Chapter 2: Making the American
Welfare State More Humane
The Reluctant Welfare State by Jansson
Approaches to Ethical Reasoning to
Decide What Is Wrong and What Is Right
Utilitarianism (An outcomes approach):
determines if a specific policy (or the lack of a
policy) improves well-being at a reasonable
Deontology (A first-ethical principles
approach): determines if a specific policy (or
the lack of a policy) violated an ethical
principle that most of us hold in common, like
“not killing,” “honesty,” “confidentiality,” and
“preserving self- determination”
Relativism: determines if a specific policy (or
the lack of a policy) is consonant with norms
and culture of the country
Does the policy improve the well-being
Does this improvement in well-being
come at a reasonable cost to society?
What is the cost-benefit (i.e. helping
people avoid having to join welfare
rolls, making them more likely to join the
Not killing (the right
to stay alive)
Which solution best
What cultural factors shape the ethical
choices of people in specific historical
periods, as well as other factors, such
as institutional and fiscal realities?
How do the interests of people—
Ethical Analysis: An Example
Drug testing for public assistance programs
◦ Wide spread belief that beneficiaries of public assistance programs experience
high rates of drug abuse
◦ Belief that welfare benefits are spent on illegal drugs
◦ 8 states (AZ, FL, GA, KS, MO, OK, TN &UT) have enacted drug testing for
◦ 29 state legislatures (including NC) considered drug testing this year.
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures
Drug Testing Outcomes
• UT: August, 2012-July, 2013 only 12
• Test cost state $25,000.
FL: Only 2.6% were found positive (below the
6% average for FL).
◦ Applicants had to pay $30-$35, but were
reimbursed if negative.
◦ State had to reimburse $118,140.
◦ Judge ordered law unconstitutional after 4
Sources: http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/20130326-editorial-no-drug-tests-for-welfare-texas-should-heedfloridas-lesson.ece; http://www.ksl.com/?sid=26559995&nid=148&title=only-12-test-positive-in-utah-welfare-drugscreening&fm=home_page&s_cid=queue-11