Entitlements, welfare, tax policy and education can all have enormous effects on the quality of life and the strength of an economy. Getting incentives right in these areas is one of government’s most important roles.
Government should aim for social policies that assist people in facing unusual adversity and act as stabilizers in times of widespread economic distress, that assist people in education, and that avoid assisting them in ways that are open ended and act as negative incentives to responsible behavior.
The most important consideration in the design of government social policy is, in helping those targeted for help 1) does it harm the general welfare and 2) does it, by helping those targeted for help, hurt them in the long run by decreasing their independence and responsibility? Obviously policy that increases dependency and reduces individual responsibility is harmful to both society and the individuals directly targeted.
Every government social policy should be designed to avoid negatively affecting the development of individual responsibility. An examination of the results of progressive social policy in the US over the past fifty years reveals that it has so degraded the character and so increased the dependency of those it has tried to help – the lower end of the income scale – that it has endangered society and effective government.
When government policy has resulted in an illegitimacy rate of 40% it is obvious that something is terribly wrong and that democratic government is threatened. When huge numbers of our citizens are raised without their fathers assuming the responsibility to help raise them – the social fabric is frayed. It is suicidal for a society to persist in government social policy that produces such results.
The principal causes of poverty in countries where poverty is widespread can be seen by analyzing the characteristics of government responsible for poor economic performance, and in a prosperous society by analyzing the government policies that attempt to address poverty. If the incentives aren’t right government poverty policy will increase dependency and thus poverty.
Government should try to create the conditions most likely to produce responsible citizens and it social policies should assist individuals through unusual adversity without encouraging long term dependence. There is strong evidence that US Government social policy (as it relates to our lowest income population) over the past five decades has inadvertently contributed to a lowering of moral standards, cultural decline, and increased criminal and dysfunctional behavior.
Every government policy and program should be carefully examined at the outset and repeatedly re-examined to see that it is structured primarily to benefit those it is supposed to serve rather than those employed by the program. The teachers’ unions’ control of education policy is a prime example of what should not be allowed to happen.
The likely societal effects should be taken into account when considering new, or modifications to, entitlement and welfare programs, and the historical experience of family breakdown following implementation of the various War on Poverty programs (using the fifty year experience) considered.