Products – The Centre for Independent Studies

Re-moralising the Welfare State

Peter Saunders
13 March 2013 | OP131
Re-moralising the Welfare State

The left thinks high welfare spending signifies compassion. The right believes it rewards irresponsible behaviour. Saunders argues both sides are right.

The left says people who need help must be cared for, irrespective of circumstances. Recent work in evolutionary psychology shows this principle derives from a deep instinct for compassion which we all share.

The right says everyone should pull their weight and nobody should ‘free-ride’. This too is deeply embedded in human instincts — the sense that reward should be in proportion to contribution.

A just welfare system should express both of these moral instincts – caring and proportionality. Saunders spells out how welfare should be organised to achieve this.

First, people who get welfare should not be better off than those who assist them. This applies both to the money they receive, and the free time available to them.

Second, not everyone should be helped in the same way. A moral welfare system demands distinctions between more and less deserving cases.

Third, before anyone calls on the assistance of strangers, they should seek help closer to home. Saunders discusses Germany, where grandparents have a legal obligation to provide for their grandchildren if parents fail to do so.

These three simple rules appeal to our instinctive sense of fairness. Applying them to our welfare system would ensure it is just as well as compassionate.

 

Latest Publications

A 2021 education resolution: keep an eye on the Australian Curriculum
Fiona Mueller
11 February 2021 | OP179

The COVID-19 pandemic is stimulating debate about the relationship between the governed and their leaders, both elected and appointed. In Australia, the world’s tenth-oldest continuous democracy, there is an unanticipated but positive opportunity for a nation-building refocus on the principles and aspirations that underpinned the 1901 agreement ‘to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth’.[i]  That agreement reflects an enduring belief…

READ MORE
The New President: What Biden’s Foreign Policy Agenda Means for Australia
Salvatore Babones
19 January 2021 | OP178

Joe Biden comes to the presidency amid great expectations for a return to normalcy in American foreign policy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a more benign international environment for Australia. The United States has global priorities and responsibilities, but there are three areas in particular where the Biden administration’s policy choices are most likely to affect Australia: China policy, climate…

READ MORE
The Elite Embrace
Rowan Callick
03 November 2020 | OP177

After suffering pushback at home and abroad in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has resumed its course to achieve key Chinese Communist Party goals by retaining the backing of the elites that count, both within China and overseas. In this paper, leading China expert Rowan Callick traces the elitist evolution of the Party…

READ MORE
Innovation in Australia
Matt Ridley
22 October 2020 | OP176

In the mid twentieth-century, half the world still lived in extreme poverty. Today, even corrected for inflation, just 9% of people live like that. Average lifespan is increasing globally by about five hours a day. Child mortality, the greatest measure of misery I can think of, is plummeting on all continents. Global inequality is falling as people in poor countries…

READ MORE
Australia, the United States and China in a post-Covid world
Richard Alston
14 September 2020 | OP175

After three decades of prosperity and relative peace, Australia suddenly confronts a trifecta of crises: a pandemic, a recession, and a radically changed strategic outlook. In these circumstances, Australia must adapt quickly, always putting its interests first and being prepared to lead when necessary. Notwithstanding China’s growing assertiveness and doubts about US pre-eminence, Canberra can still ride two horses simultaneously.…

READ MORE