Of the “welfare/warfare state,” are libertarians more against welfare or warfare?

as answered on Quora….

One of the droll developments of 20th century statism was a mere name change: a decade before I was born, the “War Department” became the “Department of Defense.” Wikipedia marks the moment in its article on the subject:

The War Department existed from August 7, 1789 until September 18, 1947, when it split into the Department of the Army and the Department of the Air Force and joined the Department of the Navy as part of the new joint National Military Establishment (NME), renamed the United States Department of Defense in 1949.

What’s droll is from that time on, the U.S. military became less about defense and more about warfare — that is, after World War II, defense of the physical integrity and sovereignty of these United States ceased being the main occupation of the “Joint Military Establishment,” and became, instead, “defending” other nation-states’ borders and political integrity. This muddied up, conceptually, the whole idea of defense, and it gave birth to the bizarre but politic necessity of engaging in unwinnable wars.

Arguably, a “warfare state” is a state devoted to warfare but not defense.

Most libertarians I know despise this aspect of the modern nation-state (former federal union) of “America,” though quite a few “libertarian conservatives” are still onboard with the implausible-to-me rationales of U.S. world policeman status. I guess those folks, whom I consider chumps, think that defending “good guys” around the world would justify “The Department of Defense” moniker.

Now, “welfare” is a somewhat different matter. Whereas the problem with a warfare state is chiefly (in minarchist theory, anyway) in the continual under-application of Just War Theory, and the reckless disregard for human life in situations where intervention in squabbles abroad cannot conceivably lead to just conclusions, with “the welfare state” the most obvious problem is the funding of the emprise.

That is, giving things to people is not an obviously immoral act — it is often considered generous and charitable — while taking sides in conflicts in which no good outcome is likely, or where no side’s cause is uncompromisingly just, and in the process killing hundreds, thousands, even millions of innocent people, that is obviously very, very wrong.

So, on the grounds of the Obvious, most libertarians tend to judge the warfare state more evil and intolerable than the welfare state.

But libertarians are not committed to mere superficial analyses of the Obvious.

While it used to be my rap that, of all the subsidies given by the federal government, aid to the poor should be the last to be curtailed. Now, I suspect the opposite is true.

On a superficial transactional analysis, the chief problem of the “welfare state” is on the funding side — it is wrong to expropriate from the many or the few for the immediate benefit of the few or the many — looking deeper into social causation suggests to me that the moral horrors of state aid are at least on par with the moral horrors of war. For what “welfare” does is create greedy voting blocs who tend to become decreasingly fit to live productive lives, and, further, provide innocent shields for the busybody/authoritarian mentality. The very existence and persistence of “the poor” who “deserve to be helped” by conscript wealth is an eternal excuse to erode any dignity to productivity and any integrity to property rights.

“Welfare” creates serviles. And “welfare” creates excuses only for ever-more “welfare” — which means more taxes and more greed masquerading as generosity.

Sadly, the welfare state now creates an excuse for some people (most obviously in the Democratic Party) to outright expressions of hatred of the people who pay the bills. When I hear “the rich” or “the top 1 percent” what I understand is “Jew, Jew, Jew!” The ugliness of Nazi hatred in its anti-semitic expression is now a standard motif of one of the two major political parties. These people don’t even give honor to those who pay the bulk of the taxes in this country. They express only rage and envy.

I do not see any good outcome to these people gaining power in a big way.

So, for the good of the poor and the good of the socialists’ very souls, it may be that it is time to renew our intellectual and moral attacks upon the “welfare state.”

On our side we have an obvious point: “welfare” is not what state aid promotes. “Welfare” is propaganda. What is done is redistribution. It is taking from some and giving to others. And its practice encourages a Tragedy of the Commons, for it is not just the poor who try to get special benefits from the tax base — there is also “welfare for the rich” and “welfare for the ‘middle class.’” Once we allow some to be expropriated for the benefits of others, then everyone tries to horn in on the act. To gain some net advantage — or at least not get too far behind.

Do I oppose the welfare state more than the warfare state? Well, the killings of our governments are in foreign lands and I do not see them. Out of sight, out of mind. While that is its own kind of horror, what I do see, every day, is the corruption of the political process, the nurturing of a free-for-all attitude, a race to the pig trough, and the increasing dependence of many, many people who could lead productive lives, if state aid were even a little less easy to obtain.

So, these days, I suspect that the “welfare state” is at least as — if not more than — insidious as the “warfare state” is.

And I think they may be linked in an interesting way. We can see the linkage in the old Guns vs. Butter argument, which became a working strategy between Republican President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill: Reagan got his military spending increases while O’Neill got his welfare state spending increases — there were almost no real cuts, just a few nips of the rate of growth. And the two parties continue this dance. To this very day. And I get this idea that one reason the bulk of leftist and on-the-dole Americans is just fine with the country’s never-ending warfare is that, well, “other people pay” and “at least we are getting our goodies.” It is the basic deal of our polity.

It is corrupt.

Both prongs need simultaneous push-back. And not just for the good of brown people overseas (though it would be good for them) but also for all of the dependents at home, of all colors. To start with, the federal government — at the very least — should get out of the subsidy game, leaving that job to the several states (who, lacking a monetary/banking back-up, will have to pinch pennies much more, and thus be far more discriminating in distributing aid) while also getting out of the World Policeman role.

To do this, the problems with both activities — subsidy and worldwide security theater — must be aired, and in some detail.

Until people understand the harm that food stamps and Medicaid and all the rest actually do, as well as the more obvious horrors of fighting wars with no intention or even possibility of victory, we will be stuck with the sheer insanity of American governance as it has been for the last six or more decades.