As I was doing my daily routine of checking the news headlines, I stumbled upon an article out of the state of Michigan that addressed the issue of Welfare. The article acknowledges that many people are running out of Welfare and are hitting their lifetime limit of funding from the government. On October 1st, 2011, the lifetime limits became much more restrictive than in the past. The adjustment forced many people to have either exceeded their personal limit or now face a difficult situation in which they have come to the realization that they don’t have much more money coming their way. The article from a writer out of Saginaw, Michigan, explains how people are being issued notices instructing them to appeal the restrictions on welfare. One thing going through my head the entire time I was reading this article was why is the government even supplying welfare?
After discussing the idea of public goods versus private goods in lecture the other day, referencing the writings of Ackelsberg and Shanley, I thought this news article was relevant and wanted to open up the discussion to include welfare. Before we can address whether or not the government should be providing welfare, we need to outline the differences between a public good and a private good. Martha Ackelsberg and Mary Shanley detail this fine line in “Privacy, Publicity, and Power.” Aristotle’s theory seems to offer a controversial take on the public/private distinction:
Defining the public (or political) arena as the realm where free and equal citizens engage in striving together toward the common good, distinguished it from the private domain, which, he argued, was characterized by relationships of inequality, dependence, and concern for meeting the necessities of life.
I have heard arguments on both sides that the welfare program is designed for the common good (a public good if we go along with this definition) and that it was also required to meet the “necessities of life” (private). Though, over time, liberal theorists have adjusted the boundary around the powers of the government. Liberalism, where every aspect of life is private to protect people from unjust power, has it faults because there are some things that the government needs to control. At the same time, I agree with Millian Liberalism, where all aspects are private except the economy, jobs, and education; which is necessary because individuals cannot provide these large goods themselves. However, I feel that welfare, specifically, blends in between the different aspects of life (i.e. economy, jobs and family life ) and crosses between public and private. To pick a side, I do not feel that providing welfare fits into the public spectrum, even after taking the arguments of Ackelsberg and Shanley into account. Another article I read puts private goods in a different light, describing them as those for which people are in competition to consume, and are used up as a result. Income, and any fortunes and physical or mental well-being resulting from money, constitute as private goods. The government handing out a finite resource like money involves the government regulating the private spectrum, something that shouldn’t be accepted in society. ” The ‘private’ domain seems to have been to set limits on state power”, as written in the Ackelsberg and Shanley reading, and this is a case where the state power should be limited.
The system was created with the intention of helping those in need, but the welfare system has been taken advantage of. Many who do not deserve assistance are the ones receiving it and taking advantage of it. You just have to read the news to see people having more children to get more funding, get a Bridge card even if they don’t absolutely need it, and live off of Welfare knowing they will collect as long as they do not have a job. Well, the implementation of this restricted limit has thwarted the attempts of those who wish to take advantage of the system. The ones who I feel should collect are the hard-working individuals who have proven they are trying to find a better job and just haven’t had any success. The system is not meant for those who do not contribute to society. But, because of these people, hard-working tax payers are forced to pay for others to sit on the couch, unemployed. It brings me to a vital question for society: should the government continue to fund the Welfare program or not? Is it a public good that should be provided by the government or is welfare something people privately need to be responsible for?
Even though my clear political opinion on welfare is evident in this post, where does the Welfare program fall in terms of public and private goods in your opinion? If it is a public good, should these finer limitations be imposed on welfare to force people to find jobs or other means of income? If you think it is a private good, should the welfare program altogether be eliminated, or just kept for those who hold a job but still fall below the poverty line? The bottom line is this: there is a blending of the lines between public goods and private goods when it comes to welfare. This is why this issue will be debated for years to come, and many will debate whether it is even within the role of the government.