Welfare Free Riding Problem

Sophia Hartin – honorbound

What is better: paying for a good or receiving it for free?  The majority of people who answer this question would say that getting something for free is of course better than paying for it with the money they worked so hard to make.  Many people have come to realize this which has created a problem with free riders, especially in welfare.  By definition, a free rider is someone who will “let someone else, or some other organization, do the work”[i].  One of the most commonly known and argued examples of free riding can be seen in the US Welfare System.

Although there has been a lot of debate over the Welfare System issue, many people are unhappy that those in poverty are taking advantage of and free riding off of hardworking American people whose money is given to the government through taxes and set aside for welfare.  The US Welfare System provides benefits such as food stamps to people who cannot afford basic life necessities and who meet certain requirements.  While the intentions of the program were good: provide help for those in poverty, working people soon realized that they could quit their jobs and qualify for these benefits even though they didn’t need them.  This issue is the perfect example of how free riding can be a problem.  Unemployed people were relying on the rest of the country to work hard and make money in order to pay for the unemployed people’s food.  As a country that favors equality, this problem angered many people.  The rage that the working men and women of America felt was publically expressed: “Many Americans were unhappy with the welfare system, claiming that individuals were abusing the welfare program by not applying for jobs, having more children just to get more aid, and staying unmarried so as to qualify for greater benefits”[ii]. This example brings back the point that was made at the beginning of the paper: People would rather get things for free than pay for them themselves.  Welfare provided some people with the opportunity to get things for free and they couldn’t pass that opportunity by, even despite the unfair consequences it had on the rest of the world.

Since this issue surfaced, many reforms have been made in order to resolve the Welfare System problem that caused so much debate.  One of these requires that “all recipients of welfare aid must find work within two years of receiving aid” [iii].  Improvements such as these have created more equality and helped resolve the controversial issue.  Although big improvements have been made, there will always be someone who finds a way to undermine the system and free ride despite the government’s efforts to stop it.

[i] Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics Undressing The Dismal Science (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2010, 6.

[ii] “US Welfare System – Help for US Citizens,” Welfareinfo, June 22, 2016, http://www.welfareinfo.org/

[iii] “US Welfare System – Help for US Citizens,” Welfareinfo, June 22, 2016, http://www.welfareinfo.org/


Image citation:

“Welfare Recipient,” The Libertarian Republican, June 22, 2016, http://www.thelibertarianrepublic.com


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