Contemporary debate over public welfare policy is often cast in Kantian terms. It is argued, for example, that respect for the dignity of the poor requires public aid, or that respect for their autonomy forbids it. In some recent political discourse, the views of Kant himself have been invoked in defense of public welfare provision. Some have argued that his moral theory mandates welfare as an expression of our duty to be beneficent, or that Kant's commitments to freedom require public provision of aid to those in need. These implications are thought to be reflected in his political theory in a variety of ways.
However, at no point in his political works does Kant explicitly argue for the public provision of welfare on the basis of either beneficence or freedom. These omissions are the more striking because he does explicitly endorse the public provision of welfare. But the rationale for welfare he offers is that it is instrumentally necessary for the security and the stability of the state. This approach is very different from one grounded in moral duties of beneficence or respect for freedom, and may perhaps be disappointing to those who would like to establish some more hortatory moral rationale for welfare. But if Kant is to be enlisted in the cause of public welfare provision for the sake of beneficence or freedom, then an explanation is required why he offers no argument to that effect.