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America before the Entitlement State

Discussion in 'Politics, Elections & Legislation' started by Brian in Oregon, Jan 29, 2012.

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  1. Brian in Oregon

    Brian in Oregon Well-Known Member

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    http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2012/0116/capital-flows-entitlement-programs-cuts-don-watkins-yaron-brook.html

    America Before The Entitlement State<br>
    Don Watkins and Yaron Brook, 01.03.12, 09:00 AM EST<br>
    Forbes Magazine dated January 16, 2012<br>
    Mutual aid societies let people insure against the very risks that entitlement programs later claimed to address.

    Reacting to calls for cuts in entitlement programs, House Democrat Henry Waxman fumed: “The ­Republicans want us to ­repeal the 20th century.” Sound bites don’t get much better than that.

    After all, the world before the 20th ­century—before the New Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society—was a dark, dangerous, heartless place where hordes of Americans starved in the streets.

    Except it wasn’t, and they didn’t. The actual history of America shows ­something else entirely: Picking your neighbors’ pockets is not a necessity of survival. Before America’s entitlement state, free individuals planned for and coped with tough times, taking responsibility for their own lives.

    In the 19th century, even though capitalism had existed for only a short time and had just started putting a dent in precapitalism’s legacy of poverty, the vast, vast majority of Americans were ­already able to support their own lives through their own productive work. One estimate puts the ratio of paupers to a 1 million population in 1890 at 1,166. Only a tiny fraction of a sliver of a ­minority depended on assistance and aid—and there was no shortage of aid available to help that minority.

    But in a culture that revered individual responsibility and regarded being “on the dole” as shameful, formal charity was almost always a last resort. Typically people who hit tough times first dipped into their savings. They might take out loans and get their hands on available commercial credit. If that ­wasn’t enough, they might insist that other family members enter the workforce. And that was just the start.

    “Those in need,” historian Walter Trattner writes in From Poor Law to Welfare State: A History of Social Welfare in America, “ ... looked first to family, kin, and neighbors for aid, including the landlord, who sometimes deferred the rent; the local butcher or grocer, who frequently carried them for a while by allowing bills to go unpaid; and the local saloonkeeper, who often came to their aid by providing loans and outright gifts, including free meals and, on occasion, temporary jobs. Next, the needy sought assistance from various agencies in the community—those of their own devising, such as churches or religious groups, social and fraternal associations, mutual aid societies, local ethnic groups, and trade unions.”

    One fascinating phenomenon to arise during this time were mutual aid societies, which let people insure against the very risks that entitlement programs would later claim to address. They were not charities but private associations of individuals. Those who chose to join would voluntarily pay membership dues in return for a defined schedule of benefits, which, depending on the society, could include life insurance, permanent disability, sickness and accident, old-age or funeral benefits.

    Mutual aid societies weren’t private precursors to the entitlement state, with its one-size-fits-all schemes like Social Security and Medicare. Because the societies were private, they offered a wide range of options to fit a wide range of needs. And because they were voluntary, individuals joined only when the programs made financial sense to them. How many of us would throw dollar bills down the Social Security money pit if we had a choice?

    Only when other options were exhausted would people turn to formal private charities. By the mid-19th ­century groups aiming to help widows, orphans and other “worthy poor” were launched in every major city in America. There were some government welfare programs, but they were minuscule compared with private efforts. In 1910 in New York State, for instance, 151 private benevolent groups provided care for children and 216 provided care for adults or adults with children. If you were homeless in Chicago in 1933, for example, you could find shelter at one of the city’s 614 YMCAs or one of its 89 Salvation Army barracks or one of its 75 Goodwill Industries dormitories.
     
  2. shot410ga

    shot410ga Well-Known Member

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    I suggest you read "The Jungle" to get a better perspective on the non-welfare state. There has to be a balance.
     
  3. Brian in Oregon

    Brian in Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Ah yes, the Marxist point of view.
     
  4. Don Steele

    Don Steele Well-Known Member

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    Glad you mentioned The Jungle. PERFECT example of Socialist propaganda.
    Written by a well known left-wing radical. Published in an established, well known Socialist rag of the time. Little or NO connection to objective reality of the times portrayed. Glad you brought that up.
     
  5. shot410ga

    shot410ga Well-Known Member

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    I said perspective, not face value. Would you let a kid starve in America for lack of food stamps? No president or congress will. However, do we need head start, I don't think so. That's balance, in the short form.
     
  6. shot410ga

    shot410ga Well-Known Member

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    Rick: Choice to you seems to be freedom to starve or eat and be a slave.
     
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