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Can a volunteer-based-system ease our governments burden of providing social welfare?

Here's an abridged quote from Robert Kennedy to begin:

"Our gross national product ... counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage... It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets.

"Yet [it] does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials... it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."

The goal of an economy is to make sure everyone is productive and receives the goods they need. Suppose the role of money is purely to verify that those we are providing goods for have done their productive duty, proven by the $X they have to spend on your goods. Then why can't we develop an additional system of verifying that someone has been productive in their actions?

By adopting a volunteer based service that delivers basic social goods, can we verify that people are being productive and give them basic services in return? Thus helping eliminate poverty, hunger and homelessness in exchange for volunteering for the social good and easing the stress on our nearly bankrupt governments. By having volunteers run local farmers markets and community feeds, help in hospitals, or mentor children we could do a lot of good.
Our world seems to be shifting towards one of abundance; if we only need 2% of our workers to grow food, we should be able to easily feed us all if we all chip in

As doing good becomes a habit, one expected by all our neighbors, kindness would ideally become a way of life, and our children would grow up this way.

I'll end with another Rob Kennedy quote as it seems fitting:
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this wor


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  • Sep 24 2012: Yes please, I would like to read more on that if you can find it. I just watched Rachel Botsman's new talk on trust being a new form of currency, which does a great job of highlighting the idea that through an reputation managed online, we can encourage beneficial interactions between people.

    I highly recommend it if you're interested in the topic,
    • Sep 24 2012: I think volunteerism to ease the burden of social welfare is the best solution to poverty. However, the level of volunteerism is highly dependent on the hearts of the population. If they are hard hearted and selfish, there will be few volunteers. If they have love and compasson for their fellow man there will be more volunteers.

      A problem with the present system is that a faceless check that shows up in the mail begins to feel like an entitlement. If one saw the face of the giver and saw the sacrifice made by the giver, one would be more likely to want to work their way out of their situation. They may be moved to get themselves into a position to help someone else they way they were helped.

      The first hospitals in the USA were started by unpaid volunteers (nuns) who saw a need and were moved to do something about it.

      If there is no seen need, are we less likely to feel moved? The answser cannot be to remove all government assistance to to let the needs be seen, so that ordinary people will be moved to pick up the slack. But I think that ultimately is the solution, as cruel as that sounds. That solution is never going to happen.

      I think we have more poverty now than before there was social welfare. Before social welfare there were pockets of extreme tragic poverty. But many people pulled themselves out of that. Now it seems we have large swaths of long term multigenerational poverty. Pandora's box has been opened and I don't have any solutions.

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