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Social Welfare Policy

Welfare Liberal

Four Menaces to Society,
by Earl Gosnell
Part 2, The Welfare State


Four Menaces to Society,
by Earl Gosnell
Part 2, The Welfare State
welfare liberal title

A historical perspective.

We have been examining (Prov. 30:21-23) "For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear: For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat; For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress," and are now on the part of "a fool when he is filled with meat." This is a relatively short section, so we are first going to go back into history for a perspective on the whole subject:

In 1648 — after thirty years of war had laid waste the land; destroyed its economic structures; impoverished its people; marked the end of the Holy Roman Empire, its prestige and power — the Treaty of Westphalia was signed. It is widely regarded as an important symbol, the turning point between the old age and the new, the Middle Ages and the so-called Modern Era. For there at Westphalia representatives of Germany, France, and other nations, came to the conclusion that the affairs of state could no longer be discussed or settled on religious bases. The Thirty Years War had begun as a struggle between Protestant and Roman Catholic princes. It was a religious war concerned with the defense of "saving truth." But it was also a highly political war exacerbated by the religious concerns of its combatants. In 1648 it was agreed that the saving truth as held by one branch of the Christian church could not be expected to triumph over the views of other branches. Christianity seemingly could not be reunited. There would be a diversity of churches and governments would have to accommodate such ecclesiastical pluralism. Thus there would have to be toleration for the sake of the peace and prosperity of the nation states. ...

The story of the pursuit of religious liberty, involving separation of church and state, in America is a forceful example of the new situation. One of the key documents in the story is Thomas Jefferson's "Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom," passed by the Virginia House of Delegates in 1785. It must be recalled that the Church of England had been established in the Virginia Colony. During the eighteenth century its privileged position was challenged by dissenting groups, principally Baptists and Presbyterians, who were eager to obtain freedom for themselves and full benefit of the civil franchise. The establishment was also challenged by the general impact of the Enlightenment with its insistence on toleration and its proclamation of a simple creed. The impulse for religious liberty was partly due to such influences, but more important were the leaders of the Virginia Colony, who were nominally members of the Church of England and of the Episcopal Church which succeeded it. These included George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, all powerful advocates of civil liberty and profound believers in religious liberty. James Madison (1751-1836), whose education included study of Justinian's Institutes and John Locke's treatises on contract, would not settle for toleration. He demanded liberty. He therefore succeeded in having the Virginia Bill of Rights of 1776 modified to read: "all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience." From that moment his hands were on the reins as he labored for full religious freedom and the disestablishment of the Church of England in the Virginia Colony. ...

So it was that Virginia led the way, having considerable influence on the development of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The road to the first amendment to the Constitution stating that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," was a long one, involving much discussion and debate. The enforcement of it took longer still. The resolutions of Congress concerning the Bible, the provision of congressional chaplains, the Thanksgiving Day proclamation of 1789, and official addresses by the President — these and numerous other incidents serve to demonstrate the conviction of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and others that the new government could not succeed without the benefit of religion. ...

The separation of church and state, therefore, had a positive aspect and could be not only accepted but fostered by most churches. The separation could also be the source of continuous debate concerning the drawing of the line between the separate spheres of influence and responsibility.

—John E. Booty, The Church in History89

Moving ahead to more modern times:
We have yet to measure the enormous contribution made by the brief administration of John F. Kennedy to the desacralizing of American society. His election itself marked the end of Protestant cultural hegemony. But in the way he fulfilled his office, in his quiet refusal to function as the high priest of the American religion, Kennedy made an indispensable contribution to the authentic and healthy secularization of our society. He was a supremely political leader. Though there can be little doubt that his Christian conscience informed many of his decisions, especially in the area of racial justice, he stalwartly declined to accept the semireligious halo that Americans, deprived of a monarch who reigns gratia dei, have often tried to attach to their chief executive. In thus divesting his office of any sacral significance, Kennedy did, in his place, what Christians of Eastern Europe do when they seek to distinguish between the political or economic and the ideological claims of Communist regimes.

The secularists of America may be God's way of warning us that the era of sacred societies is over. Christians have contributed to its demise, perhaps more so than most of us realize. By separating pope from emperor and thus granting a certain provisional autonomy to the secular arm, Western Christianity introduced a process which has produced the modern open society and the ecclesiastically neutral or secular state. But ... the seeds of secularization go back still further: to the Creation story in which man is made responsible for the care of the world; to the separation of the kingly from the prophetic office in Israel; to the New Testament injunctions to respect those in authority so long as they do not make religious claims.

