In its various forms, the welfare budget that countries make available to help those of its citizens in need is often viewed as a safety net. Some people complain the holes in the welfare net are too big, while others say they’re too small.

An alternative analogy of welfare might be as an ocean, creating a basic environment for all fish (the citizens) to swim in it.

How so? The ocean provides basic nutrients, dissolved oxygen and environmental support to the fish. The fish can move forward, or sink to the bottom. Even if the fish do sink, the ocean current does its best to slow their descent.

The fish control their personal direction and make progress as best they can, partly thanks to the ocean current, their fellow fish and their own efforts. The fish can choose to swim towards opportunity (more food, or prospective mates) and swim away from danger.

The fish can also choose to swim alone or in a group. But either way, the ocean will provide basic and enduring support, but not be the solution to all problems.

Over time, both the ocean current and the fish encounter obstacles. The ocean will either wear the obstacles down (icebergs and rocks), break them down (pollution, eventually) or flow around them. The fish can also avoid those obstacles, or choose to turn them into opportunities (shelter and local community).

Threats like over-population of the fish stocks, rising pollution, sickness epidemic in the fish communities, or choice of lifestyle by the fish, the ocean can’t compensate for. Fish seem to accept this. Why can’t humans? Maybe we’re not as smart as we think.