Poverty is a signal of the failure to acquire suitable resources for the achievement of oneБs ends. Since life in this world is always marked by the limitation of resources relative to the ends we desire to achieve, poverty is relative. The poor person is simply unable to sustain his or her own life. , and each individual case of poverty must be dealt with according to that reason. If we wish to help the poor, what should be our ultimate goal? Is it merely to provide the needed resources so that the impoverished person can achieve his or her personal ends? I do not think so. Human beings ought to be treated with dignity and respect. When we think about what this ought to entail we can begin to answer these questions. As individual people who have individual value and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, what result would best promote human dignity? The obvious answer is that if we recognize the inherent value of the individual we would aim to restore that person to a condition of personal freedom and independence. Our goal would be to raise the poor to a place where they are personally responsible for their own lives.
Who among us wishes to live out his or her life as a perpetual child who is told by some authority what he may and may not have and what he may or may not do? Such a condition is simply not fitting for a human being. Despite this goal, there is evidence that rather than promoting independence of the poor,. Indeed, there may be a strong tendency in us to prefer participating in supposed acts of kindness that create this sort of dependency. This tendency is not hard to understand. Most of us have experienced the joy of helping someone else out of a difficult situation. To be sure, our ability to empathize with others gives us ample incentive to engage in acts of charity. However, if we are not careful about keeping the ultimate goal in mind, we can easily fall into the trap of trying to enslave others to our supposed charity in order to make us feel good about ourselves. In our pride we can even suppose ourselves to be somehow better people than those we seek to help.
But this turns charity on its head, and it becomes one hundred and eighty degrees opposite of what it should be. One of the saddest things that may result from such dependency is when the recipients of such welfare acquiesce to it and. Such acceptance is degrading of human nature and leads inevitably to moral reprobation. Moreover, those maintaining the poor in that condition are likewise degrading themselves, for they are most likely to imagine themselves as saviors of the world, never realizing that poverty can easily befall any of us. As a result of such pride they are likely to become conceited, arrogant, and condescending. Society cannot flourish when this happens.
If we go in thinking the worst of people, then we design ugly solutions. The bad: Work requirements for welfare recipients. On principle, this effort was laudable and, in fact, was widely seen as a positive step. In 1996, in a deal brokered by President Clinton and Newt Gingrich, the was passed, with a primary objective of moving people off of the government rolls and into the workforce.
In one aspect, it was a huge success; welfare rates plummeted. But the work requirement for those on welfare did not increase substantially. Why? Because it was designed for the wrong problem. If the problem was lazy people who were taking advantage of the system, then the work requirement provides the proper incentive. However, if the issue was something like increases of single mothers who have few options for affordable day care or preschool, then requiring them to work only exacerbates their problem. The ugly: If we go in thinking the worst of people, then we design ugly solutions. This is most apparent with that will require drug tests for food stamp recipients. What signal does this send? It suggests pretty blatantly that we have a strong suspicion that many, if not most, food stamp recipients are drug users and that we shouldn t waste funds on people who are engaged in such activities. That is no way to move people ahead. It just drives them further away.
It comes with little surprise then that we as Americans have a schizophrenic view of our government s role in helping people achieve the Dream. After all, we re merely a reflection of how our political leaders see and talk about their own roles. At a 30,000-foot level, more progressive politicians see government s role as trying to create systems to help people do better or fix broken systems that hold people back. On the flip side, more conservative politicians will suggest that these systems actually get in the way of people trying to get ahead and should largely be minimized or removed. In fact, in research conducted to understand how the two major parties thought about health, when staffers from each party were asked to create visual metaphor portraits of how they think people become healthier, this is exactly what we saw. Liberals produced pictures of cogs and machines and containers and systems. Conservatives put together pictures of roads and paths where people encounter barriers in need of overcoming or removal.