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Family Responsibility

insurance, social, age, pensions, public and relief

FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY Family solidarity also is an ideal for which future ages will have need, as past ages have needed it. Covert and indirect assaults on the family are a part of much revolutionary propaganda, but in creasingly in this country economic revolution is trying to free itself from old-world association with such attacks. There is certainly no reason why conservative advocates of social insurance, whether for sickness, unemployment, or old age, should have any sympathy for sneers against the fullest de velopment of family responsibility and solidarity.

Social insurance rests upon the family in its in tegrity. Non-contributory old-age pensions, wid ows' pensions, and all other forms of public poor relief, by the very terms used to describe them, such as "the endowment of old age," "the endow ment of motherhood," "the right to relief," all involve another and opposing principle. The one principle is that, given a fair and reasonable oppor tunity, the individual is to be held responsible for taking advantage of it; that ordinary mishaps and accident under normal conditions are to be met by savings and the helping hand of relatives, neigh bors, and friends; that even sickness, unemploy ment, and old age are personal and family matters, leading to public dependence only under excep tional and unforeseeable circumstances. The other principle is that society and not the individual is responsible for all these misfortunes and burdens; that each condition of natural dependence, brief or prolonged, such as maternity, illness, unemploy ment, invalidity, old age, and poverty in all its manifestations, is to be met by the state, i. e. by public funds raised by taxation. The individual need give himself no concern: his children will be supported from birth, his own old age maintained in comfort, whatever his extravagances, his idle nesses, or his eccentricities.

Pensions of all kinds, except retiring allowances from funds provided in the employment in which the worker has been engaged, represent the latter of these views. Social insurance, except in its

government subsidies, which are a compromise concession, represents the former. The sturdiest advocates of personal responsibility and family solidarity may, therefore, work zealously for sick ness insurance, for workmen's compensation, for unemployment insurance, for compulsory life in surance and insurance for old age, without incon sistency. What saves social insurance from the curse of demoralizing paternalism is that it en courages thrift and rewards it; that the administra tion may be democratic rather than bureaucratic; that it is a rational distribution of risks on a sound actuarial basis rather than the handing out of un earned gratuities, gathered from grudging tax payers, manipulated for political advantage, and defended on dishonest and fallacious grounds. That is as accurate a description as I know how to give of pensions and public poor relief as ordinarily administered.

In so far, therefore, as old age requires support * • For the most thorough discussion of the whole subject, aside from Mr. Squier's book on old age dependency, to which reference has been made, and the report of the Massachusetts Commission of 191o, attention is Invited to the admirable treatise on Social Insurance by Dr. I. M. Rubinow, in which there are several chapters on the old man's problem. Dr. Rubinow looks upon pensions as half-way steps and perhaps necessary supplements to social insurance, and at least a public recognition of the need. To me they seem, on the contrary, to be a vicious and unsatisfactory makeshift, post poning rather than bringing nearer the substantial and con sistent system of social insurance which we both desire.

supplementary to savings and the natural contri butions of sons and daughters, it may advan tageously come not from pensions or other poor relief, but from a well-devised system of social in surance, requiring contributions from insured and employers, and administered, or its administration supervised and guaranteed, by the state.