Society's Restraint to Social Reform
Of the many chatted words in the social reform vocabulary of Canadians today, the term workfare seems to stimulate much debate and emotion. Along with the notions of self-sufficiency, employability enhancement, and work disincentives, it is the concept of workfare that causes the most tension between it's government and business supporters and it's anti-poverty and social justice critics. In actuality, workfare is a contraction of the concept of "working for welfare" which basically refers to the requirement that recipients perform unpaid work as a condition of receiving social assistance.
Recent debates on the subject of welfare are far from unique. They are all simply contemporary attempts to decide if we live in a just society or not. This debate has been a major concern throughout history. Similarly, the provision of financial assistance to the able-bodied working-age poor has always been controversial.
On one side are those who articulate the feelings and views of the poor, namely, the Permissive Position, who see them as victims of our society and deserving of community support. The problems of the poor range from personal (abandonment or death of the family income earner) to the social (racial prejudice in the job market) and economic (collapse in the market demand for their often limited skills due to an economic recession or shift in technology). The Permissive View reveals that all participants in society are deserving of the unconditional legal right to social security without any relation to the individual's behaviour. It is believed that any society which can afford to supply the basic needs of life to every individual of that society but does not, can be accused of imposing life-long deprivation or death to those needy individuals. The reason for the needy individual being in that situation, whether they are willing to work, or their actions while receiving support have almost no weight in their ability to acquire this welfare support. This view is presently not withheld in society, for if it was, the stereotype of the 'Typical Welfare Recipient' would be unheard of.
On the other side, the Individualists believe that generous aid to the poor is a poisoned chalice that encourages the poor to pursue a life of poverty opposing their own long-term interests as well of those of society in general. Here, high values are placed on personal choice. Each participant in society is a responsible individual who is able to make his own decisions in order to manipulate the progression of his own life. In conjunction with this opinion, if you are given the freedom to make these decisions, then surely you must accept the consequences of those decisions. An individual must also work part of his time for others (by means of government taxing on earned income). Those in society who support potential welfare recipients do not give out of charity, but contrastingly are forced to do it when told by the Government. Each person in society contains ownership of their own body and labour. Therefore anything earned by this body and labour in our Free Market System is deserved entirely by that individual. Any means of deducting from these earnings to support others is equivalent to criminal activity. Potential welfare recipients should only be supported by voluntary funding. For this side, welfare ultimately endangers society by weakening two of it's moral foundations: that able-bodied adults should be engaged in some combination of working, learning and child rearing; and secondly, that both parents should assume all applicable responsibilities of raising their children.(5)
In combination of the two previous views, the Puritan View basically involves the idea that within a society which has the ability to sufficiently support all of it's individuals, all participants in the society should have the legal right to Government supplied welfare benefits. However, the individual's initiative to work is held strongly to this right. Potential welfare recipients are classified as a responsibility of the Government. The resources required to support the needy are taken by means of taxation from the earnings of the working public. This generates an obligation to work. Hence, if an individual does not make the sacrifice of his time and energy to contribute their earnings to this fund, they are not entitled to