[Paleopsych] the welfare state

Hannes Eisler he at psychology.su.se
Thu Nov 25 16:22:29 UTC 2004

Living in a welfare state myself I have a few comments.
First, we have to distinguish different groups. One group consists of 
people who cannot help themselves: mentally ill, retarded, 
alcoholics, junkies, etc.
To be brutal: I don't want to see them running around on the street and perish.
But also as a fellowman I want to help them, not privately but by 
gladly paying taxes.
Second: The welfare state's intention is to redistribute your (own) 
income over your life cycle. An example: You get paid a certain 
amount for every child (from your taxes) as long as children are dear 
(in more than one meaning); when they are grown up and do not cost 
anymore your taxes are considered a repayment. This is valid for all 
citizens, though no personal humiliation. It works automatically.
Sickness is something similar; you pay only a part of the costs of 
visits to physicians and medicines. However, as a healthy individual 
you can earn money and pay taxes, so the government (i.e., the 
taxpayers) may make a profit.
Finally there is a group whose income does not cover their living 
expenses, or people who cannot handle money. Again, part of them may 
have gotten into some kind of trouble, say having become a victim to 
a fraud, and need some monetary help. For them there is another kind 
of social welfare; they have to ask the pertinent authority in person 
with all the entailing humiliation. But this is only a small part of 
the Swedish welfare state.
But there is some trouble ahead. Many young people (according to 
interviews) don't place work as central in their lives as their 
parents and grandparents did. And many people claim to be sick when 
just feeling bad (not an outright cheat) which raises the amount of 
costs to unbearable high levels.
We shall see how the welfare state will develop. As yet cannot Sweden 
be compared to the pre-Thatcher UK as Lynn Johnson described it.
I may add: when I was about ten years old I thought it a shame to 
work for money--note: not to work in itself, but to earn money for a 

Prof. Hannes Eisler
Department of Psychology
Stockholm University
S-106 91 Stockholm

e-mail:   he at psychology.su.se
fax   :   +46-8-15 93 42
phone :   +46-8-163967 (university)
           +46-8-6409982 (home)
internet: http://www.psychology.su.se/staff/he

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