The task of American Christians vis-à-vis their nonreligious fellow citizens is not to browbeat them but to make sure they stay secular. They must be helped to be true to their own premises and not to allow themselves to be perverted into a new fideism, the intolerant religion of secularism. In this respect the decision by the California State Board of Education that the schools should have no hesitance in teaching about religion was a welcome one. The board paid its teachers a welcome compliment by suggesting they "are competent to differentiate between teaching about religion and conducting compulsory worship." Significantly, the board added that it would be just as illegal to teach a "point of view denying God" as it would be to "promote a particular religious sect."

—Harvey Cox, The Secular City90

Secularism vs. religion.

This brings us to a major point in part 1 of this series, "The task of American Christians vis-à-vis their nonreligious fellow citizens is not to browbeat them but to make sure they stay secular. They must be helped to be true to their own premises." The Christian conscience regarding equality motivated some to agitate for changes in our laws, in a sense browbeating those who favored the status quo. The author of the passage above stresses the importance of keeping the secular arm secular. If the secular meaning of all men being created equal did not extend to racial equality, how can we then pass judgment based on a religious interpretation of equality? Let us see.

People have different needs and merits; but to the extent that their needs and merits are the same they deserve equal treatment. Men do not differ in their need for food and drink and for shelter: justice requires that these needs be equally met. This does not mean that they must be met in exactly the same way. Though men are equally deserving of shelter it does not follow that they are deserving of equal shelter; i.e., that they need to inhabit the same kind of house. Principles of justice or equality are not intended to rule out differences between men: they lay down what differences are acceptable.
—Thomas McPherson, Social Philosophy90

Practical application.

So says the philosopher. Let us see how it works in practice.

This conclusion — to the effect that Christians (including Catholics) were acceptable in all parts of Chicago, while Jews were not — accords with Cowgill's (1960) study of Wichita, the only city for which detailed information on intra-Christian segregation patterns exist. The Catholics were the least segregated religious groups in the city. Protestant denominations were segregated from each other, the pattern of segregation following the familiar class structure of Protestant denominations (Gockel, 1969). Catholics — the largest single denomination — were spread throughout the status structure of the city and were thus integrated with Protestants. Upper-class Catholics, however, were likely to live next door to a different kind of Protestant from their lower-class co-religionists. ...

In their definitive study of patterns and trends in the residential segregation of Negroes from whites, the Taeubers (1965) find virtually total segregation.

—Samuel A. Mueller, "The New Triple Melting Pot: Herberg Revisited"92

A Catholic example.

Okay, even Christians with all their equality separate out some in their dwellings, but not as much do the Catholics, so let us use a Catholic example.

For many smaller orders—hybrid religious organizations founded in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe—America was a land of opportunity that saved them from extinction. Their services were needed in new dioceses and among ethnic groups. The American bishops called upon them to work among the German immigrants and then the Poles and Italians, and now the newer unassimilated, the Puerto Ricans and Negroes, offer new opportunities. The Josephites, with 235 priests, have set a laudable example of such work. A teaching order founded in Belgium in 1817, they came to America to adopt as missionary targets "the most abandoned works of God." True to this goal, they operate Negro missions in the South and in urban slums. Saint Augustine High School in New Orleans illustrates what they have accomplished without fanfare. An interracial faculty of thirty-one Josephites and 750 Negro students have developed an outstanding academic record. Only 5 percent of the students drop out, and three out of four graduates enter college; the June, 1964, graduating class won $100,000 in scholarships.
—Edward Wakin and Father Joseph F. Scheuer, The De-Romanization of the American Catholic Church93
As the book says, they "have set a laudable example of such work." "Without fanfare" they went about to equalize portions of society that were not treated equally in the secular sphere, thus doing God's work while maintaining separation of church and state.

Let us look at an example of the race problem.

