Thursday, January 19, 2017

What Paternalistic Liberalism looks like

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program logo

I recently wrote that progressives need a simple, non-paternalistic economic plan. However, conversations continue about putting even more economic restrictions on certain people, such as SNAP recipients.

From the New York Times:

Dr. Ludwig said other government programs had common-sense restrictions. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, and the national school lunch program have strict nutrition standards. Medicare pays for necessary medical procedures but does not reimburse for ones it considers harmful, ineffective or unnecessary. SNAP, Dr. Ludwig said, should be structured similarly.

“No one is suggesting poor people can’t choose what they want to eat,” he said. “But we’re saying let’s not use government benefits to pay for foods that are demonstrably going to undermine public health.”

This moving in us the wrong direction. Instead of simplifying things to maximize benefits while reducing overhead, this is a recipe for bureaucracy, inefficiency and confusion. You would need to create a whole apparatus for determining what foods are and are not acceptable, as well as a way to explain what is on the list to all SNAP recipients. This would, no doubt, cause confusion and moments of embarrassment.

Progressives should be about giving people freedom and economic security: The freedom to love who they want, the freedom to pursue an education, and the freedom to leave a job that abuses them.

If liberalism becomes mainly about using government programs to force "unsophisticated" people to behave in certain ways, it will become a losing ideology.  

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