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The difference that he outlines between wealthy Americans giving to charities and wealthy Europeans paying taxes and then expecting the State to take care of things is, I believe, a difference between a thinking based on alms and a thinking based on rights. When you're screwed over by a flood or a hurricane, you have a right to expect the state to intervene on your behalf. You should not have to rely on charity from the wealthy - charity that may or may not manifest itself in the actual event. Naturally, this reduces the need for charity in the first place.

Further, the American version of charity is based on a semi-feudal patron-client system that progressives usually reject. One of the many functions of the welfare state is precisely to break the bonds between clients and patrons.

Not so many decades ago, employers provided their employees with housing, food, cloth, etc. That, of course, made the employees utterly dependent on their employers. If you were fired from your workplace, your quality of life would drop like a homesick rock. The welfare state has broken that dependency, by providing universal health care, universal pensions and universal unemployment insurance.

Not so many decades ago, the family was the vital primary social unit, protection and material security in case you lost your job. This, of course, led to a dependence on your family. If you had a falling-out with your matriarch or patriarch, you were up a creek without a paddle. The welfare state has broken that dependency too.

I.o.w., the difference between American and European concepts of welfare can, I believe, be summed up as a difference in the view of social structure: Employer-based health care, pay-per-degree education, private pension schemes and lack of universal unemployment insurance reflect (and create and reinforce) an underlying clan-based patron-client society.

As an aside, the unfettered accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few families that we have seen over the last half-century may well be a harbringer of a return to a truly feudal society: A society where clans of pseudo-nobles wield a power that is individually or collectively comparable to the power of the State. Naturally, such a society is incompatible with democracy as is usually understood - one of the historical prerequisites for democracy was central authority breaking the power of the nobility in the 16th and 17th centuries...

As another aside, I have yet to see any numbers that document Americans being more charitable than Europeans, when you decontaminate the statistics of church contributions and other phony charities.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 10:18:16 AM EST

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