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December 28, 2008

Recently, I engaged a dinner conversation with a gentleman from the UK over the cultural differences between the US and the UK.  The subject he focused on was how the US treats and deals with the poor in contrast to that of the UK. 


He began by noting his amazement at how people can walk by a homeless person on the street without even acknowledging their presence.


“The people in the UK do?”  I asked.


They really do not have homeless people on the streets.  The homeless are taken care of and given housing by the state.  Though there are shelters here, an impoverished person must go through levels of red tape before receiving minimal assistance.


He also noted his shock that until fairly recently there was no state provided health care for children.  That there should be healthcare for every child, housing for the homeless, and assistance for single mothers is a matter of decency.  It is simply civilized.


Concluding upon this, he remarked how he had no sympathy for the elderly here.  They had their chance and did nothing to prepare and provide for the youth.  They should not receive any charity.


Decency and civility.  I was drawn to the concept of what is decent with regards to the treatment of the poor, youth and elderly by the state in modern society. 


  1. What exactly is “decency” and how is it related to the idea of civility?
  2. Is it decent to tend after the poor and the youth, but not for the elderly?  Why is the one an obliged act of charity and the other conditioned upon merit?
  3. Why “should” the state extend such charity?
  4. Is it the responsibility and duty of the state to do this?  Are there other options?




From → Education

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