Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Best Social Safety Net

The other day I was reading a book that was published by the CATO institute (www.cato.org). Within the publication I ran into a quote that I really liked. There is a lot of talk about the need for a social safety net. Usually, when people make this claim they are talking about programs such as Unemployment Insurance. However, I think that the CATO publication has the best suggestion for a social safety net program. This is the quote: "There is no better safeguard against unemployment than the prospect of a new job." If programs such as Unemployment Insurance have negative effects on employment prospects, and I think they do, than the very programs that are designed to help those in need may very well have the opposite effect than its original intent.

(I currently cannot find the original publication that I am referencing. When I do, I will put the name, and author on this post)

Contradictions Cannot Exist

I was reading the Missoulian at work today. Within the newspaper I ran across an article that was talking about health care reform protesters. Within the article, an individual that was championing a public option in health care made the comment "That last time I checked, the government was the people." This is a comment that, in some form or another, comes from people who generally support increased government involvement in a plethora of areas of our lives. You hear a similar comment from the narrator in the left leaning video "The Story of Stuff", where the narrator says " the government is by the people, for the people and of the people."
I think that this argument is particularly weak when compared to how government actually performs. However, politicians are not motivated solely by the public's best interest. Generally, they are motivated by the desire to be re-elected. I will admit that the strength of a democracy is that it tends to align a politician's self-interest with those of the public's. However, this is not always the case and to pretend that it is is particularly naive.
However, what if we assumed that politicians are only motivated to do what is in the public's best interest. Given this, there is still the problem of determining what the best interest of the public is. Some people want a single-payer health care system, others do not. Some people want to ban abortions, others do not. How does any one know, even politicians, know what is in the publics best interest? I contend that even if we given politicians the benefit of the doubt on what motivates them, they are still unable to determine exactly what is in the best interest of the public, or more generally, what the public wants.
What I find particularly interesting about the people who make the claims that state that government is run by the general population, is that in the next sentence they usually claim that the reason the government is not doing what they think is best is due to special interest's influencing politicians! How can it be the case that the government is run by the people, but also run by special interests? For example, the quote from the individual in the Missoulian was from someone who was protesting Representative Rehberg's stance on health care reform. At this protest, people were claiming that the congressman was not doing what the majority of people in Montana want. This seems to be a clear contradiction in their thinking. Is government "of the people," or do politicians simply do what they think would make them better off? I believe that the latter is the answer, and that is partially why I am skeptical of the government's involvement in any sector of this countries economy, and people's lives.