The welfare state as an illustration of “The tragedy of the Commons”

Students for Liberty et Atlas Network, two market friendly think tanks, have published a small book After the welfare state: politicians stole your future…you can get it backedited by Tom Palmer with some ten contributions. (Jameson Books, , 2012,, 175 pp)

In the first paper “The tragedy of the welfare state” Tom Palmer explains that the famous Hardin’s thesis “The tragedy of the Commons” does apply to the welfare state the resources of which are too often in open access , “Each of us may know that catching lots of fish now means that the lake will be fished out …and in the end everyone is worse off”

Mutual plundering is a rational behavior since “if I don”t get that government subsidy, someone else will”. But the situation is worse than for environmental resources since we are plundering each other and accordingly we spend resources both way: extract resources from our neighbors and avoid being plundered by these same neighbors. “The result is exhaustion”

Palmer gives several examples :

  • Funding irresponsible promises to buy votes
  • “Pay as you go “ pensions
  • Farm subsidies
  • Social Security without personal responsibility
  • Social housing…

“We need a rolling back of the state’s powers so that it is limited to protecting our rights, not attempting to take care of us”

Max Falque