Looking at this grab-bag post, I can see the common thread: valuing tight-knit communities, nuclear families, and each individual’s worth.
I know why Utah’s welfare is working. Megan McArdle wrote a much-talked-about article in which she looked at Utah, which has extremely good and affordable social services. The key to Utah’s successful welfare system, although I’m not sure she realizes it, lies in this paragraph:
The volunteering starts in the church wards, where bishops keep a close eye on what’s going on in the congregation, and tap members as needed to help each other. If you’re out of work, they may reach out to small business people to find out who’s hiring. If your marriage is in trouble, they’ll find a couple who went through a hard time themselves to offer advice.
With a system like that, you’re not going to have the type of fraud that occurred in Minnesota. There, none of the bureaucrats who cut $118,000 in checks knew that the woman claiming an absent husband had, in fact, a gainfully employed husband living with her and their children. In Utah, where charity begins at the ward level, everyone would have known the woman’s marital situation and the fraud could not have happened.
Fraud is expensive. Fraud is also easy when far-away governments manage essentially anonymous programs.
All of this made me think of a fascinating talk I heard a few years ago. I learned that, before government welfare, America was not a cold, cruel place in which widows and orphans routinely died. Instead, America had a vast network of fraternal organizations that functioned as welfare organizations. As with the Mormon wards, these “welfare” agencies worked extremely well because they took place at the community level. That meant that those responsible for administering an organization’s funds knew if Joe Shmo was a layabout or a hard worker on hard times.
Utah’s hands-on approach has managed to run counter to the prevailing American system that separates the needy from the check-writers. Until we return to community-based charitable organizations, fraud and waste will be the rule of the day.
I don’t see us making that U-turn. Having passed the baton to the government, Americans are not suddenly going to enlist en masse in the Kiwanis or the Shriners (more’s the pity).
Mike Pence’s “wife” policy shows that he’s a decent and smart man. Progressives are having a field day with the fact that, if Mike Pence is have a dinner tête-à-tête with a woman, that woman will always be his wife. Here’s a tweet perfectly summarizing the hysteria: