As we seek to build a fairer and more inclusive society, we need to think carefully about the kind of policies we are advocating.
As a millennial, we grew up in relative affluence. So it’s easy for us to subscribe to ideologies that sound great in theory.
Who doesn’t want a fairer and more inclusive society?
But as that remains our goal, we cannot forget about the need for individual responsibility. Given the same opportunities, 2 individuals would likely end up with different outcomes. This is due to the differences in their talents and abilities. Their choices would also impact their outcomes differently.
For example, in choosing a career path unrelated to my undergraduate degree, I automatically chose the harder path. So should I be complaining that I’m not as well-paid as my peers?
Yes, some are disadvantaged. And we can do more to provide them with more help.
We know that the disadvantaged are more likely to start off on a different level compared to their peers. This is evident in education especially. Children from disadvantaged families might lag behind at the start of their formal education. And it’s simply because other families could afford to give their children a wider variety of experience.
But at what point does more help become planting the seeds of self-entitlement? At what point does welfare erode the sense of individual responsibility in us? And when does extra help become a crutch that permanently enslaves others to those offering help?
The Chinese proverb says that if you “give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. But if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”. It’s a fine line between the two. And we probably need to do both.
But we need to delicately balance the need for both.
Think about the struggles in your life. You might not have liked them as you were going through them. But I’m sure they’ve made you a better person after you came out of the struggles on the other side.
In our arguments for more help to be given, let’s not forget that such help should include helping individuals take responsibility for their lives. Not permanent handouts that prevent them from standing on their own two feet.