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Abstractly speaking, under conditions of perfect fairness, no. Everybody makes as much as they make; no more, no less. (So this is why analytic propositions seem to appeal so much to Randians!)

Less abstractly speaking, but not by much, the government is by nature an extractive institution which rules as it pleases under the threat of overwhelming force. If sovereignty were a coin and one side of it were military protection against outside invaders, the other side would be the right to impose laws and to demand taxes from its employees. It can be justifiable if it wields those forces to prosocial ends, but in itself it's not just, it's cold hard inescapable force. Of course, it can do whatever it wants with the tax money, including giving it to the poor. So for the callous, there's a justification for welfare spending: might makes right.

Even less abstractly, some theoretical aspects of modelled economic behaviour tend to break down when it comes to extreme poverty, because after all humans have needs, and either they fulfill them or they die. Poverty can be a catch-22. To have money, you have to work; to work, you have to be healthy; to be healthy, you have to be well-fed, sheltered from the elements, clean, and ready to fend off illness with the use of medications; to have access to these things, you need to have money. Start over again. Or, here's another one! To get a white-collar job, you have to have a CV and show up for an interview, in which moderately well-off people are going to make a better impression than the homeless. (Nice smell, nice suit, good teeth, good health, no bleeding wounds or scars, no loud stomach growling etc.) If people can't get out of these downward spirals, it doesn't matter how many opportunities may exist at higher socioeconomic levels. These people are essentially out of the economic circuit. Labour force can be lost to squalor, disease, crime, hunger, and death.

So I don't know about fair, but it sure is practical, from an eagle's eye perspective on the system.

Not sure that charity is, in this day and age, a suitable replacement for a welfare system. As far as the uppermost classes are concerned, a common strategy vis a vis the poor is to shelter themselves from their world, to forget they even exist. To get a snobby socialite interested in charity you would have to organize it as a social event that provided an opportunity to showcase everybody's latest conspicuous consumption. Otherwise, import the Catholic Church. Only the effective altruist movement can be said to represent a step away from that state of affairs, and it's still not best equipped to deal with the structural reasons for poverty.

Personally, the moment the money is out of rich people's hands after taxation, it's no longer their business where it goes to, whether it's welfare or parks or roads or the military -- of course, ignoring the small matter that the government itself tends to be composed of mostly rich people.

The minutiae of how the government goes about the redistribution -- how much is being redistributed, what the criteria are and how they are evaluated, the existence of welfare traps, the very kind of government that performs the redistribution, the tax regime and so on, these are matters more worth discussing.






Poverty can be a catch-22.


In the first-world, countries that spend the least on welfare (East Asia) have a lot less people who are visibly poor or chronically unemployed than countries that spend the most (Northern Europe). Redistribution (at least in the way it is done now) does not seem to have a positive long term effect on poverty.
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melian
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If sovereignty were a coin and one side of it were military protection against outside invaders, the other side would be the right to impose laws and to demand taxes from its employees.


*Subjects. Sorry.

See, this is why we need an edit button.
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Dahlen
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Customers and deal makers are not required to be fair in making their deals (in fact they want to favour themselfs as much as possible). Therefore it isn't obvoius to me why the state of no intervention would be the state of perfect fairness. I could argue that it is the unadultered cruelty of the unhumane world before any fairness is built into it, that is a state of 0 fairness.
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Fwiffo
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