Bioethics Blogs

The Welfare State: who should pay for the transportation of a rich person’s child to and from school?

Suppose you had a child with special educational needs. Suppose the only school that could meet your child’s needs (as set out by their Statement of Special Educational Needs) was over an hour away (as can often happen). It falls under your local authority’s duties, who agree that they cannot provide a school within your area, to pay for transport for your child along with the essential carer who understand your child’s needs. Finally, suppose you’re very well off: should you pay for that transportation service?

You may think:

(a) you have to pay and that it would be wrong for you not to pay;

(b) that it would be good if you paid, but you aren’t obliged to pay (these
sorts of things are often called “supererogatory”);

(c) you neither have to pay, nor even would it even be a good thing for you
to pay (directly for this service).

I think I believe either (b) or (c); insofar as it could be (b), this supererogation is grounded in my thinking, were I to be rich, I should contribute more to the state anyway – and look, here’s an opportunity for me to contribute more – so in actuality it may be (c), with an additional clause that I contribute more generally. Why do I think this? Well, I think it speaks to how we conceive of the welfare state; and, we should conceive of the welfare state as offering a necessary set of services and goods that we are owed in virtue of our being members of that society.
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This case came up in the news this week during a discussion between two housemates on Celebrity Big Brother (I’m pretty sure that’s a first for the Practical Ethics Blog!).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.