I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Welfare state

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.


Filed under: musings, politics, society, , ,

6 Responses

  1. cvj says:

    Does your statement cover the pathologically poor among the rich?

  2. rom says:

    cvj: haha. you are, of course, aware that the rich do not generally qualify for any sort of welfare assistance. LOL!

  3. BrianB says:

    “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)”

    A very small minority of these “sort of people” are actually better off in the provinces where the poor are really hungry and actually starve. Just because food comes from the provinces does not mean there are plenty to eat there. Just compare dump sites. In the rural areas, you wouldn’t find “tira” in a dump site as huge as the smoky mountain. Here i Manila there is “tira” everywhere.

    Re Work programs – what do you do when a person actually refuses to work or only gets bullied to show up in metroaide weater but refuses to do his job. Do you threaten that person with starvation. My question is intended to test your thresh hold for what it means to be a civilized human. To you, apparently, civilization is about exchanging goods for something, food for work, money for goods, goods for money. In my view, a fundamental underpinning of civilization is the collective policy we call Human Rights. These human rights are non-negotiable and they are unconditional, though many people believe they are, including the Catholic Church ( freedom of speech with responsibility).

    It would be easy to label you, ROM, a conservative. Conservatives think this way that rights come with conditions. The existence of rights is causal, meaning they are caused by a pre-condition, i.e. right to eat = work or money. I m over-simplifying but it’s a good start for further discussion (I am assuming you will not leave the blogosphere any time soon :))

  4. shiro says:


    i don’t see a Human Right to be indolent though Brian.

  5. rom says:

    brianb: i really don’t believe that people starve out in the provinces, man. I’ve been there and lived there for a time and while the people there may not have the kind of food that we have, there is always food to be had. but that’s not really the point.

    the point is that alot of people come to manila and other urban centers even when they are not hungry in the provinces.

    your ‘test’ does not gauge my level of civilization as much as it gauges the level of my utopian tendencies. In a utopia, no one is allowed to starve. In real life, you allocate your resources. Like I said, the genuine poor get support, but it must not be an eternal dole. The dole must come with an upliftment program that will wean the poor from dependence on hand-outs.

    the temporarily poor get the same, with a much shorter duration and a more demanding recovery program.

    the pathologically poor – the ones you seem to think deserve money or food for nothing – will have to survive on their own, with minimal state intervention. After all, what can you do with someone who refuses to help himself?

    So do you threaten him with starvation? No, you don’t. You let him discover that by himself. Civilization, my friend, does not mean tolerating parasitism.

    And speaking of human rights, one of the most fundamental is the human right to dignity. And dignity can be defined as self-sufficiency and independence. A work program, or a calibrated welfare assistance program reinforces that human right.

  6. […] don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with welfare support, IF given to the truly in need, and within reason. Remember, the money is going to come […]

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