The DSWD’s recent Ahon program – where a total of 5 billion pesos will be doled out to various families – has gotten my goat in a major way; and my goat getting gotten has raised the question of where I stand on the concept of welfare states. More specifically, I’ve been asked:
BrianB – ROM, a related question: do you approve of social welfare for Pinoys? Do you think this will spoil them , raise their expectations. I am the sort of person who believes in minimum wage and a minimum standard of living for everyone, even if they refuse to work. What do you believe.
I believe that everyone should take responsibility for herself. Which means that, in a broad and general way, I am opposed to the concept of a welfare state. However, I also believe that the State has the responsibility to ensure that its people are not helpless. This in turn means that – while I am opposed to the welfare state – I am not opposed to system of finite welfare assistance. In other words, I don’t believe that in a “minimum wage and a minimum standard of living for everyone, even if they refuse to work.”
Bill Muehlenberg encapsulates the case against welfare states very nicely.
“Such (welfare) states presuppose economic dynamism sufficient to generate investments, job-creation, corporate profits and individuals’ incomes from which come tax revenues needed to fund entitlements. But welfare states produce in citizens an entitlement mentality and a low pain threshold. That mentality inflames appetites for more entitlements, broadly construed to include all government benefits and protections that contribute to welfare understood as material well-being, enhanced security and enlarged leisure.”
He continues, “The low pain threshold causes a ruinous flinch from the rigors, insecurities, uncertainties and dislocations inherent in the creative destruction of dynamic capitalism. The flinch takes the form of protectionism, regulations and other government-imposed inefficiencies that impede the economic growth that the welfare state requires. So welfare states are, paradoxically, both enervating and energizing – and infantilizing. They are enervating because they foster dependency; they are energizing because they aggravate an aggressive (think of burning Peugeots) sense of entitlement; they are infantilizing because it is infantile to will an end without willing the means to that end, and people who desire welfare states increasingly desire relief from the rigors necessary to finance them.”
(Not to massage my ego too much, but I’m particularly stoked that the ‘entitlement mentality’ and its cultural consequences was cited because I feel like I’ve been saying that about Filipinos for such a long time now.)
The fundamental idea being that the idea of ensuring a “minimum wage and standard of living, even to those who refuse to work” will just end up sapping the beneficiaries of this largesse of their will to work; transforming them into well-educated and amply-qualified-for-work parasites.
But then again, I did say that I am not opposed to a system of finite welfare assistance meant only to provide temporary relief to those who need help getting their lives back on track – I call them the temporarily poor. In my vision of welfare assistance, recipients of state aid will be made to report their progress towards economic self-sufficiency. At some point, if the recipient fails to meet the recovery targets, the money-faucet gets turned off.
For the genuinely poor – as opposed to the temporarily poor – state assistance should not be in the form of dole-outs but as community-based work programs. Like the welfare assistance for the temporarily poor, assistance for these people must be tied to a medium to long-term economic recovery program, properly designed and meticulously monitored.
And that leaves the pathologically poor.
I don’t know about other people, but I have no sympathy for those who remain poor by their own doing – such as the lazy, the professional squatters,and (to a somewhat lesser extent) the people who come to urban centers fully cognizant of the fact that they will merely be swelling the ranks of the urban poor (these are the people who come to manila simply to be closer to the bright lights, with no real plan for their own economic upliftment) – and for those who are refuse to do anything to cure their own ills as alcoholism, drug abuse, rampant child-bearing and so on.
So, I say we give welfare assistance to the temporarily poor and the genuinely poor (btw, I include in the category of genuinely poor the children of those who are pathologically poor). The pathologically poor, on the other hand, can suck the sweat off of a dead camel’s balls.