do you think Americans make excessive demands on the family unit rather than calling for the government to help those in need?
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I think we have a culture of work in this country and a Puritan work ethic to go with it that puts stresses and strains on the family unit. Americans work long hours, and in most cases both parents work. This is a lot of demand on a family unit to hold down two full time jobs and then hold together a family unit as well. The general expectation is that people should work as hard as they can to take care of their family, and if they cannot for any reason, then they are social failures, not entitled to public assistance. This is a uniquely American shame.
The purpose of government is to safeguard rights. One of those is to have a free economic system in which individuals may prosper, free from onerous government regulation. Charity is the purview of churches and social groups, and those in need should seek help there. Government should not do for individuals what they should do for themselves, but it should allow them to do what they wish as long as they do not violate another's rights.
If people are in great need, there will be (at least in the US) some civic organization with great supply. Consider the Red Cross, for example. I'm sure they're much more effective in reducing need than any government program could be. Who wants a bunch of politicians deciding whether or not you're entitled to get aid?
I think that the answer to the question depends on which demands are being made. One example where there is a woeful lack of government support is maternity/paternity leave and child care. In many developed countries, paid time off with new children is a right for both parents, with job protection ensuring that they don’t lose their employment. Government-provided and subsidized child care is also provided in many industrialized nations. In the United States, we expect mothers to figure out child care on their own, with little or no help from their own husbands in many cases. Mobility has led to fragmentation of the extended family, so it’s not as though Grandmother or Auntie is right next door to provide free child care while Mom works.
The way this topic is worded, the government is made to sound like some kind of a jinn from Aladdin's magic lamp that gives you all that you want for free. Once you have this jinn to serve you, the help from family becomes secondary.
Unfortunately, reality is far from this. Nothing that the government provides come to the people free. In the ultimate analysis, it is the people themselves who pay for everything that they pay for. In addition they pay for the huge overheads that are unavoidable in any assistance routed through the government. I believe it is best that self help and family should be the first choice of people for all types of help except for collective activities like civic facilities, policing and defence. Government should step in for help only when the family can not, or will not help.
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