I prefer to call the “welfare state” the transfer state, because that characterization leaves open the question of whether a government which engages in large-scale transfers of money from one group to another actually increases human welfare. I am skeptical, mostly because the transfer state is always in danger of creating a polity dominated by faction. It can in fact sustain the war of all against all—the very phenomenon that the state is supposed to prevent.
I never see the International Herald Tribune except in airport lounges or in the lobbies of hotel where it seems to be given away like improving literature or left as missionaries were once said to leave tracts on trains in the hope of converts. And thus it was, the other day, that I happened upon a copy and, having a few minutes to wait, read it.
The cartoon in the paper was what mainly sparked my interest. It showed Pope Francis, arms outstretched in a gesture of ecumenical welcome, his face beaming with self-approbation, denying that he was one to judge a homosexual. To his side and slightly behind him was a woman demanding to know about his attitude to women.
If cartoons are supposed to raise a laugh this one failed by quite a wide margin but there was nevertheless a certain amount of irony in it, though I suspect that it was unintended. For the woman was dressed in a T-short, her body was pear-shaped and her countenance, framed by a pudding-bowl coiffure of black hair, was that of an angry, belligerent and above all self-righteous termagant.