Society's Restraint to Social Reform

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

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

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 acquire any part of it when in need unless a justifiable reason such
as disability is present for the individual's inability to work. The right
to acquire welfare funds is highly conditional on how an individual accounts
for his failure in working toward his life's progression by his own efforts.

Two strong beliefs of the Puritan Position are; Firstly, those on welfare
should definitely not receive a higher income than the