Friday, February 14, 2014

The Definition of Dignity - OR - The Safety Web...

I know, I've been picking on Paul Krugman a lot lately. Yep. Anyway, on with today's picking.

Virtually every claim in his Op-Ed in today's New York Times can be so easily refuted that I considered pasting the entire article and adding my own comment beneath each paragraph. But, in the interest of time, I decided to just pick one and go with that.

Here's the second-to-last paragraph. I picked this one because it sums up much of the gist of his essay:
The truth is that if you really care about the dignity and freedom of American workers, you should favor more, not fewer, entitlements, a stronger, not weaker, social safety net.

His article rambles a bit about dignity after quoting a Republican politician who made reference to "the dignity of work". He chastises the politician for associating dignity with work in the face of such grave income inequality.

I suppose dignity means different things to different people. When I think of dignity, I think of pride in my efforts, not in their material results. I don't believe I would feel the least bit dignified if my physical well-being was handed to me, as opposed to earned by me.

In fact, if you Google the definition of dignity, here's what you'll see:
1. the state of quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

* a composed or serious manner or style.

* a sense of pride in oneself; self-respect.    

   synonyms: self-respect, pride, self-esteem, self-worth.

So I'm thinking Krugman misses the mark when he equates the social safety net with dignity.

And with regard to freedom, when one thinks of a net one generally thinks in terms of ensnarement. Of course that wouldn't be the context here. Krugman's talking safety net, like, for example, the net suspended below a trapeze artist. The thing about the trapeze artist is that if he misses the bar the safety net indeed saves his life, however he'll only remain in the net long enough to sufficiently lever its elasticity to land him back on his own two feet. Safety nets are designed to land, not hold, the fallen.

Oh, and make no mistake, the performer feels anything but dignified (humiliated more likely) having landed in the net. It's in fact his dignity that gets him out of there and back up the ladder as fast as humanly possible.

This is not, in any way, me discounting or disrespecting the poor (or the American worker)---quite the opposite in fact. I simply feel that our existing safety net is plenty sticky as it is, and that making it yet "stronger" is akin to dangerously adding to its stickiness---thus making it easier for government to numb the ensnared into believing the system has somehow been woven in a manner that affords him little chance of escaping the net web and regaining his dignity. Leaving him, therefore, to vote as the politician, and the pundit, instructs.  


  1. Your Comments

    I like this one...............Vicki

  2. […] Marty Mazorra understands dignity differently than does Paul Krugman. […]