Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The "culture of dependency" argument for cutting benefits



David Brookes in NY Times on Romney's latest gaffe.

The final thing the comment suggests is that Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation. The formula he sketches is this: People who are forced to make it on their own have drive. People who receive benefits have dependency. 

But, of course, no middle-class parent acts as if this is true. Middle-class parents don’t deprive their children of benefits so they can learn to struggle on their own. They shower benefits on their children to give them more opportunities — so they can play travel sports, go on foreign trips and develop more skills. 

People are motivated when they feel competent. They are motivated when they have more opportunities. Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour through the world’s poorest regions makes clear. 

Source here. Discuss.

3 comments:

James James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James James said...

Much of the commentary has involved "proving" Romney wrong, by pointing out that while 47% of Americans don't pay federal income taxes, they do pay state income taxes or sales taxes etc.

But one should always try to improve one's opponent's arguments before attacking the strongest version of them. What Romney really meant was that a large proportion of people are net tax recipients, of whom a proportion are, pejoratively, parasites.

What we really need are philosophers to deal with questions like:

Is Romney right: will net tax recipients always vote for the left-wing candidate? Is this an inevitable feature of democracy? How broken does democracy have to get before we junk it? (That won't happen by voting!)

What will we do with all the permanently dependent people? -- people whose behaviour will not be changed by cutting their benefits?

Though fears that automation will make some people permanently unemployable have in the past proved unfounded, could we be facing a new type of automation, involving advances in AI and robotics, that will indeed make some people permanently unemployable (people so unproductive that they cannot compete with robots). What will we do with such people?

James James said...

Does the welfare state have a dysgenic effect? What will the long-term consequences of this be?