Jeremy Bentham once said, “It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.” This brings to mind the question of how we should help people as a society. Should we, as some argue, only help ourselves, because if everyone helps themselves then we don’t have to worry about anyone else. Or, if we have the ability to help others and we do not, this is morally repugnant, and it is our duty to ensure that everyone helps each other, creating a sustaining community of equals. This is a problem that has plagued the human race since our inception. Some societies, such as the Vikings or the Mongols, consider self and family above others. Other societies, such as the Ottomans or the Chinese, believe that the will of the self should be put below the benefit of the society as a whole. But as Americans, our perspective is more varied, as it should be. We have had programs such as Harding’s Rugged Individualism, which encouraged Social Darwinism and Laissez-Faire Capitalism, and we have had programs such as LBJ’s Great Society or the New Deal, which obviously take the opposite approach.
I would argue that a middling approach must be taken. We must not create a complacent welfare state where work is viewed as unnecessary when you have the funds coming from welfare. We must also not create a state where individuals suffer because they can’t receive assistance because of the greed of others. We must create programs which first and foremost must provide a general service to the taxpayers. It must also encourage work, and not just blind checks. Third, this program must be exclusively be run by the government, not by contractors or private companies. The government has been tainted by the profit-hungry corporate machine, and this will only distort the intentions of this program. Corporations and profit are not bad, however they have no place in governmental endeavors. Government exists to serve the people, and enable them to succeed for themselves, not to make money. I would offer the WPA as an ideal example, something that I have already written about at length. The people of America do not need a welfare check, they need a job and skills.
I would argue that it is morally repugnant that one would watch millions of people suffer, and not do something about it at any level. If private corporations will not help the people in the way that they need it, then it is time for the government to fulfill its responsibilities to the population. The Republican line that these programs encourage complacency is false, they only say this because they are bought and paid for by corporations.