Mutual Aid: the Pre-Curser to Welfare that actually worked


To listen to modern day liberals without Government run welfare our society would not care for its own. However a look at history reveals just the opposite. In fact many more minorities were provided with much better care than under the current government run program. So once again minorities and children are hurt the most by centralized welfare redistribution.

Many people think life without the welfare state would be chaos, and nobody would help support the less fortunate. A little known fact is people found innovative ways of supporting each other before the welfare state existed. One of the most important of these ways was the mutual-aid society.

The rise to welfare came after government regulation and interference in these  mutual-aid societie’s health care and social care programs. In fact many ‘mutual-aid societies"organizations ran medical centers which provided quality, affordable health care to members and non-members alike.

Mutual aid, also known as fraternalism, refers to social organizations that gathered dues and paid benefits to members facing hardship. There was a "great stigma" attached to accepting government aid during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Mutual aid, on the other hand, did not carry the same stigma. It was based on reciprocity: today’s mutual-aid recipient could be tomorrow’s donor, and vice versa. Mutual aid was particularly popular among the poor and the working class.

Although mutual-aid societies operated smoothly for many years their demise was inevitable. Many special interets groups had more than enough motives to stop or hinder the popularity of these private mutual-aid societies and lobbied lawmakers to pass legislation that adversely affected these fraternal organizations.

One of the biggest opponnents was the American Medical Association which gained control of the licensing of medical schools where-by they were able to pick and choose which medical schools they would deem acceptable (those which supported the AMA got favorable ratings) and the result was a 51% decline in medical schools which produced a doctor shortage which caused the cost of medical care to increase. This made it impractical for mutual-aid societies to retain the services of a doctor. In addition to licensing medical schools the AMA’s medical boards threatened the licenses of many doctors who would practice lodge medicine. Thereby monopolizing the medical field. This was the beginning of the end of mutual-aid.

Although millions of Americans are still members of fraternal societies such as the Masons or Oddfellows, the organizations no longer have the importance in society that they once did. The history of fraternalism serves as a reminder of the power of human cooperation in a free society.

For more on this topic see: Welfare before the Welfare State by

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