A. Absolutely negative economically, absolutely positive in terms of hope.
I’ll focus on the negative because I think people will ultimately decide for themselves if it is appropriate in the long term to get hope from government cheese.
The strength and consequent weakness of our consumer economy is that somebody somewhere is always always always thinking of something new and exciting. They sell this idea to capitalists, who decide, Shark Tank style, whether or not the masses should get a taste. The thing to understand is that the business community in the US is coming up with new business models faster than any other entity in society. I don’t think even music.. well I guess the perfect example IS music. New musicians make money all the time. There is no way anybody can predict what kind of musician it is most profitable to be. By the time you learn to sing, somebody has come up with autotune and singing is so 2010…
The net effect is that you can only hope to educate yourself quick enough to be employed by the newest industries and business models if you go to the hottest schools. People who go to ordinary schools pick a major where they figure they will be able to get a job at a good company that has been doing X for a longer time. If you can’t get a college education you have to pick a business that’s been around for maybe 50–100 years. If you get no education and pick welfare, well then you’re in the same category as peasants from 400 years ago. Even illiterates can pick grapes for a living, and there’s competition of those jobs too.
So income inequality continues as long as new ideas and new markets emerge, and the lower you are on the educational chain, the lower standard of living you have to accept.
But at least there’s hope.
You don’t get thrown in jail just for defaulting on a loan. We don’t have debtors prisons in America. There’s disability insurance which is part of the welfare state. So if you mess up your back, you can collect on that. But I’m thinking you’re asking more about stuff like WIC and EBT cards. I know very little about that, personally.
I believe that it’s fundamentally wrong to let people fail, but it is also fundamentally necessary. You cannot force people to succeed. If I believe you are going to get a worthless job, I have an obligation to tell you about a better one. If I believe you are going to be on welfare, I have an obligation to try to persuade you away from that dependence. If I believe your weed smoking is a crutch, then I have an obligation to sober you up. But but BUT BUT all of these are just *social* obligations, not *moral* obligations.
Being poor is not a crime. I have no moral obligation to prevent you from being poor, like I have a moral obligation to stop a violent attack in progress.
If you learn anything from this, understand that this is the difference between justice and ‘social justice’. ‘Social justice’ is not actually a moral obligation, it’s just something you do to improve your social status. Justice itself is a moral obligation. That is why we craft laws and establish institutions to execute those laws. That’s why certain offenses are merely socially unacceptable and other offenses are crimes.
Since it is not a crime to be poor, you can even help people stay poor. That’s what dependence does, and in some ways that’s what the welfare state does. It creates dependence on a set of exchanges that are some of the slowest moving business models ever. Milk money for babies. That’s as basic as it gets, and rather sad because after all, a well-fed woman could nurse her child for free.
I cannot tell you the value of hope in the various forms of the welfare state, but I’m pretty sure that’s the best thing that comes out of it. It would never be enough for me.