Most of the arguments I hear about government-sponsored social welfare program seem aimed at whether it is appropriate for the government to confiscate assets from one group of people in order to then distribute them to a different group of people. These discussions always seem to omit any examination of the effects on the people receiving the assistance, especially whether it is more harmful than helpful to them when all things are considered. Every parent (or aunt/uncle) probably has been in a situation in which their child says "I want to do it myself." Helping people develop a sense of personal responsibility and competence in managing their own life seems to be an integral part of parenting. So (setting aside the exception of people who are permanently disabled in some way): how do we reconcile these two situations? It seems like private social welfare programs are aimed at helping people through temporary difficulties on their way from once being and again becoming "self-reliant" (in an interpersonal network of mutual assistance that we call "society"); while government-sponsored social welfare programs seem to keep the people they purport to "help" in a state of permanent dependency. The latter seems immoral to me. A cynic might even say that the politicians who designed the government-sponsored social welfare programs deliberately use that dependency as a way to make sure they get enough votes to remain in office. Whether that last sentence is true or not, it does seem really bizarre to me that so little attention is paid to whether the government-sponsored social welfare programs are a net boon or a net bane to the recipients once all effects are included in the consideration. Thanks for your thoughts on the matter. PS I have been active throughout my life in private social welfare programs: food distribution, establishing co-ops, clothing drives, and the like. I think we have an obligation in an interdependent society to help each other through rough patches, but that help (again with some exceptions) should never be permanent.

Two quick points.

The first is that I've heard a great deal of talk about the dependency issue. Ad when I say "I've heard," I don't mean in my own social circle. I mean from politicians and professional pundits. Indeed, this issue of dependency has been a long-time GOP taking point.

The second is that whatever the merits of that point, your questions suggests that most people on public assistance stay on it more or less permanently. But as far as I know, this is not actually true (except for the permanently disabled population.) Although I realize that Huffington Post is a liberal rather than a conservative site, the figures that this article draws on are not from a partisan source, and they're consistent with what I have heard from other sources: most (non-disabled) people who get public assistance get it temporarily. Here's the link.

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