First person that giggles at my hand drawings gets a mean look. My computing facilities are somewhat lacking…
This of course is only a cartoon, but a helpful one of one of the proofs the Reverend Thomas Malthus used in his An Essay on Population to show government handouts beget increasing government handouts. Malthus believed, and history thus far vindicates, there were only two possible forms of human community: one in which most are comparatively (or relatively) poor and one in which everyone is absolutely poor. Laws designed under the influence of Benevolence must lead to the latter.
I was reminded of this proof in David Stove’s what?-you-haven’t-read-it-yet What’s Wrong With Benevolence?.
We start at  with a small class of Poor who are to be fed, clothed, sheltered, cell-phoned, cable-TVed, and so forth by Government with funds provided by the Taxed. Government extracts wealth, keeps a portion for itself (this step is oft forgotten), and dispenses the rest to the Poor. At this level, the portion the Government keeps is small and the disparity in wealth between Poor and Taxed, while it exists, is small and feels natural: there are rich, mostly middle class, and a few poor.
But since some of the Taxed are not rich, are just above the Poor threshold, and that these At Risk receive some of their wealth from those richer than themselves, who are now surrendering that wealth to Government, and they themselves are unable to afford the tax burdens, some fall into Poverty.
By  the class of Poor has grown. This necessitates Government asking the Taxed to “pay their fair share”, i.e. politicians take a larger bite. By this point, the disparity in wealth which once seemed natural and almost invisible has grown noticeable; people wonder how to “correct” it. The Government swells in size and power as more wealth comes under its control: a smaller proportion of taxes are given to the Poor, but this is masked by “borrowing from the future.” Those At Risk struggle harder than before, and more fall into Poverty.
After a while [n], the class of Poor is large and its maintenance becomes painful. The Taxed are excessively burdened; many make devils’ bargains with Government to forestall the inevitable, which has the effect of increasing Government power. The wealth disparity is now glaring, with loud calls for it to be eliminated, by force if necessary. Government, fattened by the many iterations of Taxes, becomes powerful enough to insist on this. It deduces the only way to remove the disparity is by resorting to community of property, where all share equally in the wealth (except the class of necessary leaders). This happy phrase convinces the majority, and away we go into communism once again.
Now this feedback cycle is exactly what happened when England first created its Poor Laws. From Benevolence (emphasis original):
[T]o the immense puzzlement of almost everyone, it was found that the proportion of the population receiving money under the laws (and consequently, of course, the burden of those who paid the tax) always increased. [p. 46]
[For this proof all] that Malthus actually assumed were certain elements of human psychology, as past experience has disclosed them to be. Namely, he assumed an instinct of hunger in all; a sexual instinct in virtually all; a plentiful supply of laziness in the vast majority; and no shortage anywhere of selfishness, stupidity, or short-sightedness. There is, indeed, no rational way to proceed, as Malthus himself says, except on the assumption that human beings will be what past experience has uniformly shown them to have been.
The history of the Twentieth Century is known well enough. But why haven’t we yet (again) “spun down” into the depths? Because new forms of wealth created by advancing technology have propped up the system, enriching many and forestalling outright decline. Stove credits gasoline and electricity. Our age has its own amazements, but just think how long it took the Government to reach in and grab (i.e. “regulate”) the Internet, a process still unfolding. Technology can also hurt: machines are slowly replacing workers at the bottom of the scale, and now some in the middle. It is only a matter of faith, and a hope against the evidence of human history, that “progress” leads only to improvement. Change is not always that which we can believe in.
The poor must not and cannot be ignored. So what is the Solution? Well, the (old) Christian one, which is to say, private, preferably local, charity. Individuals (or groups of them) undirected by Government can choose how much and when to give. They know better than Government just how much charity they can bear and where it is best placed, and when they give they are unlikely to sink into poverty.
This approach strengthens rather than weakens families, and families are a strong defense against poverty. Forcing somebody to “donate” is not charity, a logical fact socialist clergy members should recall. Yet with the disappearance of the family and retreat of religion, all people see is Government.
Just a sketch, just a sketch…
Update Real-life current example: Conservatives don’t want to face reality of inequality.
Update CBO shows latest welfare effort, Obamacare, to kill a few million jobs. White House says this is a good thing. No, really.
In other words, it’s not that employers will be offering 2.5 million fewer jobs. It’s that ObamaCare, by subsidizing low earners and expanding Medicaid for the very poor, will incentivize 2.5 million people not to work.