[Paleopsych] welfare

Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. ljohnson at solution-consulting.com
Mon Nov 29 00:18:43 UTC 2004

   I teach an MBA course on Problem Solving, and use Joe Versus the 
Volcano to illustrate various problems and their analysis. In the scene 
"This is a real scene" where Tom Hanks/Joe and Meg Ryan/Angelica are 
looking out over Los Angeles, Angelica talks of suicide. Joe says that 
if we do what we are most afraid of doing, our lives work.
    Angelica: You mean, stop taking my father's money and leave LA?
    Joe: See! You know what it is you really want to do.
Angelica's response to Joe illustrates the dilemma of unearned income.

    Later in the movie, Meg Ryan as Patricia learns that Joe turned down 
unearned intimacies with her sister, Angelica, and she knows something 
about Joe from that.

    But you didn't deal with my point about my own experience in working 
with those receivintg welfare, and the degrading effects it has. Like 
Angelica, they thought they had no other choice, until the 
Clinton-Republican alliance welfare reform of 1994 or 6, and they had to 
go to work. Unlike your example of people working in degrading 
conditions, they felt trapped because they were afraid of giving up the 
dole. People say "Take this job and shove it" all the time, because they 
see themselves as free. They can work elsewhere. The dole creates an 
illusion of a lack of freedom.  It is unearned, and one must placate the 
welfare gods. One's energies are centered around keeping the dole going 
instead of achieving something, as Joe Banks tells Angelica Graynamore.
    This clearly is a personal position, one I confess comes from my 
culture, but one that seems to have borne positive fruit (more people 
are working post welfare reform). I believe in reducing welfare and 
creating workfare programs because I believe people are more fully alive 
and vital when they are producing something valuable to the group. 
Howard has spoken to this point many times, the delirious joy of the 
crowd responding to what you do, whether it is to sing or invent a 
pocket fisherman. Then we are most alive, most energized.

Michael Christopher wrote:

>But I still believe welfare does allow a greater
>degree of freedom than being forced into a work
>program in which there is little choice of the type of
>job or employer. Being forced to work most of the day
>for someone who doesn't treat you well is not freedom.

But you are free to leave any moment, and many do.

>Having a safety net that allows you to structure your
>own time (or at least pick from a broad range of
>training and employment options) does give a greater
>degree of freedom. 

--That sounds like an ideological position, and let's

Yes, you are correct, it is ideological, based on cultural mores.

>assume for a moment that it's true (perhaps it's true
>for some and not others?) Are there ways of having
>people earn their safety net income, without depriving
>them of choice and dignity? I've met many people who
>had gotten used to working for employers who were
>bullies, and it seemed pretty degrading to them. They
>were on drugs, unable to plan ahead, etc. So I could
>make the same argument about a system which has a
>permanent low-wage class, that you make about the
>welfare system. 
>I think it's reasonable to give people options to earn
>an income. I just worry that forcing people into a job
>market ignores the psychological impact of such an
>experiment, just as you worry about the psychological
>impact of welfare. We have to be humble enough to
>recognize that it's ALL an experiment, and we're
>playing with the lives of human beings when we
>abruptly change the system.
>Do you Yahoo!? 
>Read only the mail you want - Yahoo! Mail SpamGuard. 
>paleopsych mailing list
>paleopsych at paleopsych.org
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