11 May 2015

A Dialogue Between My Friend and I Concerning Welfare

Friend: Is the line "Welfare creates dependency" true in any way?
Me: Yes...
Me: ...and no.
Me: Dependency is the wrong word;
Me: "Advantage taking" is better
Friend: Interesting...
Me: The real question that people should ask is "is welfare socially beneficial?"
Me: Conservatives site lower employment as a problem.
Me: Liberals think that welfare is socially advantageous.
Me: I think I agree more with the liberals on the social part and conservatives on the sheer economics.
Friend: Here's a follow up question...
Friend: Has welfare benefited America?
Me: It depends on what you mean by benefit: incomes are higher, but employment may not be. Conservatives like to use low employment as a criticism of welfare in America while liberals focus on the actual increase in income; whether it's from people working or due to benefits from the government.
Me: Either way, Americans may be worse off because they don't have jobs...
Me: ...but that may be outweighed by their higher incomes.
Friend: I'd say in the social factor at least, the newer generations have been leading better lives.
Friend: I'd say at least slightly, but I think the environments many have grown up with have continued the cycle...
Friend: ...instilled a cycle
Me: The cycle argument really isn't economically viable*...
Friend: All right.
Me: The existence of incentives to work - wages; and not to work - welfare are more important to the welfare situation.
Me: The solution is to make the market wage higher than the amount people can get from welfare.
Me: This can be effected by jobs training and better education
Friend: So the opposite, say lowering the amount people can get from welfare instead of raising the wage would not work because... ?
Me: That would work too
Me: But it's more difficult...
Me: ...and likely bad socially.
Friend: hmm...

*The reason that the "cycle" argument doesn't line up economically is that employment decisions in normal (macro)economic models are entirely due to balancing a dislike for work and an attraction to consumption. This means that the argument that welfare creates an inter-generational cycle of poverty is neither needed to fit empirical data nor present in the way that (macro)economists think about welfare and employment.

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