There have been debates about whether it is the responsibility of the government to take care of the welfare of the poor in society or someone should be entitled to aid from the government just because he or she is poor. Question is still being raised as to how long a family should receive welfare and the factors that qualify the family to receive the grant. These are some of the issues that are raised when the government is involved in assuring the social and economic well-being of the society (Lasser 26). Some political analysts have often wondered whether it is the work of the government to take care of the less fortunate in society and implications of this for the rest of the community. This paper explores the ethical considerations that must be evaluated when designing domestic programs for a certain group of people. The paper approaches the issue from both sides and gives arguments for and against social welfare policies.

Some analysts have argued that each individual is responsible for his or her fate in life. According to this view, the poor should be held responsible for their poverty.  Other analysts have disagreed as to how long poverty should go before society is morally obligated to intervene. Through welfare policies governments ensure that society invests in human beings. Humans interact through the money they spend and the taxes they pay. This human interaction is what makes social welfare different from other forms of subsidiaries by the government or money that is spent on improving the country’s infrastructure.

Welfare is seen as responsibility of the community through the government. Every member of society is entitled to the basic needs such as shelter, food and clothing. There are those who disagree with this view. They see it as unfair to tax productive citizens only to give it to the less productive members of society for free. They argue that the poor should be given incentives to fend for themselves. In the event they choose not to fend for themselves, they should be ready to face the consequences. The American government provides funds for its poor citizens to ensure that they have the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. The amount of money budgeted for this sector changes each year depending on inflation and changes in lifestyle.

The welfare system has been criticized for encouraging poverty. People know that the government will take care of them even if they do not work to earn a living. People who would have otherwise worked really hard for themselves just sit back and do nothing because they are still assured of their basic needs. Newt Gingrich wrote that as much as social welfare was a good thing, it made it difficult for the poor to aspire to improve their economic situation as it removed the urge to earn a living (Gingrich 43). The beneficiaries are encouraged to live a life of idleness as they get comfortable with the status quo.

For Gingrich, we as humans are responsible for our fate. If our laziness or actions lead to us being poor, we should be held responsible for it. Passing on responsibility to the society is not right; this is because saying the society is responsible for everything means that no particular person is actually responsible for anything. Freedom of the society demands that each person is responsible for his or her own welfare. In his view, everyone is entitled to freedom to do as he or she wishes. This freedom comes with responsibility. He insists that social welfare requires the society to finance other peoples’ lack of initiative and laziness which is not fair.

The analysts who argue that government has the moral duty of ensuring the socio-economic wellbeing of its people agree that humans are indeed entitled to freedom. They however disagree with the view that each individual should be left alone to fend for himself. For true freedom to be exercised, all members of society should be given the basic needs of clothing, food and shelter. This view is based on the fact that ability of a person to choose depends on his or her level of vulnerability. To be able to make sober choices, people need to have their basic needs taken care of. A good example is a homeless person who goes out to look for a job. The truth is that such a person has limited choices because he or she is willing to do anything just to get basic needs.

They disagree with the claim by Gingrich that it makes people lazy. In their view, it gives everyone the opportunity to participate fully in building the nation. According to the United Nations declaration, basic human needs are classified as ‘food, clothing, housing and medical care’. They argue that these are basic needs that every individual is entitled to and the government should provide them if the person cannot afford them. It is the duty of the government to ensure equitable distribution of resources among all citizens and that is the main purpose of the Social Welfare Policy. In their view, the provision of these basic needs is fundamental and more important than the freedom of an individual to spend money as he or she wishes.

Paul Light, a political analyst-cum-author, insists that these are moral issues that society must consider. Provision of these basic needs prevents society from malnutrition, diseases and ignorance and is therefore more important than any other issues in society. He maintains that society is morally obligated to prevent such disasters from happening if it has the ability to do so without oppressing anyone. In his view, social welfare was not just a ‘good thing to do’, it was a moral responsibility.  He argued that society should treat all members with dignity and respect. Denying a person the basic needs of housing, shelter and clothing, in his view, is stripping the individual of his dignity (Light 54-63).

The fear associated with social welfare is associated with the way human nature is viewed. Those who are opposed to welfare give the nature of humans as an excuse. The fact that people in a state with social welfare are able to survive without working may lead to the temptation of not working at all. This is because human nature is self-seeking and would much rather idle around than work for a living. Those who support social welfare, however, insist that self-interest is not the only thing that motivates people. They argue that humans are naturally interested in becoming better and in the welfare of others. Once their basic needs are met, humans are willing to work hard enough to even care of the less fortunate in society.


There are ethical and moral issues that social welfare professionals face from day to day. Social welfare comes in many forms including financial support, social insurance and public assistance. Social insurance is based purely on one’s pay. Welfare is based on a person’s need. Those who need more are given more than those who are relatively stable. Those who benefit from welfare funds are the elderly, the disabled, people who have survived calamities and the unemployed. To benefit from social security, one must have contributed some money during his or her working days. Some have seen this social welfare policy as one that is quite flawed. Critics have often wondered whether this policy would be sustainable in the long run.

Feb 9, 2018 in Sociology Category