Montréal, 6 janvier 2001  /  No 74
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Dr. Younkins is a Professor of Accountancy and Business Administration at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.
by Edward W.Younkins
          Individuals have a natural right to security according to its meaning at the time America was founded. The original idea was to have state protection against external aggression without regard to the level of wealth of respective individuals. This type of security forms the foundation of the concept of personal autonomy and includes security of possession, freedom of contract, and security of exchange. This notion of security has been expanded and transformed over time, especially during the 20th century.
          Modern expansions and redefinitions of « security » have led to the downplaying of the classical conception of negative liberty and to an upgrading of the idea of positive liberty. Security, in the minds of many, now means protection from physical privation; the assurance of a minimum level of sustenance, standard of life, and income; the right to useful and renumerative work; the right to earn enough to provide sufficient food, clothing, and housing; the right to adequate healthcare; the right to a good education; protection from economic risks of sickness, accidents, unemployment, and old age; and so on. 

          The new meaning of security renounces the old one. When a nation undertakes the protection of individual citizens' minimum standard of living, then certain people receive priority, thus increasing the risks for others. Providing economic security for some special interest groups increases the overall economic insecurity for the general population. The provision of security includes both cash transfers and various types of regulation. The extent of government action increases when different types of failures are chosen for special protection. 

          Some call for the redistribution of wealth in the name of economic justice. Others believe that the government can and should step in to solve society's problems. The underlying premise of both is that the world is perfectible and that man has the means to perfect it through the institution of government and the reason of its leaders. 
A risky and uncertain world 
          We live in a world of risk and uncertainty. People want and lobby for security. In our democratic society, the demand for security has expanded immeasurably. Many people fear freedom and the burden of responsibility. People's personal responsibility has been undermined by government programs. As government has taxed people more to take care of them, people's ability to take care of themselves has diminished. 
          Scarcity always establishes constraints on what individuals can possess. It is not possible for all legitimate human desires to be satisfied. It is also not possible to eliminate all risks. There is no way to legislate risk out of existence. 
          In addition, there is an innate inequality of men with respect to their mental and physical abilities. People are individuals with regard to their minds and bodies. Each member of the human community possesses inborn differences. It follows that, because every person is unique, they gravitate in different directions in their pursuit of happiness. It is also obvious that individuals can only flourish and realize their individual potentialities if they are permitted to control their own lives free of outside coercion. Capitalism and democracy have emerged as means for creating the conditions required for personal flourishing. 
          Unfortunately, during the 20th century, the government has increasingly controlled people's daily lives. Individual freedom has been sacrificed for a system of rules through which politicians impose their views on what is best for us. The result has been more people placing less and less value on liberty and who increasingly endorse the state's regulation of their lives. 
          Risk-averse people are likely to prefer the assurance, certainty, and protection offered by our government-sponsored welfare programs including publicly administered healthcare, retirement, and unemployment insurance arrangements. Citizens in democracies tend to be unwilling to forfeit the protections offered to them even when those protections are of low quality and produced inefficiently and at high cost. 

     « We need to demonstrate how private insurance markets can do a better job at handling insurable risks than can a welfare state system. Risk-averse people need to be convinced that they will fare better in a society governed by a minimal state. » 
          Certainly, the preservation of security is one of the major goals of a social order. However, we need to return to the more narrow classical definition that universally respects security of person, possession, and exchange. The use of state coercion against force and fraud promotes these three securities. Conversely, when the state promotes positive freedom and positive economic rights, it fosters the type of insecurity and public force that a legitimate political and legal system forbids. Practically, everything done by our current interventionist government violates someone's natural rights. 
Private cooperation is better 
          It is a fact of reality that people want protection from nature's uncertainties. People long for security against the vicissitudes of life. The legitimate purpose of government is not to rectify all of the insecurities experienced by citizens. The only conceptually and morally justifiable security that a proper state can provide is security of the person, of possession, and of exchange. It is thus essential to strip government down to its essential functions and restore the individual liberty that has withered away in the name of democracy. The freedom that accompanies a proper government cannot guarantee anything except the right to try to achieve one's dreams. The system most conducive to the flourishing of the human person is the one that governs least. 
          Not only do we have to make the conceptual and moral case for the classical conception of liberty, we also need to identify the concrete types of security people crave in both the classical and modern senses and explain how most of them will be more available and better provided in a free market. We need to demonstrate how private insurance markets can do a better job at handling insurable risks than can a welfare state system. Risk-averse people need to be convinced that they will fare better in a society governed by a minimal state. People need to be persuaded that private insurance markets can supply protection that is superior to that provided by the Social Security system, government-sponsored welfare programs, and other state-run insurance arrangements. The case must be made that the private sector can do a better job in addressing uncertainty and risk. People need to be assured that the private sector has greater incentives and more flexibility than the public sector and that it should be permitted to increase its efforts to supplant the state's social welfare programs such as health care, disability benefits, old-age benefits, etc. 
          Currently, the state impedes citizens' concern for others that is crucial to personal maturation and flourishing by substituting for personal charity. The state permits people an excuse to avoid charity thus placing an obstacle to individuals' actualization with respect to their potentialities that are other-directed. All of us are social in the sense that our flourishing requires a life with others. 
          In addition, the state assures people that they will be helped if they become needy. Presently, there is a tendency for people not to trust private charity. As a result, in order to attain the certainty of aid, they are willing to accept the inefficiencies of the public welfare system. A convincing case needs to be made that the state is an inappropriate avenue for people's redistributive impulses and that private charity will fill the gap when private insurance arrangements do not adequately cope with life's probabilistic aberrations. 
          We need to paint an appealing portrait of what life would be like in a free society – one in which participation in markets and other voluntary associations are encouraged. We need to demonstrate how the moral-cultural system, buttressed the mediating structures of family, church, private charities, schools, and other voluntary associations, provides a preferable outlet for people's desires to take part in civil society. Things can be done publicly without being done governmentally. What is required is a free market that is circumscribed by a set of ideas and values provided by institutions such as churches, schools, the family, the media, and so on. When left free, people tend to be social, helpful, and compassionate. Civil society offers much greater and better chances for meaningful self-expression and participation than does the political sphere. 
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