Friday, September 26, 2008

Who's got your back!?

For thousands of years, man's next of kin served as his motivation and his support in times of need. Modern times have diluted the importance of families, decreased the number of children, and enabled families to keep in touch over vast distances. People have spread out and families are less important to our self identities as well as our everyday lives.

I heard John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis allege yesterday that the current magnitude of risk to the individual in the modern economy has to do with the decline of the family as a viable social safety net. Goodman also alleged that conservatives have made two mistakes responding to this problem. First, Republicans thought we could go back to strengthening families and they could once again fulfill their traditional supporting role in society. Second, conservatives and libertarians both have tried to scrap the welfare state altogether. Neither option is practical. Society needs an institutional safety net.

If we focus on individual empowerment and market forces in our social safety net policies, I have faith that people would step up to the plate. For instance, health savings accounts (HSAs) which were actually pioneered by said Goodman provide an excellent example of a solid market based reform. If we could move away from the bulk buying of health insurance policies, individuals could buy the policies appropriate to them and prices would be driven down by demand. But if pressed, I would still want friends and family to be my net than the monolithic government. How people can have such blind faith and trust in such a bureaucratic behemoth is beyond me.

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