Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Victims of Benevolence

One of the standards of both economics and human behavior is that you will get more of the activities you reward, and will get fewer of the activities that you punish.

What should we expect then from an initiative that will grant all children in the Detroit Public School District a free breakfast, a free lunch, and a free snack? Certainly their will be short term positives from such a program. Less hunger in the classroom has got to be a good thing as far as that goes.

And yet, the program has further goals:

“One of the primary goals of this program is to eliminate the stigma that students feel when they get a free lunch, as opposed to paying cash.”
Here we are getting into a gray area where the long term negative outcomes might very well overwhelm whatever positive returns might result.

What becomes of a society where a natural revulsion for accepting government handouts has been systematically stamped out? What results when young people are trained that government wealth redistribution efforts are every bit as legitimate as those that teach citizens to be independent and self-sufficient?

In its quest to stamp out all negative things that might happen to a child, the government in its many forms has tried to form a safety net around all children, and in the process has assumed many of the responsibilities that parents would normally hold for themselves.

They help feed children, and clothe them. They help keep a roof over the heads of children. They give them health care, dental care, and in many instances, child care. They provide education and use this perch to help promote their moral and blessed standards on the next generation of voting Americans.

And yet, good parents and an ill-equipped government accept the role of parenting with a different perspective. Parents wean their children so that they can become independent and become successful in this difficult world. They do this intentionally. They punish and praise, they instruct and they nurture.

The government, despite all its well intentioned efforts to replicate the parental role, is sadly both ill-equipped and too lacking in common sense to pull it off. While it is great at offering suckle, the problem with governmental parenting is that it does not know how to wean--its recipients encouraged to suck at the public teat for generations.

This instance in Detroit is but another example of an ill-advised government takeover of a role once reserved for parents; an effort that holds as a primary goal an attempt to both legitimize and perpetuate its status there. It uses children whose parents are perfectly capable of buying them their own food as pawns in a campaign for other children to learn the feel-good status of depending on the taxpayers for their calories.

You get more of the behaviors you reward, and you get fewer of the behaviors that you discourage. Tell me please, what will this result in?

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