The one part of the charity vs. social welfare argument that everyone ignores

It's called the status quo bias — and it's crucial to understanding our policy debates

Immunization program
(Image credit: (Spencer Platt/Getty Images))

Mike Konczal has a wonderful article about "the voluntarism fantasy" in the latest issue of Democracy. Konczal takes on the claim that private charity once served the functions that social insurance programs now do, showing that there has never been a time since at least the Civil War in which the state was not engaged in significant social insurance provisions, and that charities, both in the past and present, become quickly overwhelmed during times of acute need. He concludes that charity cannot adequately replace social insurance, despite some conservative claims to the contrary.

Now, very few people publicly argue that our well-established social insurance schemes (think Social Security) should be uprooted in favor of charity. Hardly anybody claims that repealing Medicare would lead to a surplus of elderly health care charities. Fewer still come into the arena of public discourse claiming that cutting disability benefits would lead to an adequate network of disability mutual aid clubs.

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