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Related Words, Beliefs, Background

Worldview Theme #49A: 

                 Social Welfare Statism

       Worldview Theme #49B: Socialism 
Contrast Worldview Themes #49A and #50A --these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!           

consumer protection—government regulation which protects consumers both from health and safety dangers that products or services might pose and from unfair business practices such as fraud, misrepresentation and collusion

corporate welfare--refers to government support--what critics might call "handouts"--provided to private corporations in the form of subsidies, tax breaks / credits, and laws / benefits / exemptions by which private sector businesses in some way use the public sector (taxpayer dollars, public land, etc.) to their advantage. 

eminent domain, expropriation, etc.--refers to the right of a government to purchase or take private land for public use.  The right is sometimes invoked in building highways, utility distribution lines, etc.

government, branches of--in western democratic and other governments there typically are three: 1) the legislative, which often consists of elected representatives who make laws, 2) the executive, often including the head of the government, is responsible for enforcing laws and the daily functioning / administration of the state, 3) the judicial, typically consisting of courts, judges, etc., interprets the law and administers justice.  Ideally, a separation of powers gives each branch independence, while providing checks and balances against abuse. 

government inefficiency–an umbrella term that refers to government failings to efficiently carry out its mission / social programs.  Waste of taxpayer money is a typical manifestation; fraud / corruption are extreme ones.    

government involvement in a market economy, indicators of -- There are three areas in which to assess a national government’s involvement and interference in a market economy: 1) by the proportion of GNP that the government directly purchases or produces; 2) by examination of the extent to which the government redistributes income, typically by levying income taxes on most, and making transfer payments to others (such as welfare checks, social security payments, unemployment benefits, for medical costs, etc); 3) by examination of the extent to which the government regulates and supervises many things directly connected with economic life (business, commerce, workplace safety, etc) and others indirectly (travel, entertainment, health, education, science & technology, etc).

health care costs--in the United States topped $2 trillion in 2006, or over $7000 per resident per year--altogether representing 16% of the GDP. This latter figure is the highest of any nation in the world; for comparison Canada, which has a publicly funded health care system, spends 9% of its GDP on health costs. 

health insurance-- protection against hospital and medical care expenses (and sometimes lost income) due to an illness, injury, or accident.  In countries with publicly funded health care systems or related social welfare programs, it is provided free or inexpensively by the government. Elsewhere it can be obtained from private insurance companies. In 2006, private health insurance premiums cost the average U.S. family $12,106; 47 million people (16% of its population) were uninsured.

homelessness—a social condition characterized by lack of adequate housing and regular places to sleep, and dramatized by pictures of poor people in otherwise affluent western countries—with all their belongings in shopping carts--sleeping in public parks or under highway overpasses.  Causes of homelessness include poverty, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, etc.  Estimates put the number of homeless in the United States in the 150,000 to two million range, in Europe around three million, and in the developing world in the hundreds of millions

human capital -- investment made in people, including improving their productive capabilities and health due to investments in job training, education or medical care.

labor union -- an organization of workers whose purpose is to promote and advance its members’ interests with respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions

laissez-faire -- refers to free market capitalism being left alone to operate without government interference.

law: private vs. public--the former involves relationships between individuals (including corporations), the latter with issues involving the state and welfare of society (including penal law, and regulatory statutes, etc.)

leveling mechanisms--customs and social policies that serve to reduce differences in wealth between members of a society.       

negative income tax -- a scheme by which those below a certain income level would receive money from the government, instead of an paying income tax.

personal responsibility, accepting -- Before an individual can overcome some personal difficulty or solve a personal problem, he or she needs to acknowledge that the difficulty or problem exists, by saying something like, “This problem is mine and I must solve it”. In this context, taking personal responsibility means that you don’t ignore difficulties or problems, expect others to solve them for you, or shift the blame to others. In a family or social context, taking personal responsibility can mean voluntarily limiting your choices or restraining yourself for the good of the family, tribe, village, community or whatever. Richard Critchfield refers to this as “the freedom to choose self responsibility”. 

progressive taxation—a policy by which governments tax those with higher incomes at a greater percentage rate than those with lower incomes. Ideally, this policy taxes those who can afford to pay proportionally more, benefiting those who can least afford it. It is to be distinguished from a flat tax rate, when all pay the same rate regardless of income, and from regressive taxation, where those who can least afford it pay more or are hit harder by the tax.

