By James Ferguson
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Extra info for Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution
Cash Transfers and the New Welfare Statesâ•… 31 If we are willing to consider this possibility, then we will need to cultivate in our thinking certain virtues, first among which are an open mind and a willingness to be surprised. Our politics must become less deductive and more inductive, less judgmental and more experimental. Are cash transfers, for instance, bound to remain trapped within the limits of national citizenship and the chauvinistic xenophobia with which they are often associated (a question addressed in this book’s conclusion)?
And how is it that I have a certain quantity of funds to buy goods? The usual answer to this question is that I work for it. I exchange my labor (or its products) for money, and then can use the money to buy the quantity of goods that “the market” allows. Whether one reads neoclassical economists or their Marxist critics, it would be easy to arrive at the conclusion that 20â•…Introduction distribution in capitalist societies is orÂ�gaÂ�nized by “the market,” that the exchange of labor is the source of most people’s purchasing power, and that purchasing power in the market is both the fundamental mechanism of distribution and the underlying source of consumption.
The fact that this rate is generally in the single digits (currently around 7 percent) might lead one to believe that the rest of the population (the ninety-Â�odd percent who are not “unemployed”) is in fact employed. 32 These adults of course include traditional “dependent” categories such as retirees and stay-Â�at-Â�home mothers, but it includes many others, too. ”33 Cash Transfers and the New Welfare Statesâ•… 21 Such observations have led conservative ideologues to characterize the distributive economy of the contemporary United States in terms of a huge underclass of “takers” living on the productive virtue of their economic betters.