abstract Even if a state would have been perfectly within its rights not to provide for people's welfare at all, it might still be wrong for it to exercise that discretion conditional upon something that claimants do (like ‘look for work’). What might make some conditions morally permissible and others impermissible? One answer is in terms of the consonance of the condition with the purposes of the policy. If a policy is supposed to be for one purpose — or, morally, if it can be justified only by reference to one purpose — then that policy must not impose conditions that are appropriate only to some other purpose. It is an improper exercise of power for public officials to tack wholly inappropriate conditions onto programmes justified on some other grounds altogether. Tacking labour-market conditions onto policies that are ostensibly designed to promote people's welfare can be a case in point.