Solidarity and the Welfare State
An interesting look at Paul Ryan by Father Barron based upon the twin poles of Catholic social teaching: subsidiarity and solidarity. It is easy to see how the welfare state, consolidating ever more power in the central government, is destructive of subsidiarity. What is often overlooked however, is how destructive the welfare state tends to be also of solidarity.
1. A welfare state by its nature needs government employees, and lots of them. We are seeing in our time how the interests of these employees and the populations they purportedly serve often clash. Think, for example, teachers unions and school choice.
2. A welfare state, once it reaches a large enough size, becomes a crushing burden on the economy. Paradoxically, the welfare state which is meant to alleviate poverty, ends by increasing it.
3. As governmental power and scope grows through a welfare state, elections tend to become much more important to ever larger segments of the population, as society increasingly divides between those who receive benefits and those who pay the taxes to provide the benefits.
4. By increasing dependence upon government, the welfare state lessens the initiative among a great many people to not only improve their own lot through their efforts, but also the lot of their families.
5. Welfare states tend to become substitute husbands for low-income women and substitute fathers for the children born to single low-income women. The impact upon illegitimacy rates is as obvious as it is destructive of the family, the basic building block of solidarity in any society.
6. Welfare benefits tend to foster a sense of entitlement and an unwillingness to tolerate any diminution of such benefits for the common good, even when a country is careening toward bankruptcy.
7. Welfare states tend to involve ever-increasing domination of society by those who write the rules that govern the welfare state and administer it. Rather than societies governed by debate and compromise, government diktat becomes the order of the day.
8. Welfare states, because of their scope and power, inevitably threaten basic human freedoms. The HHS mandate, devised by President Obama for a cheap political advantage this election year, is a prime example.
9. Welfare states dull the desire of people to engage in charitable activities, and take ever greater sums from the populations they exist upon, depleting the funds available for charity.
10. Solidarity is possible only in societies which view their people as adults, capable of working together for the common good. Welfare states tend to view populations as clients who must be led into paths that the controllers of the welfare states deem desirable.
One of the great questions of this century will be what comes after the welfare states, which are manifestly dying. The beginning of an answer would be to consider what contributes in a society to true solidarity and what does not.