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It's A Gray Area: The trick of current welfare system

October 16, 2010|James P. Gray

Recently the Los Angeles Times reported that $69 million in California welfare money was cashed in by recipients in places like Las Vegas and on cruise ships. Prior to that, The Times reported that people on welfare had used their state-issued ATM cards to get money at casinos, strip clubs and massage parlors.

After those revelations, there followed the usual clamors and calls for politicians to tighten up the system, and many of the politicians responded by promising that in the future the cards could no longer be used in those types of places.

But the real problem is much more fundamental.

Yes, there are people in our society who simply cannot take care of themselves, and yes they need our help. And we will give them that help in the traditional Libertarian way – not because we have to, but because we want to. That is the type of people we are.

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Thus we should have a welfare system, but not the one we have today. Why? Our welfare system has probably been the worst thing that has ever happened to a large majority of the recipients because it deprives them of both their motivation and their pride.

And that keeps them mired in poverty. As evidence, simply look at the generations of people who have not broken out of the welfare system.

So how can we still have a welfare system, but at the same time increase the incentives for the recipients to break away from it? The answer is for the welfare system to provide the necessities of life, but not to provide any money to the recipients at all.

What would such a program look like? There would be dormitory living for people on welfare (with some allowances for families), group-style meals, medical care at government-sponsored clinics, passes on public transportation and provisions to provide clothing, personal hygiene materials and other similar essentials. But in return, those people who are able would be required to help around the living spaces by doing chores such as cleaning, gardening, cooking, security and general maintenance work.

As such, this system would provide for all recipients' basic needs, and that would be appropriate. But it would also inherently provide incentives to the recipients to move beyond welfare and to improve themselves, because there would be a logical and necessary stigma of being placed to live in the public facilities.

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