Skip to comments.You Can’t Fix the Collapse of the Family with “Programs”
Posted on 06/11/2014 8:34:52 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
David Brooks makes a good point and then a bad point in his take on the so-called reform conservative agenda.
Today, millions of Americans are behaving in ways that make no economic sense: dropping out of school, having children out of wedlock. They do so because the social guardrails that used to guide behavior have dissolved. Giving people in these circumstances tax credits is not going to lead to long-term thinking. Putting more risk into vulnerable peoples lives may not make them happier.
The nanny state may have drained civil society, but simply removing the nanny state will not restore it. There have to be programs that encourage local paternalism: early education programs with wraparound services to reinforce parenting skills, social entrepreneurship funds to reweave community, paternalistic welfare rules to encourage work.
There’s a good point and a bad point here.
Taking off the shackles of the nanny state will mostly help the functional. It won’t do nearly as much for the dysfunctional. In the past we have seen signs that these reforms help more Americans than they hurt, but there is no doubt that they will hurt.
Imagine America after another eight years of Democratic rule and the recovery process will be a lot harder. Giving people economic tools works for the aspirational who have some faith in the system. It just angers those who don’t.
Post-USSR Russia is badly broken. Despite a new generation, the legacy of Communism has never really left. It’s been overlaid with a corrupt materialism. That’s already true in most of the places in America hardest hit by the nanny state. And deregulation often ends up looking like the feeding frenzy that began after the fall of the USSR.
To change all that you have to rebuild families and religious institutions. You can’t fix all this with “wraparound services to encourage parenting skills.” That’s Michelle Obamaspeak.
The nanny state has been encouraging parenting skills forever. It doesn’t work.
To parent, you have to have a sense of responsibility. If you’re an adult, trying to teach you a sense of responsibility by giving you courses doesn’t work. Treating someone like a child to make them act like an adult is a dead end.
You can’t use the nanny state to heal people who are morally and socially crippled by it.
And the nanny state was not the whole problem. It was a paired social disability. It went side by side with other factors, often cultural, that destroyed the family. It worked in tandem with drugs and the entertainment industry.
Removing it won’t leave a libertarian paradise. In some places it will be Somalia. In other places people will pick themselves up and move forward. And often it won’t be the people you expect.
Treating people like a single equation is the great central planning fallacy. We can’t make people do anything. All we can do is change what other people make us do. And that’s the moral center of the Tea Party.
An end to compulsion is a solid universal principle. When we start trying to plan out how to make people do what we want, we end up right back where the liberals started.
If you read any of the Marxist leaders game plans these actions are all necessary to insure the complete takeover of a government/nation by dictators. Obama is just following ‘plan a’.
It isn't about preserving families or strengthening society's most basic fundamental unit. It is about giving the libtard ruling class the tools necessary to reshape society into what they deem most appropriate.
Which, by some strange coincidence, always conforms to whatever gives them the most power and control.
Our schools, media and decades of social policies have encouraged this culture.
Ortega y Gasset explained this long ago...
The dilemma faced by Russia after USSR collapsed, and increasingly in large segments of society in US and Europe, has been described as follows:
A functioning civil society is like an aquarium. Any idiot can make fish soup out of an aquarium. Nobody knows how to make an aquarium out of fish soup.
IOW, once a civil society has been destroyed, or simply disrupted enough, ceasing the attacks on it will not necessarily cause it to regenerate.
Frankly, I con’t think we know how to do what needs to be done, and perhaps the beginning of wisdom is the recognition of that ignorance.
The first step is to have jobs that people on welfare would want. To do that we have to encourage businesses to hire. And to accomplish that, their tax burden and the crushing regulations must be reduced. Unfortunately, the liberals almost never see cutting taxes as beneficial to anyone.
Or, you can justify a huge, permanent government bureaucracy and social-engineering apparatus holding sway over a bunch of sheep.
I agree with the writer on the underlying issue but he fails to make a coherent argument.
Today, millions of Americans are behaving in ways that make no economic sense: dropping out of school, having children out of wedlock. They do so because the social guardrails that used to guide behavior have dissolved.
They do so because they literally get PAID to do it! There is no reward in marrying, staying married, paying your own bills, living a normal boring moral life ...that stuff’s for suckers!
Unfortunately, a very large percentage of the people presently on welfare and its various euphemisms are people no business in its right mind would want to hire.
I strongly suspect the type of people businesses would want to hire don’t stay on welfare long, if they ever wind up there in the first place.
