What if public aid could be truly liberating instead of incapacitating?
In a nation so contorted at times by its Calvinistic impulses, public assistance has come to be seen not as a hand-up to struggling families but as a paternalistic mechanism for “takers” and “abusers” that contributes to so-called cycles of poverty. The basic income guarantee (BIG) challenges that impulse by proposing every citizen receives an income to meet their most basic needs.
Increasingly even modest assistance to the poor has been challenged—healthcare, for example, is seen not as a human right but as a market commodity deliverable not on the primacy of need but the ability to pay. What if the problem of how public assistance is offered is not that it promotes dependency but that it is so parsimonious—and provided with so many confusing strings attached—that it merely maintains the misery? What if public aid could be truly liberating instead of incapacitating?