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To get started...

To start us off easy, I'll direct your attention to some provocative blog posts.

Via Deliberate Agrarian, this gem:

Currently, myself and many of my friends are on varying forms of state aid [...]

With this in mind, I've compiled a simple list of rules (or perhaps, "guidelines") to help minimize the embarrassment and discomfort of taking public assistance.


1. Don't be dirty. Present yourself in as hygenically-perfect a condition as possible. [...]
2. Don't be clean. But remember, you are poor. You shouldn't be able to afford things like shampoo, or fresh laundry, etc. [...]
3. Never engage in any luxury activity at all, ever. Remember, you are currently taking public aid, which means of course that you must never, ever, find any way to enjoy your life that costs any amount of money at all. [...]
3a. In addition to money-costing activities, also remember that free activities that you might enjoy are also forbidden. [...]
4. Never possess any item which could be construed as you spending money. [...]
4a. To maintain the personal moral indignation of the taxpayer to our situations, it is acceptable to on occasion breach rule #4 in limited fashion. This allows the taxpayer to continue with their prejudices, which is crucial for our status quo. [...]
5. Only purchase things deemed appropriate by the surrounding consumers. [...]
6. Maintain an acceptable number of children. [...]


Rick Saenz suggests that this reaction to the recipients of public assistance is due to the replacement of "community mechanisms which once ministered to people in need" by bureacratic public aid programs, and I agree. If we institutionalize our charity into public assistance programs, do we obscure the connection between giver and givee behind an overly abstracted system of taxation and government aid? And does this obscuring mean that we're too eager to demonize the recipients of government handouts at the same time that we feel less inclined to engage in personal, ad-hoc charitable activity because "there's welfare for those people"?

The right-wingers would agree with me, I think, but they would say that the solution is simply to cut taxes and end public aid, relying instead on private charity. I'm not a right winger because I think too many of us are like little Lloyd Blankfeins, convinced that whatever greedy and selfish habits they've adopted are entirely sufficient to discharge whatever obligations they may have to others. The virtue of public assistance programs is that it makes helping others a legal obligation, and not merely a moral one, which people find too easy to rationalize away.

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