So long as the few remaining members of the terminal “party of Reagan” still gasp for breath to utter 30 year old conflicts and dichotomies, we shall be called socialists and impractical. Unlike them, we have real, objective principles based in a consistent natural law philosophy to hold onto and steer us towards the Truth and never tire in answering the quaint objections of our political great-grand sires in their dotage.
It may be said that our plans for a decentralized system of social assistance won’t work. The objection is that it allows people a means to vote themselves more money. While this would be a worthy objection if we advocated the same kind of irresponsible social assistance as other political parties, it is completely worthless in relation to our plan.
In the first place, and perhaps it was not made entirely clear in our previous treatise, our plan has an end, a goal, and objective. Unlike current plans that throw money at a problem in the hope it will go away, our plan seeks to bring each and every person the dignity they deserve. Public assistance is the means to the end i.e. private property. Every program must be designed with that end in mind. Man gains no dignity living off the charity of others and especially gains no dignity on public assistance. The whole reason we support public assistance at all is because we are pragmatic. We realize the very obvious fact that private institutions cannot currently handle the needs of the community. Furthermore, we recognize the government’s responsibility to protect the poor. As Pope Leo said:
“Still, when there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the poor and badly off have a claim to especial consideration. The richer class have many ways of shielding themselves, and stand less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly depend upon the assistance of the State. And it is for this reason that wage-earners, since they mostly belong in the mass of the needy, should be specially cared for and protected by the government.”
This does not mean that the government does or should intervene in all cases and instances. The greatest and prime power and responsibility of the government is to enact laws. In enacting laws, the government must encourage the actions of private institutions towards the same end as their programs. The government needs to ensure that the right to private property is preserved and protected, yet with special consideration to the needs of the poor.
As stated before, we do not offer specific plans. We leave the actual formulation of the various systems to the localities. Those systems, however, need to accomplish certain goals i.e. aid the poor in providing for the basic necessities of sustenance, shelter, and clothing and enable them to acquire, through their own artifice, private property. Section 8 housing is a good temporary solution to an immediate need, but prolonged tenure there create ghettos from which few can arise. Food stamps provide substantial relief to struggling families but they do not solve the underlying problem of sound budgeting strategies and general home economics. The goal is that they have private property and receive, through their own careful labor, their own portion of the bounties of the earth. Using the government to “equalize” the various members merely reduces everyone’s dignity rather than raising that of the poor. Pope Leo writes:
Here, however, it is expedient to bring under special notice certain matters of moment. First of all, there is the duty of safeguarding private property by legal enactment and protection. Most of all it is essential, where the passion of greed is so strong, to keep the populace within the line of duty; for, if all may justly strive to better their condition, neither justice nor the common good allows any individual to seize upon that which belongs to another, or, under the futile and shallow pretext of equality, to lay violent hands on other people’s possessions.
We must stress that the central and overreaching difference between our plan and current ones is the goal of private property. It is not common property. It is not mere redistribution. It is not propping up the poor while keeping them poor. It is helping those in need until they don’t need help. The government cannot and should not do it alone or even with tacit cooperation from private associations. The whole community must come together in solidarity, meaning that the government and private associations must combine their efforts to meet the immediate needs of the poor and help ensure that they are given all they need–be it job training, monetary assistance, deregulation, home economy education, ease of taxation, etc–in order that they attain the goal of private property and standing tall with the rest of the community.
Another objection is that decentralized systems existed in the past and they failed to provide adequate services and resulted in current expansions. To answer this, we turn to Austria, one of the few countries that recovered quickly after the 2008 Financial Crisis. Austria’s system creates a synthesis between public and private efforts, keeping the majority of program control in the hands of local government bodies and institutions.
Now, the objection our political elders will no doubt raise at this point is that Austria is socialist and European and therefore not qualified to give advice to America. This is the prejudice of old men who have forgotten that we still have not recovered from the recession and now have a higher percentage of debt to GDP than these so-called socialist Europeans. Being a country of that size, having a quality of life that high, and being the 12th richest country in the world is nothing to sneeze at and it is worthwhile to take some lessons from our neighbors who are partially controlled and guided arguably the most successful and oldest Christian Democrat parties in the world.
Austria’s social insurance program, for example, is semi-compulsory but is mainly funded by employer and employee contributions under a pay as you go system. It operates much like social security in the United States, but the insuring agency is a private institution that belongs to a government association to provide oversight. These insuring agencies are designated in the various states in Austria together with specific occupational agencies. Thus, miners, businessmen, and farmers have their own agencies rather than all being lumped into one single payer system. What is especially interesting about the Austrian system is that special employment situations such as free lancers, part time employees, or the self-employed have options. If you are a truck driver making a certain income and self-employed, you can opt out of social insurance programs.
The whole principle behind the system is to have each person paying into the system have a direct interest in it while reducing the government interest. The government boards are, in fact, comprised of members of the insuring agencies so the private institutions–and by extension the employees and employers paying into them–have a say in their regulation. This is completely unconscionable to the American system where the only solutions are total abolition or pumping more money into a failing system.
It is also good to note that Austria has been able to sustain these programs by only spending about 3% of their GDP and managing to maintain 1-3% growth. Their unemployment is lower, their quality of life is higher, their public debt is lower, and their median income is higher and rising. In our own country, we have rising poverty, rising inflation, rising unemployment, and stagnant wages. It seems we could learn from the Austrians.
The Austrians do have their problems but they have designed a social assistance system that limits government involvement, maximizes community efforts, and fosters the acquisition of private property. What we propose has been tried and it has been remarkably successful. It requires us to put away the tired old excuses and plans of the politically senile and moving forward with the guidance of tradition and authentic human development. After all:
It worked for Poland.