Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Everything for everyone?"

I am concerned with the way polemic and inaccurate statements are bandied about as uncontested "fact" and my growing conviction is that we need to keep challenging the fuzzy thinking. In the Jesus Creed post quoted from below (I like Jesus Creed because all sorts of people "gather" there and thus the diversity of opinion is broad) Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed blog owner, has been talking about the changing philosophy of education funding since the 1960s, in which higher education was seen a public good.

From Jesus Creed at http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/09/12/ucal-education/#comments

In order [in California] to assure access for all, tuition charges were banned—only “fees” for some costs other than education were allowed. Most funding was to come from taxpayers. The premise was that higher education was a public good for the state, which was nursing its own future entrepreneurs and taxpayers. As Mr Kerr put it, the universities were “bait to be dangled in front of industry, with drawing power greater than low taxes or cheap labour”.

That consensus has been upended. In 1990 the state paid 78% of the cost of educating each student. That ratio dropped to 47% last year, and will fall even more during the current academic year, after the latest round of budget cuts, overseen by Jerry Brown, the current governor and son of Pat Brown.

From a frequent blog responder:

California tried to provide everything for everyone, and they went broke. Thus, things ended up worse (and yes, worse for the same people they were trying to help) than had they simply been responsible in the first place. It’s odd that people continue to not get this after so many examples. Ultimately, when the same thing happens on a national scale, the truly poor will be the ones most hurt. Our desire to provide everything will ultimately lead to the most vulnerable (some like to call them “the least of these”) ending up worse than before. This is why people claim (rightly, in my view) that endless amounts of ‘helping people’ results in those people being worse off than before.

My response:

California never tried to provide “everything for everyone.” That’s simply not an accurate statement. I lived in California years ago and was not allowed to loll around collecting a welfare check. I worked hard to make a living. However, in the past, responsible people have believed that investing in the civic sector by providing “for the larger good” was an honorable, responsible and worthy task to be engaged in by sober, mature citizens. My heart broke when I read that people cheered at the latest Presidential debate the idea of letting a person without health insurance die in the emergency room. My heart breaks to be part of a society in which we are not a commonwealth anymore but a a group of individuals each out for himself or herself. My question is–under the guise of the unchallenged (by some) assumption that we “can’t afford things” anymore, which flies in the face of massively improved productivity in the US over the past 20 years– or that the least bit of sharing in the culture for the common good somehow equates to “socialism”–are we becoming evil? Is the Christian ethic of the Good Samaritan being subordinated to the lust for money?

My response was perhaps overly impassioned but I am concerned about, for instance, people cheering the idea of letting an uninsured individual die in an emergency room. Sometimes I feel I went to sleep in my beloved United States and woke up in a nightmare land. What can we do?


Bill Samuel said...

It may be an over-individualistic culture. The idea is that it's all about me. There has also been a generosity of spirit in play in America which has served as a counter-balance, but that seems to have weakened.

When the choice is whether I, as a reasonably affluent individual, should contribute so that those less fortunate can have needs such as medical care met, or whether I should let them suffer or die so I can keep all my money, more and more people seem to want to make the latter choice. It seems to me that they are to some degree denying their very humanity here. We are each part of the whole, and recent studies have shown that is built into us as humans (also in many other species studied). As believers, we see this as God-given.

I too dread living in a society where people don't care about the welfare of others with whom they do not already have a family or friendship connection.

Diane said...

Thanks Bill and amen.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I am around a sea of people who denounce government help, higher taxes, etc. I do wonder how much we should expect out of the state; I am looking at it from my mildly Anabaptist perspective. Yet God will judge peoples on how they treat each other.

In the main I agree fully with you (and Bill). I'm just not on board with this American enterprise, I guess.