The Giant Machine

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If we have decided that it’s society’s responsibility to help those in need, then do we not also have an obligation to make sure our support systems are NOT giant, costly bureaucracies removed from the real human beings? Would more local support be better?

An article from The Economist questions how to “balance the desire to keep people out of penury with the equally humanitarian desire to not let them drift into lives of indolence and despair.”

Interestingly, one person’s comment on that article reflects the despair that stems simply from interacting with the welfare system itself:

“In the 23 months that I have been trying to get disability benefits I have been assigned multiple case workers. In all of that time NOT ONE OF THEM has answered the phone or returned my calls despite the dozens of voice mails I’ve left. NOT ONCE.

I am not an isolated case. When you hear or read that the system is designed to drain people of all hope and drag the process out until they lose the will to fight anymore, or just become too sick to fight, believe it. When I tell you of the despair and hopelessness I felt after each rejection letter believe me. When I tell you the system is a giant machine devoid of any human emotion yet decides the fate of real human beings believe me.

90% of disability applicants are denied before the court level. At the court level 40% are approved. Does this mean that the court is too lenient or that a government agency that spend[s] $4 billion a year on administrative costs is rejecting people who should be approved? Believe me when I tell you it is the latter.

I am outraged when people fraudulently receive benefits too. I paid taxes for most of my adult life. However, the real tragedy is not the small minority of people who defraud the disability system. The tragedy is all of the people who are deserving of support but are denied.”

This comment highlights several problems with providing welfare through a large bureaucratic system: the time and resources it requires, the complexity it creates around the rather simple matter of helping someone with a true and urgent need, and, most importantly, the resulting mechanization of human compassion.

If we have decided that it’s society’s responsibility to help those in need, then do we not also have an obligation to make sure our support systems are NOT giant federal, costly bureaucracies removed from the real human beings? And, would more local support be better?

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