Dismissing Detroit's racial discrimination and segregation, politicians blamed the rioting on the black press and on civil rights groups agitating vocally against inequality. The Roosevelt administration maintained an official silence on the matter and ignored pleas for a presidential speech, a congressional investigation, or a government commission to study race relations. With a war to win, most of the nation resumed "business as usual." Nevertheless, the riot did bring greater, and more sympathetic, attention to the root causes of African-American militancy. In the summer of 1943 alone, more than a hundred local, state, and national interracial committees were established to study racial strife, and a growing number of prominent whites supported blacks' drive for social justice. Although Detroit's blacks continued to encounter racial hatred and discrimination, many found doors of opportunity opening as the wartime labor shortage intensified. After 1943 blacks in Detroit enjoyed better jobs, higher wages, and improved living conditions. With these gains came a renewed determination to achieve the full benefits of citizenship. "We aren't going to go back to where we were before the war," vowed Jesse Hall."
—Paul S. Boyer et al, The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People94
Here we see the forces arrayed that were mentioned in the previous section: the gradual improvement of the Negro's lot, his militancy to go faster, the business-as-usual of the country, the growing number of sympathizers, and the bitter fight over racial equality.

Now, let us look at the outcome:

The new general manager spent about a year getting accepted by his new associates, getting known in the local community, and establishing friendly relations with the union leaders in the mill. Then he saw his opportunity. A new major extension to the mill was about to be opened, and a number of new furnaces had to be manned. The new general manager strictly applied the hiring provisions of the union contract. As a result, a small but still substantial number of Black workers with high job skills and considerable seniority got positions on the new crews. In no case was a white worker deprived of his seniority rights or put under a Black man as his supervisor.

The morning after the new manning tables had been posted, as required by the union contract, a delegation of local union leaders called on the general manager. "You know that there are several hundred grievances," they said, "which have been pending for far too long a time without a settlement. The patience of our men is exhausted. We are going out on strike in thirty-six hours. But we don't want to be unreasonable. If the company makes even a token gesture of goodwill, we will postpone this strike. All you have to do is to suspend those manning tables you just posted, and let us, together with the supervisors, work out the composition of the crews for the new furnaces. In the meantime, here is the official strike notice as required by our contract."

The general manager first tried to reach the president and the general counsel of the union. Unaccountably, neither could be found, nor did their secretaries know where they could be reached or when they would return. Then the general manager bethought him self of an old friend, one of the "sages" of the Quakers and a "radical" on race relations, and especially on employment opportunities for Blacks. But to the general manager's immense surprise, the "sage" was not one bit sympathetic with his plight. "I fully agree with you, as you know, in considering employment discrimination against the Negro to be illegal, immoral, and sinful," the sage said. "But what you have done, while legal, is just as immoral. You have used the economic muscle of a big company to impose your mores and values on the community in which you operate. Yours are the right mores and the right values. But, still, you are using the economic power of a business, the power of the employer, and the authority of your office to dictate to the community. This is 'economic imperialism' and it cannot be condoned, no matter how good the cause."

The general manager resigned and took another job up north. The company quietly dropped the manning tables. The mills remained open. And a few years later, needless to say, the company came under bitter attack — in which the union's general counsel joined loudly — for its failure to take leadership in race matters.

—Peter F. Drucker, Management95
Here the general manager had been careful not to foster strife à la (Prov. 30:21-22) "The earth is disquieted, and ... it cannot bear: for a servant when he reigneth," because, "in no case was a white worker deprived of his seniority rights or put under a Black man as his supervisor." If we want to integrate without stress, we must not put Blacks ahead of their place in line with whites, and we must not be in any kind of hurry to make them boss. It should suffice that they be placed where they are recognized as useful. (Philemon 1:10-11) "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me." Affirmative action goes against that profitability. (Philemon 1:12) "Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels."We are to receive the profitable Negro as part of the heart of Democracy.

The general manager had all "the right mores and the right values." What he did not have was the courtesy to ask the whites to allow the Blacks this place in their scheme; they would eventually have to consent to it anyway. (Philemon 1:13-14) "Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly." Furthermore, the manager was "using the economic power of a business, the power of the employer, and the authority of [his] office to dictate to the community. This is 'economic imperialism' and it cannot be condoned, no matter how good the cause." Paul did not use the authority of his office to dictate the restoration of Onesimus. (Philemon 1:8-9) "Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ." Such an approach would leave our society less stressed out.

Getting back to our general overview:

The New Testament has its own way of describing the relations between the Christians and the world. They belong to a new age inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ. They live in a new order. 'If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. ... For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God' (Col. 3:1-2). They already share in the 'powers of the age to come' (Heb. 6:5) and not only do they 'seek after the city which is to come' (Heb. 12:14) but already they can also say 'our citizenship is in heaven' (Phil. 3:20). They are already brought near 'to an innumerable company of angels ..., and the spirits of just men made perfect' (Heb. 12:22-3). Yet all this is unseen, and realized by faith. And meanwhile the Christians are still involved with the world. They belong to cities and countries, within which they have their tasks and duties. By love and duty within the temporal order they show their heavenly citizenship, and to contract out from that love and duty is not to enhance the heavenly citizenship but to belie it.

