Before we start to talk about the pros and cons of this question, it is probably best to be sure everyone is on the same page and define social policy. Social policy is the study of social services and the welfare state. Social policy looks at the idea of social welfare specifically related to issues of:
- policy and administration of social services, including policies for health, housing, income maintenance, education and social work;
- needs and issues affecting the users of services, including poverty, old age, health, disability, and family policy; and
- the delivery of welfare.
Now that the basic elements of social welfare are out on the table, let me elaborate on my question. Should citizens, who have not worked and paid taxes, be eligible to receive health, housing, income maintenance, education and social work services? Note, this question does not include the current highly emotional question of whether aliens should receive social policy benefits. This is a question for another article.
As we begin to look at the pros and cons of social policy in this country, we need to understand that there are reform proponents and reform opponents. The proponents are advocates of a welfare to work agenda and the reform opponents position is to look at social policy from the perspective of the ordinary man, not from the perspective of the independently wealthy or upper class.
The social policy reform proponents believe they can move the poor from a state of dependence on the system to a place of independence resulting in progress toward achievement of the social policy goal of economic self-reliance and independence for all. They believe social reform policies should reward individuals for working rather than paying them not to work (welfare).
Reform opponents, on the other hand, assail these objectives as purely philosophical beliefs which are emotionally motivated and conceptually incoherent. The opponents align themselves with the principles of a classless society and draw much of their beliefs from feminist theory. They are critics who mock most of the conventional notions of economic desert. They find fault with market measures of value. They emphasize the pervasiveness of interdependence and unearned benefits within free market societies.
The notion of interdependency is a critical issue for consideration in answering the question posed in this article. In reality no member of society can totally achieve full personal and economic independence from others. Even though wealthy eccentrics and most of James Bond’s nemeses try, all of us rely on others in more than one way or another. So, in the end the discussion and debate on self-reliance and dependency becomes a matter of kind and degree.
In a paper called, “Social Welfare, Human Dignity, and the Puzzle of What We Owe Each Other”, which is scheduled to be published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, it suggests that the policy debate should be reframed to- what are the distinctions ordinary people make between constructive citizenship and social parasitism? This is an interesting set of parameters and may require further definition before it can be debated well.
What is a constructive citizenship? If you define constructive to mean productive then constructive citizenship is a state where the status quo is that citizens are productive. Taking the same approach to define social parasitism begets the definition of a citizen who is a scrounger, a freeloader, or bloodsucking part of society.
The debate that is going on between the reform proponents and opponents is not an easy or simple debate to win but, if it is approached in a scholarly manner, adding the new thoughts and ideas coming from research, it should add new and fresh material for the social policy makers to think about.
This article is offering you the chance to learn whether you are a social policy reform proponent or opponent and to be heard in this debate. Take a few minutes to select two of the statements below that BEST describe how you feel on the issue. Got it? Ready? OK, go.
1. I believe everyone in this country needs to work and pay taxes in order to be eligible for assistance from the government.
2. I believe eligibility for government assistance should be based on a case by case basis.
3. I believe requiring people to work will improve our economy.
4.I believe everyone should be treated equally.
If you circled both 1 & 2, you are a Reform Opponent
If you circled both 3 & 4, you are a Reform Proponent
If you circled, 1 & 3 or 2 & 4, you are an Undecided – neither a strong proponent nor strong opponent
I asked 7 friends and family members to answer the survey and got these results:
4 were Reform Proponents – ( 3 male respondents, 1 female)
2 were Undecided – (both female)
1 was a Reform Opponent – (female)
Now, to make this a socially meaningful experience, please log out and and post your honest comments about whether you are a Social Policy Reform Proponent, Opponent, or Undecided. Please indicate your sex so we can begin to see if there is a gender difference in opinion. I personally suspect there may be.
If you have time, tell us why you feel the way you do and…this is the best part, tell us what you think will fix the situation. Your honest comments about your position on social policy reform in our country would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Wax, Amy L., “Social Welfare, Human Dignity, and the Puzzle of What We Owe Each Other” . Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Forthcoming Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=478561 or DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.478561