Capitalism, caring and Canterbury

Last week in an article titled The Real Meaning of Welfare I noted:

…the compassion, generosity and big-heartedness New Zealanders show to their fellow human beings when tragedy and hardship strike.

It’s the same instinct that gave rise to New Zealand’s welfare system in the 1930s and we have seen it at its best this week in the actions of countless individuals, community organisations, businesses and the government in seeking to relieve the suffering of those stricken by the disaster.

While Christchurch’s tragedy has pushed the Welfare Working Group’s final report onto the back-burner, it is at such a time that a well-functioning welfare system is at its most needed and important.

Yesterday, in a great post on capitalism, caring and Canterbury, Cactus Kate wrote about the role of the welfare state at times like this:

The cost of the earthquake may never truly be known. Right now businesses in Christchurch have no premises for their employees to work from, sole business owners have their families to look after rather than their clientele. Company records have been ruined, buildings are in a questionable state of safety and even if employees can make it into town over broken roads, through broken streets and broken churches, how broken are the poor souls to start productive output so soon after their trauma?

This is what the welfare state should be about. Providing temporary assistance to those who need it for acts truly beyond their control. Welfare for Christchurch doesn’t even need a question. The answer is “yes”.

Welfare isn’t to subsidise earnings of those on the top tax rate due to WFF. It isn’t to pay for those to breed more children into the world when they cannot afford it. It isn’t to pay for interest free student loans to children of those who can most afford to assist their children through a University education. It isn’t for lifestyle choices of knowing the taxpayer will always prop them up no matter what. Or state housing for life in areas most New Zealanders can’t afford to live.

She also describes the critical role of private enterprise and endeavour in helping people and their businesses get back on their feet and keeping the rest of the country running while the government rightly focuses on spending to support those hit by the disaster.   She notes in particular the huge generosity of Business Roundtable member Owen Glenn:

… entrepreneur Owen Glenn who has dipped into his pocket equaling a donation of $1 million with that of New Zealand’s largest protected corporate Fonterra….

and that many others – individuals and firms – will follow with equally generous donations.  While New Zealanders are willingly contributing to the costs of the earthquake, she points out that:

The EQC and private insurances should cover a lot of it. As should prudent government spending and years of “saving for a rainy day”.

Tragically, as Cactus Kate notes, our excessive welfarism of the past few decades, administered to so many who are quite capable of supporting themselves, has destroyed New Zealand’s ability to prepare for “this rainiest of days”.   Read the full post here.

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