public education--basic education supported by governments (sometimes mandated) and paid for by government-levied taxes. In many countries (including the United States) such education is tuition-free, primary and secondary (K-12), promises equal opportunities regardless of race, religion, or ability, includes instruction in civics, and is structured to promote high standards and public accountability.   

publicly funded healthcare--provides medical services financed (to some extent) by government levied tax payments rather than payments to private health care providers or insurance companies. Most affluent countries--and even some not so rich ones like Cuba--have partially or totally publicly funded health care systems.  The United States--the only wealthy country not providing its citizens with universal health care--has programs for its elderly (Medicare) and poor (Medicaid).

public goods--goods or services that 1) aren't sold (so can't be allocated by the market system), 2)  whose consumption by one individual doesn't decrease the amount others can consume, and 3) provide no easy way to limit their consumption only to those who pay for them and exclude others who don't.  Examples include the benefits of national defense, weather forecasting services, lighthouses for coastal navigation, and clean air.  Many public goods--like the first three of our examples--exist only because of the collective decision of some group, often a government.  As for our fourth example, some consider classifying environmental things like clean air as public goods as inappropriate, preferring to think of them instead as part of "the commons."

public housing--refers to programs and activities in which governments build / own / manage housing, help other organizations do so, or subsidize housing--all done in efforts to make housing affordable.  Subsidies, grants and concessions can be made to tenants to help them pay rent, to non profit organizations, or to private developers--sometimes in exchange for assurances that low rent units will be provided to qualified applicants.

redistribution of wealth—the transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor, typically through government taxation policy, in an effort to benefit the disadvantaged and reduce the income gap between the “haves” and “have nots.” Funding welfare assistance programs would be one way that governments could use this money

social contract--its most important meaning refers to an agreement between the people and their rulers in which the  duties and rights of each are defined and constrained.  While rulers would say it serves to maintain order, the people point to it as establishing the principle that rulers have legitimacy only if they have the consent of those they govern.

statism--refers to a society where a heavily centralized state (national) government has a great deal of control over individuals and communities.  

subsidy--a government payment to producers or distributors in an industry that policy makers deem needs help. The subsidy can have the effect of the industry increasing prices, hiring more labor, exporting more products, expanding, etc. 

wage and price controls -- regulations on wages and prices (typically limiting their rate of increase) which a government can impose to help combat inflation.

welfare assistance—government provided monetary or other assistance designed to provide an economic or social safety net for those disadvantaged members of society who are unable to support themselves.  Eligibility is determined by income below the poverty level and other “means tests.” Recipients are typically required to demonstrate that they are seeking employment or have enrolled in job training.  

utilitarianism -- belief that the moral value of actions and associated outcomes should be judged according to the degree to which they are useful and benefit those affected. Utilitarianism has two aspects: 1) it links evaluating consequences of actions to human welfare, and accordingly, 2) how it ranks values (value theory) to tied to human welfare. The latter involves all the complexities of arguments over what gives individuals pleasure or happiness, conflicts between individual choice and societal preference, what benefits society in the long run, etc. And it recognizes that assigning value is not merely done by adding benefits, since what is beneficial to some may be detrimental to others, and both the benefits and risks of possible actions must be weighed.


  Contrast Worldview Themes #49B and #19--   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!            

Contrast Worldview Themes #49B and #43  --these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!            

Contrast Worldview Themes #49B and #50A --these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!           

authoritarianism and collectivism--are alike in that in both the individual gives up certain rights and aspirations and conforms to the beliefs, goals, and expectations of the larger whole (nation, political party, religious group, working group. etc.) that he or she is part of.  They typically differ though in the manner in which members submit to such authority: authoritarian institutions are undemocratic and affected individuals have no real choice, whereas many collectives operate with voluntary participation and leadership seeks consensus agreement of members.  

bourgeoise vs. working class--Marx' identification of the potential conflict between owners of the means of production and those who labor. 

collectivism -- belief in an economic system based on the collective or communal control over the means of production and distribution.

common good, the--can be defined in various ways depending on one's perspective. Some define it narrowly as that which is good for every member of the community; others broaden the community here to include all human beings. While libertarians argue it is a meaningless concept, utilitarians equate it with "the greatest good for the greatest  number of individuals."

