We received an email from a listener describing her experiences with people on government assistance programs. She was specific and candid about the excesses and poor decisions that led to their circumstances. From her experiences, she concludes that cash assistance is a mistake. Here is my response:
Hi there. I always love hearing from you. I had to think about this message for a few days to get clear on my own response. I don't think that anything you say here is wrong or overstated or unusual. Many people find themselves needing assistance and support because of bad decisions repeated over a lifetime. Many people program shop. Maybe people abuse the system. Many people misdirect resources. Many people don't try to improve their circumstances.
Here's my perspective: I choose not to think about this.
The reality is that these same bad decisions, abuses of the system, etc. can happen regardless of the structure of the system. And I have made a really deliberate choice in my life to prioritize grace over fairness. That's not the right decision for everyone, and I'm not saying that my personal preferences always make sound policy. But this is where I am.
I choose grace. So even though many people create their own circumstances (some over and over and over again), I want them to have a place to live and food to eat and the opportunity to live with more ease even if they will likely blow that opportunity. I choose not to think about cigarettes or televisions or iPhones or how hard someone works compared to how hard I work. That search for justice makes me miserable and gets me nowhere. I can't control anyone's choices, motivation, or path, and I certainly don't think government can. That's why I'm leaning more toward universal basic income. Let's dismantle the layers of administrators designed to essentially control people and just provide them with charity and the opportunity to later repay that charity by contributing to the system.
Again, this is in no way a criticism of your position, which is valid and one I understand. This is just where I am.