Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Failure of the Welfare State

I’ve been real busy and substantially distracted since shortly before our trip last month, and I’ve not been able to keep up with my normal routine, like writing/posting and reading other people’s sites. Today, I had a little time and spent it visiting old friends.

At Michael the Archangel’s site I came across a piece that shows how efforts to help people can grow out of all common sense proportions into an expensive, degrading and unsustainable welfare system.

There is a woman in Britain, Ms. Atkins, who has three daughters, ages 12, 14 and 16. All of them, even the 12 year-old, have children of their own. Ms. Atkins has been married and divorced twice, and now is single. Neither of her former husbands is the father of any of her daughters. None of the men who fathered a child with her is involved in the life of his child. She blames the school system for the predicament she and the daughters are in, complaining that the school system has done a poor job educating the daughters about sex.

Sounds too weird to be real, doesn’t it. There’s enough provocative material in the previous paragraph to write a couple of thousand words, but I’ll try to stick to the primary premise.

This group of females lives in a government-provided three-bedroom house that is estimated to cost about $60,000 a year. Ms. Atkins is not happy with that, however, because now that the three young girls each have a baby and no daddy to help out, the three-bedroom house is a little cramped. She’s asked the local government agency for a larger and presumably more costly house.

Most of us would agree that Ms. Atkins had enough control over her life to have prevented most of the factors that now cause her so much difficulty. She didn’t have to marry two men who were unsuitable as husbands. She didn’t have to divorce her husbands. She didn’t have to get pregnant. Three times. With men who weren’t her husband. She didn’t have to let her daughters indulge in behavior that would result in their pregnancy. Three times. At ages 12, 14 and 16.

But she did all of that. She was married and divorced twice, had three children with three men other than her two husbands, allowed her daughters to get pregnant at ages that are appalling, and blames the school system for not being a better mother than she was.

And despite all that Ms. Atkins did that she shouldn’t have done, and all the misery and chaos that constitutes her life, her government wants to try to help her. Such is the basic premise of modern day socialism as it relates to the Welfare State, and of what socialists see as the obligation us humans to take care of our fellow humans.

In a Welfare State government is to a greater or lesser degree responsible for its citizens' well being. In this mode of thought people should not suffer unnecessarily, and social protections should be developed and extended to those on the outside of the good life. We are all obligated to charitable acts, too often to save people from themselves.

The problem is that there seems to be no end to the help that some think people are entitled to. This concept is exemplified by Ms. Atkins’ state of affairs. Her government provides housing that amounts to $60,000 per year, and yet because of her failure to manage her life and the lives of her daughters, she thinks she needs and is entitled to more.

Carried to its logical conclusion, Ms Atkins might have more children. She is now about 36, meaning she has another 10-to-15 childbearing years. How many more children might she have? Three? Four? All of her future children might either get pregnant themselves if they are girls and get no more guidance from their mother than their older siblings (or if they are boys they might get someone else’s daughter pregnant) and Ms. Atkins might then need a house with eight to ten bedrooms, and cost far more than what her current house costs. Socialists would think that accommodating Ms. Atkins “needs” was proper and necessary. You can read the entire sordid story here.

But what if there are thousands of irresponsible women like Ms. Atkins? How much would such excesses of personal indulgence and failures of basic human responsibility cost the British government? At what point have we gone too far in keeping people who don’t give a damn about anything except their own selfish desires from “suffering unnecessarily?”

The fallacy of the Welfare State, and of socialism as it is applied to taking care of those who won’t take care of themselves, is that it not only places a tremendous, unfair and unjustifiable burden on the productive members of society, but also fosters dependency upon government that is passed on from one generation to the next.


Buffalo said...

What do you see as the solution to situations like this?

James Shott said...

First let me say that I am not at all opposed to being compassionate and helping those in need. I do not believe that this is a proper role for our government, however, and I remember the days when government left taking care of the poor and down-on-their-luck more to the private sector. Yes, there was welfare, but it was much more limited than it is today. But in the eyes of some politicians the private sector did not do a good enough job, and so the government’s role was expanded, and as government has taken on more of the responsibility, the private sector’s role has been diminished.

Now that we have substantial government participation in taking care of people, there are still poor and needy people. I think the message that we should take from that is that government isn’t doing a significantly better job today than was being done 50 years ago when the private sector was more active in that role. In a few words, government has failed to do it better than the private sector did. Government does very few things well, and even fewer things better than the private sector.

The example I cited reflects some substantial shortcomings. There must be limits placed on the benefits available from the welfare system. I can see no way to justify giving more and more taxpayer money to people like Ms. Atkins, when those people obviously do little if anything to help themselves. Folks like her are sponges, soaking up taxpayer money, and never changing their behavior and never taking responsibility for their own lives, which is the problem that welfare creates while it intends to help people. Rather than helping them to become self-sufficient, it makes them totally dependent upon the government for their sustenance. That is wrong. It isn’t good for the people it purports to help. It isn’t good for taxpayers. And, it isn’t good for society as a whole. Furthermore, that is not the role of our government, according to our Constitution.

Welfare was intended to be a temporary bridge between hard times and when people had gotten themselves back on their feet. While I still don’t think that is the proper role of our government, I am willing to make that concession to help people who, through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times. But there has to be a limit, and the limit has to be such that people are motivated to act in their own behalf, instead of just sitting around collecting government support checks.

Anonymous said...

On another note, the Schiavo autopsy was released.
From the WashPo

"Terri Schiavo suffered severe, irreversible brain damage that left that organ discolored and scarred, shriveled to half its normal size, and damaged in nearly all its regions, including the one responsible for vision, according to an autopsy report released yesterday.

Although the meticulous postmortem examination could not determine the mental state of the Florida woman, who died March 31 after a judicial and legislative battle over her "right to die," it did establish the permanence of her physical condition.

Medical examiner Jon Thogmartin said Terri Schiavo suffered 'irreversible' brain damage.

Schiavo's brain damage 'was irreversible . . . no amount of treatment or rehabilitation would have reversed' it, said Jon R. Thogmartin, the pathologist in Florida's sixth judicial district who performed the autopsy and announced his findings at a news conference in Largo, Fla...

[Months ago] House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said Schiavo "talks and she laughs and she expresses happiness and discomfort." He said she was unable to speak because "she's not been afforded any speech therapy -- none!"

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a physician, questioned the diagnosis of a persistent vegetative state for Schiavo, based on video footage of the patient, for which he was criticized by some medical authorities. Frist told reporters he had not had time to review the autopsy report."

And I doubt he'll review the autopsy report. His "diagnosis" was blatant pandering to the religious right to score support for '08. I'm not sure he even believed it.

Now, the report does state that Schiavo did not appear to have had an eating disorder, as was previously reported, and they don't know why she went into the coma. I hope the right leaves this poor guy (her husband) alone and doesn't suggest that he caused the coma, now that their argument that he beat her in the hospital has been refuted.