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Welfare Contractualism: Beneficial or detrimental?

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  1. Introduction
  2. White's concept of distributive justice
  3. Paternalism is a possible justification for welfare Contractualism
  4. Conclusion

In a society that faces 'problems of un-employment, sluggish growth, and population ageing,' the main question that governments asks is how can we go about getting people to work? Stuart White, the author of Social Rights and the Social Contract, shares some insight on this matter and suggests an answer to this fundamental question. His thesis states that in order for the government gives welfare benefits in the form of compensation and/or severance packages to unemployed citizens they must sign a contract legally binding them to seek out and keep a job as a means of satisfying their responsibility to contribute to society economically.

I believe that welfare contractualism is a big step forward in the development of the welfare system as it forces a set of checks and balances upon the system. However, his view of welfare benefits being determined based on the output of an individual is in my eyes an unattainable perspective. I agree with his concept of distributive justice and how it seeks to evenly distribute a nation's wealth. I agree with White's theory of the reciprocity principle where the citizen owes the state for what it has taken; however, if I am to fully agree with White's solution to restructuring the welfare state I believe that changes need to be made to his model of paternalism as a means of justifying welfare contractualism.

White's concept of distributive justice, commonly exhibited by even remotely socialist countries in the form of taxation, is a means to close the gap between the rich and the poor. He stresses the fact that every citizen has to contribute something to society. In the case of welfare beneficiaries, White takes the approach of ?rights are ?balanced by responsibilities.'? He wants to give them the right to have welfare compensation but at the same time they should be contributing to society so he legally binds them to seek out a job.

Tags: Stuart White, Social Rights and the Social Contract, welfare contractualism, welfare system.

[...] However, I disagree with White's eligibility rules especially when they prove to be detrimental to the recipient in times of hardship. I conclude that a combination of the above three concepts would yield successful results. That is, combining distributive justice with reciprocity, and enforcing them with limited paternalism. As L.T. Hobhouse once said, the to work' and the right to a ?living wage' are just as valid as the rights of [...]

[...] White goes on to state a perfectly suiting quotation by Gerald Dworkin, ?even if we are rational and self- disciplined most of the time, the vast majority of us are vulnerable to periods of irrationality At these times we choose to do things that have tragic and irreversible consequences.?[8] How about in a situation when jobs are scarce and the economy is not doing well is the citizen still obliged to get a job or face the consequence of being cut off from his welfare benefits? [...]

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