The Real Meaning of Welfare – December 20th, 2010

When I hear the term “welfare” spoken in context of today’s society, inevitably there’s a tendency to envision a system that takes money and resources (through taxation) from the industrious and gives handouts to generally lazy people who have voluntarily forfeited their independence to ensure that the government will take care of them. That negative perception has been driven into the minds of many American citizens because of government’s unreasonable response to the human quality teaches us that we have an obligation to take care of the needy.

There is a better way to think about welfare. The term itself engenders such notions as health, happiness and prosperity. These ideals are not achieved when a person or large populations of people become dependent upon a system that requires nothing in return for temporal support and that inspires indolence. Instead, a true welfare system emphasizes self reliance and enhances self esteem by promoting hard work, innovation, education, discipline, frugality, and other time-tested values.

The Displaced Katrina Victim
A good example of what’s wrong with today’s government welfare program was related to me by my sister, who worked for a bank as a teller during the time when victims of Hurricane Katrina were relocated throughout the country. A fellow came in to use his government-issued debit card to pull out some cash, courtesy of the good old American taxpayers. Was he interested in food, clothing, shelter? No, he asked where the nearest “adult video store” was located so he could drop some dollars on pornography. In this case, as with too many government welfare recipients, it is obvious that the end result is contrary to the principles that promote welfare – health, happiness, and prosperity.

Not Victims
The victim mentality that exists among a high percentage of welfare recipients shows that the existing government system doesn’t work. If you can find a person who has been in a position where he relied upon an assistance program and survived it with his work ethic and self-esteem intact, you likely found a person who didn’t go the direction of government welfare, or who at least repented of it.
A Model For Real Welfare
A great model for helping the needy recover from temporal setbacks while not damaging their ability to provide for themselves is the welfare program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church or Mormon Church). The LDS Church strongly emphasizes self-reliance and teaches its members to work hard, to save money, to prepare for emergencies, and to generally fend for themselves in addition to giving service to others.

Members of the Church (and non-members as well) are given food and other means of survival with the understanding that it will be temporary. The church has food storehouses where individuals and families in trouble can purchase what they need by exchanging service. In this scenario, the innate feeling of accomplishment is not diminished as it is in situations where food and money are doled out with no accountability.

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