Does a "Compassionate" State Diminish Family Life?
Professor Innes looks at the Dutch welfare state to find an answer
NEW YORK, July 26, 2010—Dr. David C. Innes, Assistant Professor of Politics at The King’s College, published “The Tragedy of State Compassion” in a recent issue of the “Washington Times.” The article highlighted how European-style democratic socialism has eroded a sense of family and responsibility in the nation.
Innes’ article recounts the situation of Mrs. van Breda, a 90-year old citizen of the Netherlands. Though some of her closest family members live near her house, they do not have to assist her with anything, because the government subsidizes most of the things that raise her quality of life. “For this reason,” Innes writes, “Mrs. van Breda's course of life is smoothed by a welfare state that has institutionalized compassion.”
Yet even a caring government cannot replace the strong family relationships required in a vibrant civil society. As Innes shows, the family does not see the need to help Mrs. van Breda clean or do household chores, because the government already does it. And as efficient or effective as it might be in the nation, it still comes at a cost. Innes writes:
“My friend Pieter tells me that when it comes to serving the needy, regardless of the family relationship, the modern Dutch consider it enough that they pay taxes. In fact, they have come to bear a striking resemblance to none other than Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens' ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Approached by two men who came collecting for the poor, he rebuffed them, asking, ‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’ Granted, Dutch provisions for those in need are on a level of humanity far higher than those Mr. Scrooge was satisfied with funding. But the spirit of personal indifference is the same. People simply don't want to be bothered, says Pieter - not even for their parents.”
Any social system that has this effect on civil society must be reconsidered. And for Innes, if America is heading in this direction, then maybe we need to realize that our choice is “between the nanny state and a caring citizenry.”
To read the article, please visit www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jul/2/netherlands-tragedy-of-state-compassion/.
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