In The Netherlands, which takes its welfare-state benefits seriously, a conscientious civil servant in the village of Diepenveen (pop. 4,018) decided to go out and inform a local farm hand named Hendrik Bally in person that the government, now that he had turned 65, would henceforth pay him a pension of 81 guilders ($21.31) a month.

The civil servant found a man dressed in unspeakable rags, and so thin that his ribs seemed about to burst out of his skin. His boss, Farmer Abraham Kolkman, 72, curtly explained that Bally was nearly deaf and blind, volunteered to sign the pension...

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