Monday, December 10, 2012

Compassion vs. justice and social justice

The three aren't identical. Policies of social intervention based solely on compassion tend to both be vague and open ended about when their goals will be achieved and also not touch the underlying causes of the problem being addressed. Solely basing something like this on compassion encourages and endless, bottomless, well of funding, while applying basic principles of justice--which imply righting a concrete past wrong and doing so precisely--both general and social, put constraints, limits, and reality testing on such programs, directing them to concrete as opposed to vague goals.

Clinton's welfare reform eviscerated the system, and went far too far, assuming that the neoliberal model of capitalism was correct and that people who were very poor simply needed to look harder for work, but one of the aspects of welfare that it was designed to address was real enough. This was the tendency for welfare to be endless, to the point where it became multi-generational, with mother and then daughter both getting onto welfare, being supported by the state, with no incentive whatsoever to do what was actually possible for them to improve their situation. A justice perspective, and a social justice perspective underneath it, would prevent something like that from happening by trying to solve the problem and make those affected, who have been wronged, whole, a finite goal.

1 comment:

Lorraine said...

The trouble with Clinton-era welfare reform isn't that it went too far, but that it rested on the wrong assumptions. In fairness, so did the safety net that it eviscerated. Both assume the population fits neatly into the two categories "employed" and "unemployed." The Earned Income Credit is the only current government policy that recognizes a continuum between penilessness and gainful employment, but of course the implementation is mostly wrong and the math around the credit arbitrarily punishes those who are child-free.

The child-free, by the way, I assert to be the single biggest social force actually doing something constructive about the conservative talking point (but nevertheless actual problem) called "multigenerational welfare." You're welcome.