Such is the Biblical background to the problem through the centuries of the relation of the Church to secular society. That relation has been expressed in a variety of ways in accordance with differences in theological emphasis and cultural situation. The best description known to me of the varieties of Christian thought about the relation is one given by Richard Niebuhr in his book, Christ and Culture (1952). Sometimes Christians have been led to organize themselves in opposition to contemporary culture, sometimes to try to permeate contemporary culture in the spirit of a Christian civilization, sometimes to try to organize society on Christian principles in the manner of a theocracy, sometimes to escape the world as evil, in flight, asceticism and total severance. But whatever the relation it is always the calling of the Church to provide a critique of society in so far as society deviates from the rule of God and to point out the necessity of salvation unto God as the cure for man's ills and the key to the meaning of existence.

—Arthur Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, Sacred and Secular96

This paper is somewhat of "a critique of society in so far as society deviates from the rule of God."
What is needed now is not so much generalized exhortations to vote more often at local elections, but a thorough examination of the structure of political power at local and count level, and a drastic and at the same time sympathetic appraisal of the moral opportunities and temptations that face local officials. It is depressing to think of the number of local officials in Britain to whom "the church" means no more than the Church of England (or perhaps the Church of Rome) being "difficult" about church schools. The Rt. Rev. E.R. Wickham, Bishop of Middleton, has started a most interesting series of informal discussions with local leaders in Southeast Lancashire, and other Christians have made great impact in local life in towns like Leeds and Glasgow. Yet too often they have been regarded as individuals who took this up as their "hobby" (and might it not have been more profitable to serve on the Ex-Prisoners' Association or the Christian Grandmothers' Society?). They have been the forgotten representatives of Christ and his church, trailing night after night to the rather dreary discussions of local councils and party caucuses.

Other ordinary Christians can do great good by sensible criticism of local schools, hospitals, and housing. Many British people have been too patient about local deficiencies in our welfare state, perhaps particularly in the north of England. There is all the difference in the world between petulant nagging of local authorities and nurses and teachers, and a well-mannered insistence on our own and particularly our neighbor's rights. There is nothing particularly Christian in submitting to the kind of hospital which implies that ordinary patients are lucky to get any attention at all, at any time. There is a whole technique of courteous Christian agitation to be worked out — which will be neither fussing, nor petty bullying of local officials (which will merely make them retreat into a hard official shell of their "rights"), nor yet just a pulling of strings for ourselves or our children.

—Mark Gibbs & T. Ralph Morton, God's Frozen People97

The welfare system.

This section wants to treat with the welfare system to the end of not having it be like a hospital that dispenses strong medication to all whether they are sick or not. Some people who go to the doctor are not really sick at all, and some will recover just fine without intervention. For many exercise and diet is the long term answer, like working and staying within budget instead of looking for a handout. Here is a banker's take on our current status:

Everyone Wants a Piece of the Pie98

Much of government debts and deficits today are a direct result of the "welfare state." I have personally talked with many who voice disgust and concern over government extravagance and spending programs to help the "needy." Indeed, many believe our current economic system cannot last forever and that collapse is imminent. Americans generally agree that federal spending must drastically be reduced. However, when thinking of cutting specific federally financed programs people begin to hesitate. They fear their piece of the pie will be taken away. Everyone hopes that someday he too can get in on government handouts. ...

Thirty five million elderly receive old-age social security, railroad, veterans, federal civil service, and state and local retirement benefits. Nine million receive survivor benefits. Six million benefit from supplemental income programs. Six million unemployed individuals receive unemployment benefits while some two million men and women draw armed services pay. More than sixteen million government employees support some twenty million dependents.99 The end product of these federally financed programs is massive federal deficits and a growing national debt.

Here from Charles Murray's piece "Keeping Priorities Straight on Welfare Reform," from July/August, Society100, is an example of some reasons not to keep rewarding foolish behavior:

Let us look to a country with a more encompassing welfare system to see where welfare irrespective of smarts can lead. From John J. Macionis, Sociology101
To many observers, Sweden fulfills the promise of the modern welfare state, a society in which an extensive and professional government bureaucracy sees to virtually all human needs.

