Socialism And The Welfare State: Alienating Man From His Nature

Karl Marx theorized Capitalism alienated man from his nature in four ways. He felt man was alienated from the product of his labor, from the act of production, from himself (as a producer), and from his fellow man. One need not look to We Are Libertarians for a refutation of Marx’s arguments. Dr. Hoppe refutes Marx in this devastating paper.

However, I feel it is not enough to simply refute Marx. We must prove a minimal state or anarcho-capitalist society produces a better outcome for the less fortunate and is better aligned with human nature than a socialist or welfare state. Even though Marx’s Theory of Alienation is incorrect, his framework is immensely valuable in shaping the argument.

A brief summary on Marx’s Theory of Alienation.

Capitalism alienates man in four ways:

Alienation of the worker from the product of his labor: Man exchanges his labor for wages. The end product is not his creation because it originated in someone else’s mind. The value of a man is his ability to conceive an idea and through labor, bring it into existence. In a Capitalist system man struggles to do that. He does not own the result of his work.

Alienation of the worker from the act of production: In a Capitalist system man has little say in shaping the systems of production. The repetitive motions required for production offer little satisfaction in the way of a “job well done”. The nature of the system reduces man’s satisfaction down to earned wages.

Alienation of the worker from himself, as a producer: The human nature of man is not separate from his activity as a worker. The capacity of man is fully realized when he is free to create as he sees fit. Capitalism prevents him from directing his work. A boss directs his efforts and therefore he is not a producer, but a spoke in the wheel of production.

Alienation of the worker from other workers: Capitalism pits worker versus worker in a competition for higher wages. Society becomes man versus man.

So how does this help prove a minimal state or anarcho-capitalist society is more in line with human nature?  And why does it matter to libertarians?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed morality was not developed by society, but was innate. He felt morality was, “An outgrowth from man’s instinctive disinclination to witness suffering, from which arise the emotions of compassion or empathy.” These were sentiments shared with animals, and whose existence even Hobbes acknowledged. Rousseau shared the view of Adam Smith who believed the basis of ethics is located in emotions rather than reason (1759 Theory of Moral Sentiments).


If human nature is disinclined to witness suffering, then a man who witnesses suffering will take action to alleviate that instinctive emotion.

I believe this is how the concept of charity arose. We know man developed as a social creature. The history of socialization begins with individual men forming into bands. After bands, societies formed into tribes and chiefdoms, onto monarchies, and eventually states.

Bands were small hunter gatherer societies. Band members worked in tandem to provide for the group. If a group member was suffering the others would come to his aid. If we accept that Rousseau, Smith, and Hobbes are correct, group members helped each other because they were disinclined to witness suffering. As individuals began forming into larger societies, they were less likely to personally witness suffering. I imagine that as societies grew, community leaders argued for a formal system of charity. This ultimately lead to the socialist and welfare state systems of today. These systems began as a natural response to deal with man’s aversion to suffering on a larger scale. However, as man had less personal contact with suffering, he would rationally wonder how effectively his contributions were being used. Or perhaps he wished to use those contributions as a means of helping those in his immediate community (family, friends, or neighbors)?

It is my opinion, the socialist and welfare states have alienated man from his charitable nature in four ways:

1) Man is alienated from the product of his charity: He no longer witnesses the positive effect his contribution makes in relieving someone’s suffering. He understands contributions go toward helping people, but he does not have the concrete satisfaction accompanied by personally witnessing relief (Marx’s idea of a “job well done”).

Example: Seeing a hungry child eat the food bought with contributions.

2) Man is alienated from the act of charity: Man has little say in the design of the charitable system. In theory, he knows his contributions help the less fortunate, but he cannot choose how his contributions are used. He, after all, has his own immediate community members to look after. Over time he begins to view himself as little more than a revenue source in supporting the “impersonal” less fortunate.

3) Man is alienated from himself: If man’s nature is to alleviate witnessed suffering, then his nature is charitable (regardless of intent). Charity is defined as the practice of voluntary giving to those in need. The socialist and welfare states force man to contribute to his fellow man. This alienates man from his charitable nature. The state doesn’t prevent man from voluntary charity, but I argue forced contribution makes man less apt to donate privately. State coerced contributions already go toward suffering individuals, therefore he is relieved of any further need to donate.

4) Man is alienated from his fellow man: Man is forced to help his fellow man without any personal gratitude or reciprocation. He begins to view those he supports as lazy. The result is a growing sense of negativity towards the less fortunate. The division of productivity begins to form. Man begins categorizing individuals as productive or unproductive (makers vs. takers).

Psychologist, Paul Slovic, has shown that our compassion for others’ suffering is inversely proportional to the number of sufferers. This phenomenon explains why we are more distressed by the suffering of a single child than by mass genocide in Sudan. It stands to reason, the most effective way to help the less fortunate is in a localized fashion. Those closest to the sufferer would be more likely to help because not only is human nature disinclined to witness suffering, but there would be fewer sufferers to aid. The result being an increased level of compassion for individuals within community and thus a greater propensity to provide help.

What kind of system then, is most in line with human nature and increases aid to the less fortunate? It is certainly not a socialist or welfare state of forced charity. It would be a minarchist state or anarcho-capitalist society where aid is delivered via local charities and funded through voluntary contributions.

In this type of system, man would no longer be alienated from the product of his charity, from the act of charity, from himself, or from his fellow man. The system is designed in congruence with human nature, which increases the likelihood man will act in a charitable fashion. In addition, the less fortunate would be more likely to receive help. They would no longer be viewed collectively, but as individuals. Since it is human nature to have greater compassion when the number of sufferers is fewest, it is in the best interest of those in need, to be part of a system where they are viewed individually as opposed to collectively.

The less fortunate are grateful for the aid they receive, but the impersonal nature of socialist and welfare state distribution systems, prevent aid recipients from being able to personally thank donors. The system alienates the less fortunate from their fellow man. A minarchist state or anarcho-capitalist system, with locally delivered aid, would allow them to have direct contact with those who provided relief. No longer would the less fortunate be viewed as a class of “takers”, but as grateful individuals who are down on their luck and need a helping hand.

It is time to rethink the modern socialist and welfare state. What began as a system to alleviate human suffering has grown into a monstrosity which alienates man from his fellow man and opposes human nature.

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Greg Lenz is a reformed Conservative. I've slowly evolved my position from Conservative Republican to it's current status of Libertarian Republican. I'm aware people hate the Libertarian Republican label, but ultimately I'm a pragmatist. Economic issues are my primary concern therefore I do support Republican candidates from time to time (Rand Paul 2016). As of late, I find myself flirting with Minarchism. The writings of William F. Buckley, Ayn Rand, and Thomas Jefferson have played the biggest role in shaping my beliefs.

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