Last Updated 16 May 2021

Ethics of Welfare and Government Assistance

Category Welfare
Essay type Research
Words 1449 (5 pages)
Views 483

When the topic of welfare is brought into an ethical discussion most individuals would surely see it as an ethical act that genuinely helps those in need. This is true to an extent, but is it possible that welfare does more harm than good? Most would argue that the hand out of money to those less fortunate is being socially responsible. The question that drives this ethical issue is where does social responsibility end and personal responsibility pick up?

This question is difficult to answer because every family in need is in a different situation. Government benefits are supposed to be used as a crutch for families to get back on their feet, but about twenty percent of all families receiving welfare stay on the program for more than five years.  This is the base of ethical issues surrounding government assistance and social responsibility for the needy. Many individuals believe that receiving a government hand-out allows people to become satisfied with being on welfare.

If programs like food stamps and welfare aren’t effective, they are essentially a black hole for the tax dollars of working Americans. There is no denying the fact that there are needy families out there who are so impoverished that they need aid, but it is nearly impossible to separate the abusers from the desperate. It is for this reason many arguments can be made for both sides of government assistance. The most common question is, how far should a government’s social responsibility stretch? The issuing of government benefits derived from tax dollars is a strong ethical dilemma that has both social and economical repercussions. text:bibliography-mark} The first way to look at this problem from an ethical and moral point of view would be from the psychological egoist perspective. An egoist is a person who believes all that matters in moral issues are the elements that deal with self. They are believers that all people’s decisions in life are based on selfishness. Therefore, if welfare were a charity, rather than a government run program, the psychological egoists of the world probably would most likely not contribute.

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On the other side of the coin, psychological egoism would suggest that all people who qualify for government benefits would try to collect these benefits. That is where psychological egoism falls short of defining exactly how humans behave. Social stigmas associated with government assistance keeps some individuals from applying. This shows that selfishness takes a backseat to pride and dignity when placed against these moral values. The real problem with government programs like welfare, food stamps, and free lunch is that the line between assistance and benefits is very dull.

For example, a man who makes enough money to support his family may still qualify for welfare. If the person solely spends their welfare checks on alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling is it really helping them prosper? The reality is that every person has different tolerance for assistance. Welfare that may feel like warranted assistance for one family could be seen as excess unearned benefits for a different family. That is where the psychological egoism perspective of all actions being driven by self-interest falls apart. It also does not hold up against thoughts of compassion.

If all people lacked compassion in their actions the United States government would have never been able to pass a bill to create welfare and other tax-dollar funded assistance programs. {text:bibliography-mark} There is another ethical theory that is based on people acting on self-interest, it is titled ethical egoism. There are three different types of ethical egoism; however, only two are actual theories on moral behaviors. The first is Individual ethical egoism. Individual ethical egoists believe that they should only act in self-interest, and that other around them should act out of their self-interest as well.

This is the definition of being completely selfish, not only are you only looking out for yourself, but you expect others to help you along the way as well. In regards to government assistance, these people would likely complain about paying taxes for these programs, but also are very likely to want to use and abuse them. Another type of ethical egoism that exists is called universal ethical egoism. The main belief behind universal egoism remains the same as that of individual egoism; individuals should only act out of their own self-interest.

Where these two types of egoism differ is that universal egoism suggests that all people should act in a selfish manner, removing all altruistic acts from society. If this type of egoism really described the actions of all people, it is likely most people would favor the individual egoism theory, for they would desire to have everybody acting for their personal interests. Both of these types of egoism don’t give a realistic grasp of the American society when dealing with government assistance. These egoists would surely all desire government benefits, but they would have no desire to give back to the community.

If everybody were solely out for themselves, there would be no government assistance because working tax-payers would refuse to fund such a thing. Therefore those that believe in egoism are likely against government assistance programs, but are happy to reap the benefits if they qualify. The essential opposite to egoism is known as utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is based on the idea of morality revolving around creating the most good for the most people. When it comes to decision making surrounding utilitarianism actions are based on the consequences that will ensue from the action.

When this type of thinking is applied to the government assistance problem, utilitarian’s would surely side with providing those in need with as much as possible. This is a difficult position, because the abusers of these programs are still going to be allowed to collect, but if allowing these programs to operate helps the most people, then utilitarian’s will be supportive of them. This theory on moral behavior is most definitely not an accurate representation of how society actually treats the poor and needy.

Most people would only like to assist individuals if they are positive that they are desperate. The thought of people abusing the system drives many people to criticize it. People are greedy, and want to make sure all their money is being spent the way they desire. Therefore, the amount of people who support utilitarianism is the reason that these government assistance programs have been established. Greed and egoism are the reason that these programs are dysfunctional in many ways.  Who is at fault for those who require assistance?

The egoists would argue that if one acts solely on self-interest and still comes up empty, they have to sleep on the bed they have made. Utilitarianism argues the complete opposite; all people as humanity are responsible for helping out each other. Since greed and materialism dominates American culture, it would be safe to say the egoists are winning this battle. Furthermore, by allowing abuse of government assistance programs it only advances the egotistical belief that the world is every man for themselves and to take all benefits possible.

This is what drives most complaints within the system, the government not doing a good enough job of regulating these assistance programs. The issuing of government assistance is an ethical issued because it deals with multiple different opinions on the matter all based on morals. People who believe that every family should have to earn everthing they receive are basing this reasoning off egoism. Those who feel that it is the duty of society to help those in need are basing their reasoning off of utilitarianism.

The issues that most people bring up within the government assistance programs are that they are not managed and policed well enough. This is not a moral issue; rather just issues of the government not doing all it can to make sure the right people are receiving assistance. Another reason that people have a large problem with assistance is because the government is in charge of it, and some people will go against anything that is government run. For these people there is no purpose in reasoning, they simply believe the government is out to get us all.

The main reason people have such strong opinions on this matter is because those who work likely envision portions of their check being mailed to people who don’t even attempt to land a job. This is what creates the social stigma associated with government assistance. In this day and age a country as prominent and developed as the United States must look out for their impoverished population. The assistance programs offered may not have all the kinks worked out and may not be well liked by everybody, but there is no denying that these programs are helping more than they are hurting.

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Ethics of Welfare and Government Assistance. (2018, Feb 15). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/ethics-of-welfare-and-government-assistance/

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