According to David Popenoe,102 however, Sweden has another, more dubious, distinction: it has what are arguably the weakest families on earth. For one thing, people in Sweden are less likely to marry than in any other industrialized society; the country also has the highest proportion of adults living alone (20 percent versus about 13 percent in the United States). For another, a larger share of couples live together outside of marriage (25 percent versus about 5 percent in the United States) than anywhere else, and half of all Swedish children (compared to about one in five in the United States) are born to unmarried parents. Average household size is also the smallest in the world (2.2 persons versus 2.6 in the United States). Finally, families (based on marriages or consensual unions) are more likely to dissolve than in any other country. Reviewing the evidence, Popenoe concludes that the family

has probably become weaker in Sweden than anywhere else — certainly among advanced Western nations. Individual family members are the most autonomous and least bound by the group, and the group as a whole is least cohesive.
This is a new development in Sweden, one that has become pronounced only since the 1960s. It is worthy of study because many of the trends that have transformed Swedish society are also at work in the United States. Popenoe claims that a developing culture of individualism and self-fulfillment and the declining influence of religion have both served to undermine Swedish families. In addition, Sweden has the lowest proportion of women who are homemakers (10 percent versus about 25 percent in the United States) and the highest percentage of women in the labor force (77 percent versus 58 percent in the United States). But even more important in the erosion of the family than these social forces, Popenoe contends, is the expansion of the welfare state.

... Sweden enshrined in law the most far-reaching scheme of its kind. All Swedes are issued a national registration number at birth, and their citizenship entitles them to a lifetime of services (and high taxes). For example, they can count on the government to deliver their children, to educate them, to sustain their income, to give them jobs, to ensure their health care, and, when the time comes, to pay for their funeral.

Many Swedes supported the creation of this welfare apparatus in the 1960s, Popenoe explains, as a means of strengthening families. But with the benefit of hindsight, he concludes, we can see that proliferating government programs have actually been replacing families. This has happened because members of Swedish families no longer view the family as an economic unit. Historically, families the world over have been fused by economic interdependence. In contemporary Sweden, people look to the government for financial security, and with growing indifference to their families.

Put differently, Swedish government policies discourage families from looking out for their own. If a person does not want to tend to an aging parent at home, the government will do it at a community facility — at no direct cost to that individual. Government child-care centers are available for all working parents; but no comparable subsidy is provided for those who wish to care for their own children at home.

During the last several generations, then, Swedes have relaxed their family ties as they have become more dependent on their government. But if this system has apparently solved so many social problems, why should anyone be concerned about the erosion of family life? For two reasons, Popenoe suggests. First, government programs to entirely replace the family would be astronomically expensive. As family responsibilities have diminished, the welfare state has grown larger and larger. Already a majority of Swedes consider their government too big and funding such a comprehensive welfare system beyond their means. If government policies further undermine families, the government will have to take over even more services formerly provided by family members to one another — eventually bankrupting the society. The second reason to protect what remains of the Swedish family is concern for children. Government programs have greatly relieved adults of the responsibilities and financial burden of raising the young. But what of children, who are increasingly growing up in large, impersonal care centers rather than in homes imbued with parental love? Small intimate groups may well be able to accomplish some human tasks far better than formal organizations can.

Now, let us look at "an extensive and professional government bureaucracy seeing to virtually all human needs ... eventually bankrupting the society."
"It's hard to imagine the Russian empire without a powerful bureaucracy. The bureaucracy was firmly entrenched by 1650 and became indispensable under Peter the Great. It was the tool the czars used to administer the empire, to run the state. The Bolsheviks just adopted it pen and paper clips when they took over. The problem at the end was that the bureaucracy lost the capability of providing. The infernal machine just ground to a halt and nothing on this earth could get it started again without the direct application of force."

"Not force," Jake Grafton said. "Terror."

"Terror," Yocke agreed, "which the leadership was no longer in a position to supply."

—Stephen Coonts, The Red Horseman103
Anyway, heaping welfare on people with no smarts, or a system that discourages people to think and do for themselves is stressful to society according to the proverb.

For someone who prefers a less intellectual approach—and for all that, my study doesn't cover every aspect of the subject anyway—, I recommend seeing the movie Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl Mystery and follow my review, how I treat the same subject there.




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Earl Gosnell
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Copyright © 2003, Earl S. Gosnell III Creative Commons Licence
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