Harry McClintock – Hallelujah, I’m A Bum

This folk song is a gospel parody or response to pious finger pointing at the indigent. Like many folk songs, it’s not clear who actually composed this 1920s number. Given that one can find different versions with different verses, performed by different artists, it’s more like a song that is shared and adapted – the essence of a folk song.

The welfare state is a collection of government services and programs intending to assist people that need help getting by. While its roots can probably be traced back to the English Poor Laws of the 16th century, it wasn’t until the Great Depression that the ideological climate widely shifted toward some acceptance of public assistance for those out of work. Since this shift, the welfare state has become part of how most citizens understand to be the best way to support each other through sharing of their resources through taxation. The welfare state still bears all manner of criticisms, including that it costs too much, does not achieve its intended results and even creates “bums,” to the extent that people may become dependent on government “handouts.”


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