I have a question regarding moral philosophy as it relates to political viewpoint. I can understand why philosophers in general might have some affinity for an argument that says those of us who are relatively 'well off' have a moral duty to assist those who are temporarily (or permanently) 'in need' of assistance. However, I want to look at it from the perspective of the person who needs the help.
Many of us talk about improving ourselves so that we can make a difference to others. Why do we deny the opportunity to make a difference to those who need help? Isn't that demeaning and stultifying to them? Isn't there an implicit message that 'you are not competent to take care of yourself, and so you have to rely on us to do that for you?'
My father says that is because career politicians are cynical and are merely using 'we have to help others' as a reason to entrench themselves in power indefinitely at good salaries with nice benefits. He points out that certain programs are based on income percentiles, and are not based on any standard of material well-being for the recipients. He suggests that any 'safety net' program would measure "adequate food with acceptable nutrition, shelter, and clothing" and not go any further; if people want more than subsistence they should contribute something of value and trade up rather than continue to demand more for themselves merely because others have more relative to them.
The bluntness of his assessment bothers me; yet I find it hard to refute his logic: why is it that programs that are ostensibly to 'help' the less fortunate so often have a way of infantilizing those receiving the help? and how can someone who truly wants to help the less fortunate achieve a 'fully realized life' that goes beyond mere physical subsistence? At one time the residents of our state psychiatric hospital grew their own food, and made many everyday craft items for daily use. They were reported to be happy to have something useful to do with their lives. Someone who said they were 'helping' them sued the state, and forced them to stop this work in contributing to their own upkeep. Now the patients sit around all day with much less to do and are reportedly far less happy now than they used to be. How did taking away a chance to feel useful help these people? and how can I either respond to my father's assertions, or find a way to influence those who claim to be 'helping' the less fortunate to look beyond only their physical needs and actually provide some 'help' that includes helping those less fortunate find meaning and worth in their life, not just daily physical comfort?
Thank you very much for helping me sort through this tangle of good intentions and bad outcomes!