The Australian government plans to stop welfare payments to those families whose children are truant. This has caused an angry protest from various groups.
The very same situation could apply here in the near future.
What a bind we find ourselves in. The benefit bind. Of course if there weren't benefits in the first place these secondary issues couldn't vex us.
But as the state-funded benefit system does exist the public will be asked to decide what it is for. Is it a paternalistic operation based on reciprocity - the state will support you with conditions and obligations - or is it a system captured by 'clients' calling the shots; who see their 'entitlement' to live off the efforts of others as all-abiding. Because at the moment it leans to the latter.
Irritatingly I cannot find a clear-cut preference for either. There is no right for one person to make a claim on another's property unless the other agrees. Once, most New Zealanders understood and accepted this. About granting a right to monetary support by others Robert Stout, Premier during the 1880s said; ‘I consider that to be a most dangerous principle for any State to confirm’. How right he was.
But at present a majority will say it is a good idea to make beneficiaries send their children to school, get them immunised, pack them healthy lunches, etc and in doing so concede a right to be supported. That still leaves others questioning why they are even in need of support? Why is one citizen being forced to fund another's choices?
So when governments start laying down conditions of receipt in respect to bringing up children I am very wary. Conservatives will embrace the idea and abandon the bigger debate. Left liberals will oppose it saying, what debate?
If, however, welfare was provided through either private insurance or charitable organisations the problem of incentivising bad living is minimised. Or, and I see this as the best (most saleable) option in the short term, benefits to working-age able people become short-term assistance only, the problem is also much smaller.
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