You know you have hit the big time when astute readers send you interesting articles. Okay, the truth is that it’s nice to have some extra eyes and ears out there to help me not to miss too much of the news that interests me.
This story was definitely one of those items. The issue is the reduction of benefits in the Medicaid program in Missouri, but the underlying theme is just as applicable. The conclusion of the article is that while we do not really want to cut government spending on these programs, the government programs are not as effective as having good people meet the needs of the needy around them.
The question sent to me was “what do [I] think of that?”
The answer is simply that the conclusion of the article is correct. When we set up government programs to help people in need the impersonality of the programs leaves them prone to abuse on all sides. The programs get used by some to perpetuate the division of society into classes. People who don’t need the help find ways to channel the money into their own pockets in various ways. (e.g. “hmm, section 8 provides rental assistance to low income people. If I rent to low income people I can charge rental rates at the top of the section 8 range and be assured of a constant income stream.” or “So long as I don’t save up any cash I can get the government to give me a generous allowance in foodstamps each month.”)
I do not mean to imply that everyone in the system is crooked or dishonest. I believe that is not the case, but I also believe that having an impersonal, government run solution makes it easier for those who are crooked to go unnoticed as they feed off the system. The only way a government run system works well is in a society where everybody is basically good and there are no leeches who try to take advantage of the system. A society like that can only be made up of people who care about their neighbors enough to notice them and help out where possible, where they put the needs of others before their own comforts. That kind of society does not require a government program because the help comes from individuals without the bureaucracy.
This does not mean that I propose that we scrap all the bulging safety nets, but it would be helpful if we understood that they are bandaids for the problems rather than solutions. The solution is to improve society and representative government cannot do that. Again, I do not propose to end representative government (if, in fact, that is still what we have) but rather I suggest that we recognize our individual responsibility in improving ourselves as a means to improve society.