Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Welfare vs Charity

Category: Issue 22

Let’s pretend we know someone is in need.  I mean, everyone reading this knows there’s this, say, family, that is in need.  We have two ideas on the table about how to help them:

1) Let’s agree to have everyone put $100 in a fund.  We’ll have an election to see who will collect the money and deliver it to the family.  We’ll provide that person with a few percent of the fund in return for making sure everyone contributed.  If anyone refuses, either we’ll get their employer (or whoever owes them money) to put it in the fund before paying them, or else lock them in a cage for a while.  Maybe both.

2) Let’s each provide whatever we feel like providing, directly, to the family.

Many people very strongly believe that the family will benefit more if we use the first idea, which is the one our government has implemented.  Whether or not it’s an ethical plan is something they haven’t considered (isn’t it obviously unethical?) because the amount isn’t $100.  It’s more like 30 cents or maybe three cents.

But let’s pretend for a moment that there isn’t anything immoral about it.  Pretend you’re a member of the family in need.

Do you have dignity?  Do you have honor and integrity?  What is your response to the elected official bringing you money to help you out?  A fund, you have to remember, that you were forced to contribute to when you weren’t needy enough.  Are you grateful?  Or would “expectant”, “entitled”, or “demanding” be more accurate?  Perhaps you are grateful.

Now suppose that we used idea #2 instead, and you didn’t get enough money, because people just aren’t generous enough.  Are you more “demanding/expectant/entitled”, or more grateful?  Let’s suppose that you are more demanding simply because your needs haven’t been met.  You sarcastically say “Gee, Thanks A LOT!” to the people who give you quarters and pennies.  But because of that need, wouldn’t you be pretty motivated to find and engage in useful work to earn what you need?

Now let’s switch back to idea #1, where you do get enough, and it comes from an official fund.  How motivated are you in that case?

You can argue that you would be just as grateful and kind with #1 as with #2.  You can also argue that you’d be just as motivated with #1 as with #2.  If that’s true, then you’re an angel.  I know that I’m a pretty good person, but not that good, and I can’t believe that anywhere close to half the people in need are that good either.

Welfare damages motivation, which makes it impractical.  It also requires what most would consider stealing or kidnapping.  It’s an immoral and impractical solution to the problem of poverty.

Posted by Dave Scotese on 06/22 at 12:42 AM | Permalink
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