The state and collective good

by Paul Burmeister

When an elected leader of the state says that top priority for social programs run by the state is to safeguard taxpayer dollars and not to make sure people get help, he is misplacing the state's mission in providing protections for its citizenry.  When he calls out a distinction between people who warrant the state's help and people who don't by using peculiar definitions for categories of "able-bodied" people, his rhetoric suggests that all people are in control of their own welfare, which is specious, in view of experience that shows many people are not, for a variety of reasons.

If help is to be good and effective, both for the giver (as a noble burden) and for the receiver (as needed aid), then it must necessarily involve a degree of messiness or looseness not comfortable to business models of efficiency or accountability. The more one's help for another is restrained by business concepts or by warrants the more help becomes limited—philosophically and practically. Help becomes less noble for the giver and more stigmatized for the receiver.

(This post prompted by Tony Judt's Ill Fares the Land, 2010.)