Doing Good through Government
In fact the good created by these governments far exceeds all the good accomplished by churches and charities in our society. When we think about some of the greatest moral achievements in our history, it is often the American people acting through their government that brought them about. It is government that has saved millions of lives through public health programs to eradicate diseases. On any measure, the good works accomplished by government have far eclipsed those of churches and other charities. In contrast, the federal government alone spends over $200 billion a year on programs aimed at poor and low-income families, including welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and housing subsidies.
Government also funds much of the anti-poverty and anti-hunger work done by charitable groups and non-profit human service organizations. Catholic Charities USA, which provides emergency food and shelter to the poor, gets 65% of its budget from the government. 2 So it is clearly the government that is carrying the bulk of the load in caring for the neediest people in our society. So while most of us do not think of it this way, government is actually one of the main ways that we act as good people in the world. Our contributions to government in the form of taxes go to fund a wide variety of programs and services that have eliminated enormous amounts of suffering and vastly improved millions of people’s lives. Democratic government is in part a manifestation of our desire to be responsible moral people, and it is the primary institutional mechanism that we use to make the world a better place.
One of the best examples of government as a moral instrument is the way we use it to express compassion and caring toward one another.
Survival of the fittest?
After so many years of Social Darwinism, Hurricane Katrina could reawaken the American people’s appetite for compassion in government. In my view, it is likely to have as traumatic an impact on American political life as the Great Depression of the 1930s. So Social Darwinism has remained in the American psyche, sometimes submerged in the current, sometimes coming to the surface like a log in a fast-flowing river. Never before had government so directly shored up the lives of individual Americans at every social level and class. These days, we Americans are totally ignorant of our own political and social history.
American tax payers have spent 4 trillion that’s Trillion dollars on social welfare programmes over the past 35 years. Sarc, New York, USA. Amen! Though in the short term I am not so certain, there are many Americans rather satisfied with the status quo and not too keen on asking serious questions about the role of the individual, the responsibility of the state, the meaning of public policy in a new millennium that will require dialogue and cooperation if mankind is able to survive. J.
Young, Atlanta, USA. From one so entrenched in American journalism reading the BBC is a breath of fresh air. Greg Burton, Atlanta, GA USA. The question is, do Americans want it differently. With jobs now being outsourced by American companies and the resurgence of other worldwide industries to supply to the USA the prognosis for the American is not good.
You are correct that American society rests on a foundation of social Darwinism. Millions of Americans are deeply convinced that the federal government is a bloated, ineffective and culturally alien institution.
Engaging the Other
Edgewood College joins the Common Bond Institute in hosting Engaging the Other: The Power of Compassion, a participatory conference addressing the toxic polarization around social and political issues in the United States. Facilitators representing the socio-political spectrum from right to left will guide opportunities for deep listening and compassionate dialogue, as well as practical action planning to increase civility in public discourse. In addition to immigration and violence, conference participants will determine many of the specific topics to be addressed through interactive roundtables. The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Bonnie Carroll, military veteran, 2015 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, former staffer in the Reagan and Bush White Houses, and founding president of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Farha Abbasi, founder, Muslim Mental Health Conference and the Mental Health First Responder Training for Faith and Community Leaders; Managing editor of the Journal of Muslim Mental Health, and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Michigan State University.
John Steiner, Bridge Alliance board member and trans-partisan activist. Barbara Simonetti, past board chair, National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. Registration will begin in the Predolin lobby at 3pm. Conference sessions, including opening remarks, round-table discussions, a World Café, and a plenary session will occur from 4p-8:30pm. Lunch is provided to all registered conference participants.
For driving directions to the College during the Monroe Street Construction, please visit: Directions to Main Campus.