economic democracy--while conceptions of it vary, this generally refers to a socioeconomic system that does some or all of the following: 1) transfers economic decision making from the (corporate elite) few to the majority through worker management / ownership of productive enterprises, 2) generally promotes democratic local / regional control over corporate state central planning, 3) charges central government with levying taxes that allow social control of investment, which is carried out locally / regionally, and 4) while retaining the market system, abolishes private ownership of productive resources, and wage labor. With respect to the latter, in worker run enterprises there are no labor costs: workers are compensated by dividing up what is left after other costs have been subtracted from sales  revenues.  With 3) and 4) in this conception, such economic democracy looks like a form of socialism.

economic system, functions of--generally refers to individuals and socioeconomic / political institutions within a society producing, distributing, and consuming goods and services, deciding questions of ownership, and allocating economic resources (and their costs and benefits).  These are handled differently in different systems (capitalist, socialist, etc.)  Specifically these functions include making decisions as to what goods /  services will be produced / offered, at what price and quantity, how production will occur and products distributed, managing the factors of production and associated problems, how services will be delivered, how benefits are distributed, how costs / burdens are shared,  etc.     

egalitarianism -- the belief that all human beings should have the same rights, opportunities and privileges

justice -- implementing what is just, defined in various ways as being reasonable, proper, lawful, right, fair, deserved, merited, etc. For some, justice is intimately connected with fairness, a connection with three dimensions: equal treatment, the degree to which exercising freedom and liberty is to be allowed, and reward for contributing to the common good.

Marxism -- a 19th century dispassionate analysis of the inherent flaws in a pure capitalist economic system which later served as the basis for 20th century socialist and communist states. The analysis considers an economic struggle between capitalist owners and workers, identifies the origin of the capitalist’s profit in the form of “surplus value” created by worker labor that is not paid for, models business cycles of boom and bust (falling profits, layoffs, crash), with small businesses absorbed by the growth of larger firms. According to Robert Heilbroner, “...the Marxist model of how capitalism worked was extraordinarily prophetic”. Marx  felt that capitalism was inherently unstable and that it would be socially impossible for governments in such societies to right wrongs -- for that would require the powerful upper class to act in something other than its own economic self interest. He felt that eventually capitalism would be replaced by a classless society in which production would become centralized in the machinery of the state -- which itself might eventually “wither away”.  Modern economic history -- in particular western economies building social justice into their systems, moving away from pure capitalism and toward social welfare states -- suggests that Marx failed to appreciate the social adaptability of capitalism.

merit system / meritocracy -- a system in which people are promoted based on their merit, which generally refers to their education, expertise, qualifications, demonstrated ability to do the job, experience, etc -- rather than who they know, their membership in some favored group, etc. A meritocracy -- where a meritorious elite would be in charge of a government or managing a society -- carries the merit system way of doing things to an extreme.

nationalization—when private property is transferred to the ownership of a national government, making it public property.  Such transfer can occur without coercion and be accompanied by full compensation, or the government can simply seize the property.  Nationalization is the opposite of privatization—where public property is sold and becomes private property.

paternalism -- a system in which adults are treated in a fatherly way like children, with their conduct regulated and their needs met. Typically in exchange for this care, the authority expects loyalty and that those receiving the care will accept their relinquishing of personal control.

production, factors of--in both classical and neoclassical economics these are considered to be labor, land (including natural resources), and capital. These can be hired (labor for wages, land for rent, capital loaned at some interest rate, etc.) or fired in a market economy.

social class-- divisions amongst members of a society typically based on wealth, heredity, land owned, occupation, education, etc. that order a society in ladder fashion ( lower, middle, and upper classes are common divisions).  Extremes here have ranged from extraordinarily class conscious feudal society (remnants of which today still remain in the United Kingdom) to ideally classless communistic societies.  In the United States talk of social class and class struggle is "politically intolerable" according to historian Howard Zinn.   

socialism--generally refers to 1) various  economic / political theories, ideologies, and political movements, and / or 2) an economic system characterized by state ownership of the means of production and distribution.

socialism, centralized--a non-market based economic system involving a centralized government that plans and controls the economy.  The Soviet Union (1917 - 1990) represented such a system.

socialism, market--a hybrid economic system, coming in various forms, which maintains state or co-operative ownership of the means of production, but recognizes that the market provides an effective way of distributing goods and services, and is responsive to what people actually want.  In its (idealized) decentralized form, market socialism leaves the market alone to function freely. In other forms it is directed (to some extent) by central state planners (with China currently providing a noteworthy example.)

technocracy -- refers to a society managed by technical experts, or a government with technocrats or the technically elite in control.

top down vs. bottom up–contrasting approaches to bringing change, solving problems, structuring interaction (compare centrally planned economies, market based ones).


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