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Social & Political Philosophy, Uncategorized

The Societal Safety Net – Iris and Daniel

Ron Paul’s idea would’ve been to remove the safety net that so many people have come to rely on, and replace it with private charities that people could donate to on their own free will. Based on 2010 figures, the “safety net” cost the federal government 900 billion. Matching that would require roughly $3000 per American citizen per year.

Basically, each and every single one of us would have to shell out $3000 in order to keep up all the public services we partake in (and don’t partake in) every day. That’s my life savings.

In a society like ours, there’s an ever-increasing line of luxury that defines a comfortable lifestyle. Is it our responsibility as those meeting that standard to help those less fortunate to achieve that standard? Is it even an achievement that a society should be working towards?

A few decades ago, television was a luxury. If you had a TV, you were instantly the cool kid that everyone wanted to hang out with. Nowadays, it’s not a question of whether you have a TV or not, it’s a question of whether you have an LCD, LED, or Plasma screen and whether you have a PVR or not. Luxury is like a drug – the more we partake in adorning ourselves with the latest fad, the more it takes to get us high the next time the new thing comes around. Are these luxuries necessary for in order to be functional members of society, and thus do they define the true line of living that one must meet to be a functional part of society?

There are systematic flaws in our welfare system. Registered homeless people, for example, receive monthly pension from the government. What put those people on the streets in the first place? Giving those people money won’t help them if they continue spending it on what put them there in the first place. What the government instead should focus on is providing the bare necessities to live instead of assuming that everyone has the ability to make those choices on their own.

Now let’s look at somewhere where the all this could add up to. Denmark follows the Scandinavian welfare model, a basic principle that guarantees education and health care for all, and  “flexicurity,” a model which “successfully manages the challenges of globalisation and secures steady economic growth and employment.” As stated in their own website, the Danes are aware, and perhaps even proud of their world-leading tax levels.

In the end, the question is whether the social safety net is a viable and feasible project to keep running or should it be from the goodness of our hearts to provide for those less fortunate than us, if at all?



3 thoughts on “The Societal Safety Net – Iris and Daniel

  1. The question of the safety net is inextricably tied to the idea of self-direction and enlightenment. In my opinion, the safety net pensions are geared in a way that assumes that the average homeless individual is indeed trying to get back up on their feet. What the safety net also assumes, however, is that, although some homeless and poverty stricken individuals do have the mindset capable of recovering from their situation, others on a fundamental level do not have the drive to do the same. It would be safe to say that most homeless people are self driven, but the direction in which they strive varies. For the homeless who cannot turn themselves towards recovering from the situation or otherwise do not want to, the safety net does little to help. The net, however, does sustain their current way of living and thinking. I think the problem lies here. With the removal of the safety net, those who have been subsisting on it and not striving to recover will have no other options. Just my two cents.

    Posted by DerekW | January 18, 2013, 6:17 am
    • You bring up an interesting point here, Derek, that we didn’t really get into in the initial post. Like you said, the money is enough to support their current way of living, though that “living” may be on the line. Is giving them enough money to survive enough? Moreover, if they choose NOT to seek help from private or government programs, can and should the government enforce it on them? Each person is entitled to their own choices and their own way of living, to a certain extent.

      Posted by irishung | January 18, 2013, 7:31 am
      • I think that this is quite interesting. What is the appropriate role of government in the lives of its citizens? One could argue that a government’s role is to maintain as Locke said, “Life, Liberty, and Property” but the first two points themselves seem almost contradictory in this case. If a government’s obligation to its citizens, in exchange for its mandate, is to protect one’s right of life then the government should be obligated to enforce its welfare programs onto those who refuse them, yet require them in order to live. However, by doing that then the government has broken its contract with the people to protect their rights to liberty. So, that leaves us with a conundrum, what is appropriate in this case? To quote a famous person, “Yes the medicine is harsh [referring to the violation of a human’s right to liberty], but the patient requires it in order to live. Should we without the medicine?” In her case she answered yes, but it’s certainly a highly ambiguous area.

        Posted by riczhang | January 18, 2013, 7:46 pm

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