly-structured round 2. I draw your attention to my analysis on that point a few bullet points later: "No firm is a democracy, as you cannot rock up to the board of directors and attempt to vote them out unless you're a shareholder. There is no obligation on firms to serve any particular customer so they can discriminate as much as they want. Firms thus have fewer safeguards than governments." I also (a few bullet points earlier) cited the example of New Zealand as empirical evidence of this working.
Posted by darkkermit 6 years ago
darkkermit
Larztheloser, you stated in round 3, that:

"I've already told you the incentive govts have to keep prices low - getting elected"

where did you say that, because I couldn't find it. This is a very close call, and I'm not sure who to vote for. It's comes down to efficiency analysis. I overall think the statement is wrong, however that's not important. What's important is that you showed the incentive for the government to keep prices low. If you can do that and show that Andromeda_Z did not counter, I might give you the win.
Posted by Andromeda_Z 6 years ago
Andromeda_Z
As long as you don't forfeit, take as long as you like. I'm in no rush.
Posted by larztheloser 6 years ago
larztheloser
Apologies for the delay. I'm working my way through two uni assignments and have another three looming. It's Tuesday night here now, I'll post my argument Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Sorry again, but I promise I won't rest until it's written!
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by randolph7 6 years ago
randolph7
Andromeda_ZlarztheloserTied
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Total points awarded:33 
Reasons for voting decision: Too much appeal to emotion. I hate reading debates that tell us it's all the rich's fault blah blah. Show me why the government's better.
Vote Placed by CD-Host 6 years ago
CD-Host
Andromeda_ZlarztheloserTied
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Reasons for voting decision: SnG for better organization of the argument. Con refuted the major points effectively. Light use of sources but con used many more.
Vote Placed by PartamRuhem 6 years ago
PartamRuhem
Andromeda_ZlarztheloserTied
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Reasons for voting decision: First of all, to both of you, organize yourselves better. I would go from pro's R3 to Con's R3 and not even know the difference; too many bullets. Clarify what you are addressing. Pro needed to prove that more harm than good came out of welfare, and the liberties argument was the strongest and left standing by Con. Also, con focused his argument too much on possible outcomes and results from foreign countries. Con did, however, have superior sources. 3:2 Pro
Vote Placed by Kinesis 6 years ago
Kinesis
Andromeda_ZlarztheloserTied
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Reasons for voting decision: It's almost impossible to do a proper analysis of a debate like this. The number of points used by each side was daunting and the points and counterpoints difficult to keep track of. Suffice to say that by the end of the debate I found it far from obvious that Andromeda had fulfilled his burden of proof, and assuming the burden of proof was on him I'm going with Con.