On my other blog page, The OYL, I posted TRUTH: Welfare Destroys The Human Spirit. Now I’d like to explain one way we could actually solve the issue I address in that post that would be in keeping with the principles of Natural Law.
We start by remembering: Natural Law is derived from the assumption that we are all created in the image of God, and therefore, we have equal worth in God’s eyes. And, if we have equal worth in God’s eyes, we should have equal worth in each other’s eyes. Furthermore, we should want to refrain from exploiting, manipulating or coercing each other. This means, if we are going to design a social safety net, it should be designed to actually help someone learn to take care of themselves and their family. This excludes the possibility of using the system to keep them dependent and doing your will to obtain the sustenance necessary to their survival – the way our current system is designed.
So, we start by not looking down on those who find themselves in need of help. We must extend true compassion and empathy. But for the grace of God, it could well be us in their position – and it someday may well be. This means we deal with our own heart first, and, in doing so, we ask ourselves what we we would need should we actually find ourselves in such a position. This is the golden rule in practice.
First, we are asking others for help, so we have a duty to ask only for that which we truly need to survive. To ask for comfort items is to impose and to defile the act of charity being afforded us. What we need to survive is food, clothing, shelter and basic health and hygiene items. Then, to become self-sufficient, we may need assistance finding a job and, possibly, training or re-training for a job. To ask anything more than this is to place a demand on others which we have no right to make.
So, this establishes what a real social safety net should provide: food, clothing, shelter, minimal health care and hygiene products and assistance finding and/or training for a job. Now, if we are going to offer such assistance, we need to do so with no string attached. If we are helping a family unit and the father is not working, then that is between him and the Lord. So long as the mother is trying to provide, we help the whole family. In addition, should a person or family find work that is not quite enough to provide, we do not cut back or end our assistance. This is counterproductive as it discourages savings and investment as well as continued effort to get ahead. And, if the person is not working and asks for public assistance, then they should be required to work in and for the community while they are drawing that assistance. This way, they can keep their dignity. It will also make it clear that the able bodied must work, whether they receive assistance or not. However, this will lead to the necessity for limitations on public assistance.
If we agree to a social safety net, we set a fixed number of years that a person may receive help from the public in their entire lifetime. When those years are exhausted, that is the end of their eligibility. The idea is to provide a safety net; not to provide for a way of life or to create a permanent public burden. So, if a person applies for public assistance, then we give it to them for whatever period they request up to their lifetime limit. We do not place any restrictions on how much they can earn or even how they use that assistance. At the same time, we offer help in learning how to manage money and how to live a lifestyle less susceptible to persistent poverty. And we encourage a person to get involved with a church or social group that helps them to understand the dignity and self-respect that comes with being personally responsible and self-sufficient.
This is the extent that any free and self-governing society can be bound to provide for others. Anything more than this is not charity; it is government imposed theft of one person’s property for the benefit of another. As I have described it, a society can agree to the terms on the social safety net as it is equally available to every member, rich or poor. Furthermore, it covers only those things necessary to sustain life, and even then, only for a set number of total years in each lifetime. When that time is exhausted, no matter how desperate, a person would be refused public assistance. This is the natural inhibitor to using your allotment: you never know whether or not you may actually need it in the future, so you should be very cautious about using it only in time of actual need.
I’m sure there are many more, but this is one way the social safety net could be designed to function in a truly caring society that tries to operate by the principles of Natural Law.