This debate is important as the new UK government embark on reform and the WWG in New Zealand consider the future direction of welfare. I will drop in a few relevant parts from both papers highlighting the arguments.
I liked this from the taxpayers alliance
In a classic work of economic history, William Baumol wrote that policy couldn’t really affect the supply of entrepreneurship – the ambitious and able would always find a way to try and get ahead – but could affect the allocation – how they tried to get ahead. In Ancient Rome it was viewed as degrading for honourable men to get ahead by working in industry or commerce, but extracting money from what we would now understand as abusing a political position was acceptable. In the early Middle Ages warfare was the best way for the nobility to improve their economic fortunes.
Personally I like the idea of people working hard to get ahead by peacefully providing goods for mass consumption through an an almost infinite number of individual personal choices rather than heading off to fight wars to enrich the nobility. Will I buy or won't I rather than will I die or won't I?
The policy exchange rebuttal analyses the basis of the debate between left and right before ripping into the statistics
For a time in the 1970s, the left thought that John Rawls had succeeded in making acompelling case for egalitarianism when he proposed that we should think of ourselves in an ‘original position’ in which we have to agree on ethical principles of social organisation without knowing what position in society each of us will occupy.Rawls said a ‘just distribution’ is the one we would all accept while we were operatingbehind this ‘veil of ignorance.’ He was under no doubt that, in these conditions, we would agree to share resources equally.But no sooner had Rawls established this argument for equality than Robert Nozick offered an equally compelling refutation. He likened Rawls’s ‘original position’ to the situation of a group of students being asked to agree on the distribution of examination grades before starting their course.Nozick therefore proposed that we should gauge a just distribution simply by asking whether people have established a legitimate right to what they have.Philosophers like Rawls and Nozick have helped clarify our thinking about inequality, but they have clearly not resolved the ethical dilemma at the heart of the issue. In the end, we are still left wrestling with our own consciences. If we privilege the needy, we undermine the deserving. If we recognise just deserts, the needy gounheeded.From this perspective, what really matters is not equality of outcomes, butequality of opportunity.
Redistribution, like aid is useful for solving short term problems but ultimately does not make a community more cohesive or happier, it just drags back the wealth creators, to the detriment of all. (changed last sentence)