Brother can you spare a dime

    The point of post-1945 European welfare states was to free the needy from dependence on private generosity, which tends to miss out the socially marginal, and to be least available when times are hardest. Welfare gave a sense of security and dignity that the less fortunate had never previously enjoyed. It was particularly important to continental societies that had seen how insecurity bred fascism. Those who volunteer time to hospitals and homeless centres or who take out direct debits for guide dogs and cancer research are admirable, but no more or less admirable than those who pay taxes without vociferous complaint. Nor is a society with a "culture of giving" more admirable than one where workers receive living wages, decent pensions and reasonable employment protection; executives exercise restraint in remunerating themselves; and everyone has sufficient support to look after their ailing grannies.

    Peter Wilby in the Guardian , in this case via Brad Delong


    Executives excercising restraint? here?

    Why beck and a thousand other right wing pundits would call that a communism!

    If your purpose in posting it to imply that it applies to the U.S. as well, it's interesting that there happens to be a new scholarly American cultural history out that's getting a lot of buzz and that has as one of its main theses conflict with that possibility:

    ....The central trait of the American character, Fischer says, is voluntarism. Here he creatively fuses Tocqueville’s familiar observation about Americans as inveterate joiners and his equally famous notion of individualism. Voluntarism, for Fischer, embraces both the recognition of each person as a “sovereign individual” at liberty to pursue his or her own destiny, and the belief that “individuals succeed through fellowship—not in egoistic isolation but in sustaining, voluntary communities.” And the central trend over the course of American history is the broadening ambit of voluntarism, the expanding interaction of questing selves and the several communities they seek to join and from which they expect affirmation and sustenance, both emotional and material.

    That formulation allows Fischer to illuminate many phenomena, from the proliferation of religious sects to the surge in gated communities, from celebration of Barack Obama’s election to the envy animating so much of American life. Made in America sheds abundant light on the American past and helps us to understand how we arrived at our own historical moment...

    in full @

    "A Question of Character," a review by David M. Kennedy of Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character by Claude S. Fischer

    If your purpose in posting it to imply that it applies to the U.S. as well.

     Well yes. And everywhere else.

    Reading in parallel Tuchman's old The March of Folly and Kwame Appiah's new The Honor Code automatically involved a certain amount of compare-and-contrasting . Particularly combined with Sarah Vowell's description of the breathtaking transition of the Mayflower generation from seekers-of-religious freedom to persecutors of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson.

    And along with deference to the assorted National Characters it seems to me hard to dodge some  universals. One -to Appiah- is that the importance of dignity is sufficient that the first sentence of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads, "recogition of the  inherent dignity .. of all members of the human family," is, "the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world" (Wow!).

    In addition to which I also dragged into my maunderings today about DADT.

    Defining his terms Appiah says "dignity" has come to refer to a right to respect that people have simply in virtue of their humanity.

    Whatever the country, there's precious little of that for people who are dependent on Charity. Been there, done that. "Are there no workhouses then?"

    The problem in comparing the two is that American has not in modern times dealt with anything like what the Europeans dealt with in the aftermath of WWII.  In my humble opinion, what WWII showed just about every European, regardless of which side they were on, was just how easy it was for anybody, regardless of position in the economic or social worlds could be reduced to the lowest state.  An experience that Americans never truly experienced.  To be comparable would be the depression plus having their cities reduced to smoldering rubble. Something like that makes one truly understand that we are dependent upon generosity of our neighbors.

    A haunting photo.

    Yes, we haven't had that experience. I simply have no basis to predict how it would affect me - never mind entire populations.

    I was stationed in Germany in '52/'53  and lived in Brussels in the '60s. Vignettes:

    In '53, visiting  friends in their lovely vacation cottage outside  Copenhagen, their distinguished-appearing mother was turning the dial looking for music. I remarked that she had just passed one station. She smiled and said, "That's Hamburg and we don't listen to that".

    In Brussels our baby sitter encouraged our children in proper behavior  "in case you're invited to Buckingham Palace" : (She'd been a governess/ French tutor to a fairly famous British family.).

    In 1939 she was engaged but her fiance was Jewish. An American woman who was a friend of both of theirs offered to marry the fiance so he could get a US visa. By the end of the war the marriage of convenience had become too solid to break up.

    In March of 1945 she was in jail. She'd provided a safe house for a night for an RAF pilot who'd  parachuted out of his damaged plane. She said, "of course I know who turned me in. He still lives in our building."

    She got out of jail when the allies entered.

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