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Unconditional support not the way to tackle inequality

Few would question the immorality of the inequality that stems from a system that is geared towards the interests of certain groups, or its toll on society and the economy in general (Inequality is not just unfair, it's also bad economics; July 22).

But does it make any sense to pander unquestioningly to the type of inequality that arises as a consequence of poor individual choices?

Is it moral to design policies that may lead some to think they can take a free ride?

To many of the "bleeding heart liberals", low-income families are merely victims of the system who require society to be their unconditional crutch from the cradle to the grave. They have to be helped, but without any requirement for them to do their bit as well.

Never mind the fact that the world is littered with examples of such affirmative policies to help the poor that have come back to bite the hand that feeds them."

I urge Associate Professor Teo You Yenn to heed her own call to "look at the larger context, and use comparative research to reflect what may be missing" when studying those low-income families that have remained mired in the poverty trap for generations, and those that have succeeded in building better lives for themselves (Learning from the past to resolve the inequality problem; July 17).

Does it make any sense to pander unquestioningly to the type of inequality that arises as a consequence of poor individual choices?

Individual and familial responsibility to society must count as much as society's responsibility to the individual and family.

There is no reason to be so fatalistic about the odds of the poor making their way out of their quagmire through "guided and assisted self-reliance" , including via prudent financial and family planning.

A fair, just and equal society must cater to all, and not attend to only those in distress, which may be partly, if not wholly, of their own making in some cases.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 29, 2018, with the headline 'Unconditional support not the way to tackle inequality '. Print Edition | Subscribe