Recently a number of letter writers, responding to reports about the subprime mortgage crisis or columns in The Star, emphasized individual responsibility. That is commendable, and the espoused principles (e.g., Gary Pederson on the Jan. 14 Letters page) are absolutely supportable. Unfortunately, too often there is a self-righteous stance behind these comments that turns categorically against so-called government handouts.
What these people seem to forget is that a nation is not just an assembly of individuals, but a collective with a minimum amount of necessary solidarity. If voluntary charity worked, the United States, whose population is generous, would not have the highest percentage of people in poverty among advanced Western nations.
Access to universal health care, day care and free education are actually the in the best interest of all members of a nation, unless they are intent on holding up class barriers. No other Western society has the immense imbalance of wealth that the United States has, and that is why support for those in need has to come from the collective.
As taxpayers we have to choose our representatives wisely, so that our contributions to the common pool of money are used in the interest of the majority of us.