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. Continue Reading
It is often have pointed out — in response to suggestions that such matters be funded via charity or other non-governmental organizations — that if there is not a single, government run, consistent program to provide benefits such as unemployment insurance and health care to those who need them, there is no guarantee that people will receive the benefits that they need.
This does not surprise me. One of the reasons why we set up bureaucratic social programs is because we don’t want to accept the level of inconsistency and unfairness that can result from organically developed community systems of mutual obligation.
Some have, however, taken this argument farther and suggested that it is simply impossible for needs such as health care, unemployment, etc. to be provided through any system other than a large government run one, which spreads the risk across millions of people (and allows nearly unlimited deficit spending.) It’s all very well to want personal mutual obligation to take care of things, I’m told, but you simply can’t deal with some issues that way.
I disagree. It is possible to take care of all of these things at the community level through mutual obligation. And there is a test case which we can look at to see how that looks. The Amish applied to congress to receive an exemption from social security.
A decrease in solidarity means people have fewer resources to turn to in time of crisis.
With a decrease in solidarity, a man either makes it on his own or fails on his own.
If a man is struggling to make it on his own, a child becomes an unwelcome hindrance. A child is an economic drain, and if a man has no other resources, a child might destroy his chances of success.
Thus it should come as no surprise that programs to provide economic aid to poor soon-to-be-parents would decrease abortion rates to some extent.
One of the great principles that tends to be ignored in our debates about economics, social justice, and governmental involvement in the lives of the people is solidarity. We argue about how involved the government should be in our lives, what kinds of safety nets it should provide, and to what extent it should mandate and appropriate in order to provide for the most needy of society. We argue about how well certain economic theories–capitalism, Keynesian economics, socialism, etc.–work in providing justice, or even providing just shelter and food. We argue about subsidiarity, and how it should be practiced, and while that touches on solidarity, it doesn’t fully overlap.
One of the arguments about governmental involvement is how the aid provided is cold and distant. By the time the welfare check is spat out of the massive, convulsing, bureaucratic mess that is the government, any principle of charity has been rendered flat. The recipient is a name on the list, judged worthy to receive a handout based upon an entry in a database. At first this seems like an argument of aesthetics. If a man receives a welfare check from the government rather than from friends in the community or local charities, he still receives the money he needs to survive. Yet there is a deeper problem here than merely looking at from whom the money comes, or how much charity exists in the entity delivering assistance. The continual reliance on the federal government to solve our problems aids in the breakdown of solidarity.
Is it any wonder that we have become so polarized, so factious, so estranged?