IOW, it’s a chicken or egg situation. The culture drives the demoralization of the individuals, and that drives the culture. It’s a negative spiral, and the only solution is to replace it with a positive spiral.
But I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t know that anybody does.
We might look back with some hope to what happened to the 19th century Irish in America. The Irish were for a long time unpopular here. What has been glossed over is that there were exceptionally good reasons for them to be unpopular, and in a time long before PC people weren’t afraid to state them.
The early Irish immigrants had a great deal in common with today’s underclass. But by the end of the 19th century they had made themselves pillars of the middle class and an integral part of America.
How they did it does not fully support the nostrums for the present underclass proposed by either liberals or conservatives, though I think conservatives should find more comfort than liberals in the record.
I agree with the writer on the underlying issue but he fails to make a coherent argument.
Dittoes. I admire and respect Greenfield. But as I studied this article, I also failed to get the point. Worse yet, it looked as if he might be disparaging the positive aspects of government involvement in growing marriage and the family.
What you can do is stop breaking up families. For example, what if we adopted the SC policy that when a woman comes in for AFDC, she has to identify the father, then we garnish his wages? (With the proviso that you can escape the garnishment by marrying the mom and staying married to her at least until the last child turns 18)? That would create pro-family welfare instead of anti-family welfare.
But Brooks’s point is well taken — and you can’t create jobs with programs either, although you can certainly kill them. We need to get out of the way of the productive sector.
You nailed it. You have described the truthful state of affairs in a minimum of words.
Like most, I have no idea how to fix this mess. The masses have been conditioned to reject and resist anything that might help (like a job, personal responsibility, civil behavior and so on).
Tough love is the only answer, but 60% of Americans would reject it, while the other 40% doesn't need it.
Thanks, much. I’ve always admired your work, particularly in the cafeteria.
To my mind, our present state of affairs demonstrates very clearly that we were right all along. That civil society and a people who believed in certain things were fragile, and a lot easier to break down than reconstitute. That’s small comfort now.
I work in a field where most are liberals or even socialists, the environmental field. There is a principle they love to promote, the Precautionary Principle. Under it anybody wanting to produce a new product would have to prove it would NOT have bad effects for the environment before being allowed to make it.
The idea, not a bad one in and of itself, being that the side effects and unintended consequences of introducing changes in a complex system should be carefully considered before making them.
I’ve sometimes asked colleagues why this principle shouldn’t apply to human societies, the most complex systems known. Why should we encourage people to experiment with such great enthusiasm on the human social environment while trying to prohibit experimentation in the physical environment and on individual humans?
Never have gotten a logical response, mostly just blank stares.
Or, as Chesterton put it, much better than I can:
“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, I dont see the use of this; let us clear it away. To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: If you dont see the use of it, I certainly wont let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”
IOW, that we don’t understand why certain ways of doing things have evolved in human societies tells us much more about our lack of understanding than it does about the utility of those methods. Destroying them because we DON’T understand their function is just idiotic.
But that’s what most “reform” has consisted of for the last few decades.
The solution is a return to local charity. The government, whether state or federal, has no business meddling in people’s lives to “help” them. Government help is never helpful. It is destructive at all times and in all places.
Local churches, civic organizations, neighborhoods, businesses all know how to help those truly in need. They also know how to protect themselves from cons and ripoff artists.
Everyone needs to eat. If a person is capable of working they can support their belly. If they cannot the generosity and kindness of their neighbors will provide. That is how it is done.
Well, we COULD stop subsidizing bastardy, end “no-fault” divorces and generally stop supporting the destruction of families.
But thats what most reform has consisted of for the last few decades.
Somewhere in the last 50 years it became acceptable to ignore results. I suspect the change occurred as a result of America's great economic success. It became possible in our materially rich world to make serious mistakes in judgment without experiencing life threatening consequences. We became spoiled by the success of the "greatest generation".
I've thought for some time that it will take a period of real hardship in America to fix the mess we've created. The correction process will be cruel and ugly.
Rich people and societies can make a lot of stupid mistakes without suffering the immediate consequences they would face without that cushion. No immediate negative feedback means the mistakes can continue indefinitely.
Of course any society or person that makes enough stupid mistakes long enough will eventually burn through their cushion and be faced with immediate feedback.
Which brings us to the topic of the Federal Reserve, Treasury and US budget policy. We borrow $0.40 of every dollar the federal government spends, which is clearly unsustainable. Quantitative Easing is also unsustainable.
On a related note, we saw an announcement recently that the European Central Bank has introduced negative interest rates. The reaction in the media was tepid.