Dependency and Democracy

Posted: November 24, 2011 in america, controversy, current events, politics, poor

First Things:

The original justification for the modern welfare state was that it would be a “safety net”—an exception to the rules of normal economic ebb and flow, designed to lift up those who, through some oversight, had “slipped through the cracks.” But we now find ourselves in a situation where the exception is becoming the norm; where the government providing emergency relief is turning into the government simply providing.

The midcentury compromise contained an unspoken background assumption: that most first-world citizens would never need such help, and that they would always be able to find gainful employment and contribute a modest portion of their income to welfare programs. With this assumption increasingly eroding, it is worth asking the question of whether, in a nation where 45 million citizens depend on the government to do something as basic as eat dinner, what kind of meaningful participation in public life can be preserved. A genuinely democratic form of government presupposes a certain level of independence and self-reliance on the part of its citizenry—without it, a managerial model increasingly takes over.


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