Against the Conventional Wisdom: A Primer for Current Economic Controversies and Proposals

By Douglas Dowd | Go to book overview

6
Welfare and Social Securlty

The Needs of Strangers

In our world, the deepest unmet needs -- for adequate food, clothing, shelter, health, and education -- which should be seen as human rights, are experienced by billions of people who are now and will always remain strangers to the rest of us.1 But it is upon us -- those societies and their citizens whose own such needs are met -- that the responsibility rests to develop and pursue policies to relieve the impoverishment of those strangers' lives. To do so is to practice the ultimate in human solidarity; not to do so, quite apart from ethical and moral considerations, is to imperil our own lives.

The focus of this book is principally the United States, and not only on the poor here. However, given the interdependencies both within and between national political economies, it is reckless to proceed with a "winner take all" economic process, even were "winner" taken to signify half of our own, half of the world's people. However, not even "half" of the people there or here are able to meet the basic needs noted above.

"Winner take all" as an outlook has been an inevitable outcome of the economic individualism that has long characterized the United States.2 Part of the admirable political philosophy of individualism, economic individualism has taken on something of a life of its own, mutating into a genteel name for greed. Because economic individualism is a driving force today, it must be seen more as a social illness than a dynamic making for the strengthening of the economy, let alone for the good of society as a whole.

Our species would not have survived its first millennia had it depended upon the individualistic ways and means common in the United States today. That is not so much a moral judgment as a recognition of the differences

-73-

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Against the Conventional Wisdom: A Primer for Current Economic Controversies and Proposals
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface and Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Mouths and Realities of the Free Market 1
  • 2 - Fiscal Policy 15
  • 3 - International Production, Trade, and Finance 28
  • 4 - Jobs and Joblessness 42
  • 5 - Income and Wealth and Power and Poverty 55
  • 6 - Welfare and Social Securlty 73
  • 7 - Health, Education, and Housing 90
  • 8 - Environmental Deterioration 112
  • 9 - Expenditures on the Military and Crime 129
  • 10 - Needs and Possibilities 142
  • Notes 159
  • About the Book and Author 192
  • Index 193
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