Monday, January 28, 2008

No, Seriously, That's What I Was Saying - More Thoughts On The Welfare State

Megan McArdle questions the wisdom of the Food Stamp program and determines that the system only exists to protect people from themselves.

If people are genuinely so screwed up that when given enough money to buy what they need, they fail to purchase enough food to sustain life, then what they need is not food stamps, but 24 hour supervision. If people will buy alcohol or some other unnecessary instead of feeding their children, then they are probably neglecting their children in other ways requiring a stronger intervention than an EBT card.

This is the point I clumsily tried to make last week, albeit made much more cleverly. If I was a politician, these are precisely the sort of points I'd be making. Why not have a system that empowers people to take control of their own lives, rather than a system that treats those in need like perpetual children?

I know many people- libertarians, conservatives, and even some liberals- are opposed to government hand-outs, in particular, unconditional government hand-outs. But philisophically, I'm personally coming to the point where I think we need to move beyond the traditional welfare debate. We're a wealthy enough nation that mandatory taxation that helps the less fortunate hardly seems like the most pressing problem of big government. Instead of focusing on where this money goes, why don't we take a good hard look at how it gets there. Does helping the poor really require a massive federal bureaucracy? And does helping the poor really require intrusions into their lives and restrictions on the decisions they can make?

It's important to discuss what standard of living the government should ensure or if they should ensure any standard of living at all- those of all political stripes can contribute to that discussion. But does anyone want to come forward and actually defend the system we have now? The bureaucracy, the red tape, and the subjugation of the poor to the will of government experts making decisions in their best interests? Any defenders?


Post a Comment

<< Home