“Anyone who can walk to the welfare office can walk to work.”
“Programs that are labeled as being for the poor, for the needy, almost always have effects exactly the opposite of those which their well intentioned sponsors intend them to have.”
“One of the consequences of such notions as entitlements is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.”
Situation of poverty varies from one society to another. Poverty could be widespread in one society–i.e., the general condition of the people–while only limited in another. In countries where the majority of the people are poor, their governments are commonly the culprit as massive graft and corruption prevails in all levels from the local to the national. There is rampant exploitation of the common people to the point of utter disempowerment by fascist and para-feudal leadership in both the political and economic fronts. In most instances, government is in a conspiratorial relationship with big businesses whose owners themselves are very much involved in the political arena. In fact, this unholy collusion breeds bureaucrat capitalism where powerful people in government use the financial resources of government as business capitals for personal enrichment at the expense of the people’s social well-being.
In a predominantly impoverished society, social welfare is a non-operational formulation. Such a society’s government could have an existing Department or Ministry of Social Welfare with all its high-sounding programmes peppered with technical terms, loaded with comprehensive plans of action and allocated with budgets in hundreds of millions–even billions–of pesos or dollars but no tangible projects actually operate as the said allocations have already been pocketed by big-time thieves well-placed in positions of power. In this sense, social welfare is simply a meager chip-in or a pittance if not a total illusion that has long escaped the imagination and expectation of the poor for whose benefit such social welfare is theoretically intended.
However, efficient government is fundamentally an obvious factor in a society where poverty is at the minimal. Such government has high-level transparency which almost precludes graft and corruption and empowers the people as respected critics of government matters and worthy participants in the democratic processes. In this condition, government leaders are honest-to -goodness public servants and do not act like fascist taskmasters and/or feudal overlords. It may be argued that efficient government and economic empowerment do not have necessary connection but empirical exposures have confirmed in practically all instances that governments of economically stable societies are basically democratically efficient and hence citizen-empowering. In studies done by experts, both academe- and non-academe-based, Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland) as well as British commonwealths like Canada, Australia and New Zealand are all economically strong societies where governments are highly efficient and citizens are genuinely empowered as robust participants in all areas of democratic exercises.
It is also important to note at this point that in each of these countries, the government’s social welfare component has long been in active operation. With this particular aspect of public service, society’s poor are not forsaken in the dark nor left out in the cold, so to speak. Their basic needs are met and sustained by government in an official capacity to make sure that they don’t become eyesores on the street while fending for food and begging for money from passersby or walking aimlessly in dirty and stinking clothes or making the gutters or sidewalks spaces to sleep at night. In these societies, social welfare is a well-managed concern considering the fact that poverty which it mainly addresses is not a prevalent issue. Nevertheless, at a certain point beyond its fundamentally positive objective to help the poor, social welfare has its downside and may also be negatively viewed as an instrument to perpetuate dependence. In other words, with all the provisions delivered to society’s poor for an indefinite period of time through the social welfare mechanism, government is not really empowering the people to exert efforts to become self-reliant and productive citizens who should be working their way out to support their own and their families’ needs.
Such a problem may be a negligible one in the more economically stable countries mentioned above but is considered to be serious in some other countries with similar social welfare component whose economies are either not as stable or way off the scale at a more critical level and whose governments are not as efficient and transparent. In this condition, the welfare system operates with all conceivable difficulties expected while attending to the basic needs of more poor people whose state of disempowerment has driven them to a deeper level of destitution and desperation. This situation is perceived to be critically detrimental to both government and the poor who rely solely on government assistance via social welfare. In most cases, government is likewise disempowered and helpless to create long-term job and employment opportunities for the poor and the scenario of long queues of able-bodied unemployed people continues as these people remain absolutely dependent on social welfare provisions.
Social welfare, in that case, could be negatively taken as a disempowering factor itself. It may be construed that social welfare is an agency that in some ways further weakens and narrows down the productive prospect of otherwise creative human beings endowed, on the one hand, with conscious minds to think of better and viable plans of action and with physical strength, on the other hand, to put into action the most practicable plans s/he has been able to conceive. In view of this, social welfare at the most extreme point of the present context perpetuates dependence, desensitizes creativity, deactivates productivity, sustains disempowerment and in the final analysis, protracts and institutionalizes poverty.
(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 16 July 2014