A Summary of “How to Get the Poor off Our Conscience”
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This prose by John Kenneth Galbraith points out that as the continuing co-existence of affluence and poverty always leads to our discomforts, we have been undertaking to get the poor off our conscience for centuries.
Begin with the oldest solution in the Bible: the poor suffer in this
thworld but are wonderfully rewarded in the next. Later in 18 century,
Jeremy Bentham proposed utilitarianism, which claimed that the greatest good for greatest number of people could solve the social problem. Then in 1830s, Malthusianism associated with the name of David Ricardo and Thomas Robert Malthus pointed out excessive fecundity of the poor led
thto their poverty and that was their own fault. By the middle of 19
century, Hebert Spencer achieved Social Darwinism with essence of “survival of the fittest”. In the last century, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover thought that the public assistance to the poor interfered with the effective operation of the economic system.
The above five solutions made little breakthrough until Roosevelt revolution, it brought changes that government assumed a substantial measure of specific responsibility for the poor including social security and unemployment insurance.
In recent years, we were engaged in this search in a highly energetic
way and achieved five designs. The allegation that government is too incompetent and ineffective to succor the poor comes in the first and just avoids responsibility for the poor. Following the most highly influential piece of fiction appears that any form of public help to the poor only causes morale discouragement. Then the third design claims Public assistance measures have an adverse effect on incentive that reducing the effort of the diligent and encouraging the idleness of the idle but it’s
unbelievable that most of people prefer welfare to a good job. What’s
more transparent is the fourth design that suggests taking responsibility for the poor has adverse effect on freedom of choosing of the rich. Finally, with no effective way, we resort to psychological denial and decline to think of the poor.
However, in author’s opinion, although compassion along with public
effort is the least comfortable and convenient course of action in our time, it is the only way to preserve and enlarge social tranquility. A civilized free society need get the poor off our conscience in this way.