Over recent decades, the United States has in small steps extended the socialization of risk. We have become more responsive to those experiencing losses that threaten their livelihood. This has taken the form of growing assistance to those hit by natural disasters—tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods. It has also taken the form of coverage of catastrophic health events of lower-income people (Medicaid) and older people (Medicare). Most recently, this has taken the form of assistance to individuals and businesses hit by the COVID-19 shutdown.
We have long had concerns for those facing such setbacks, especially when they have not brought them on themselves. In the past, we responded primarily by reaching out to them individually and through churches and charitable organizations. Private organizations still do a lot, but this has come to be seen as a responsibility of government. In part, this is because private assistance was perceived to be inadequate. In the process, the welfare state has grown. Welfare states are market-based economic systems that provide a safety net to their people—the poor and those facing catastrophic loss.
There are consequences of an expanding the welfare state. The cost of government to taxpayers grows, while the incentives to participate in the economy and to avoid unnecessary risks are weakened. These issues are discussed at length in Chapter 5 of Capitalism Versus Socialism: What Does the Bible Have to Say?
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