Real-life “Hunger Games” — Jeb Kinnison

*This post was published earlier on Jeb’s blog, but we both thought it needed greater exposure.*

Real-life “Hunger Games” — Jeb Kinnison

Social capital, what’s that? The built-up support networks of families and individuals that help maintain and order their lives. Family ties, community ties — with organizations like churches, schools, and voluntary associations that once were more common parts of everyone’s lives. The mutual assistance of friends and neighbors. Reputation, status, and the regard of others which motivated good behavior, honesty in dealing, and charitable assistance, which maintained and strengthened those ties, and helped those in need with both assistance and the strings of obligation to repay that assistance by being useful members of the community.

In a small town, the impulse to assist the poor and disorganized was direct, and the people being helped were known to everyone. Big cities with their concentrated slums of poor immigrants led to social service agencies, funded at first by churches and cities, and then by state and federal governments. As the source of the assistance became impersonal, so did the aid — and the direct contact between those assisting and those assisted declined. Instead of the local church matrons with their bourgeois ideas of proper behavior and work, harassed social workers with enormous caseloads processed cases quickly, and the ideology of government assistance changed so that any behavioral expectation of the client population was viewed as an affront to their dignity.

In time, the government assistance ethos spread to every corner of the country and crowded out the local community services. Meanwhile, locally-controlled schools were gradually taken over by higher levels of government and distant union bureaucracies so that the influence of local parents was minimized. This was viewed as “progressive,” since distant elites thought local school boards and parents were too parochial and backward to be entrusted with decisions, and would get in the way of teaching the correct materials.

The incorrect application of emotions of sympathy and support to faceless categories of people like “the poor” and “the undocumented” removes any possibility of understanding the real situations of each of the category’s members. A hazy idealized poor family is envisioned, then a response that would be appropriate if that family lived next door (help them!) leads to voting for politicians that offer new programs to help “people like that.” By misapplying family and community feelings to higher levels of government, voters put into place a bureaucracy that misses most of the social signalling features of local groups and takes tax money to grow itself, crowding out local groups (and the valuable social signals that maintained bourgeois standards.)

Progressives generally are sentimentally supportive of direct local politics — they especially favor the ideals of the New England town meeting, where everyone who showed up had a say. The reason why this form of local government was generally abandoned is that it is simply too time-consuming for larger communities, and allows the motivated minority to capture control. Election of representatives was an advance which allowed voters to go about their own lives most of the time while exerting control through their representative, who had time to understand the issues thoroughly and vote in council in the best interests of the voters. Being in the 1% of local voters who cares deeply enough about an item to show up at a public meeting about it does not mean your feelings about it are more important than the views of those who didn’t show up; the once-every-few-years election is more likely to reflect what most voters want.

What have been the effects of progressive, centralized control of education, healthcare, and social services? It is true that the backwards practices of a few local school boards have been reformed, but the loss of a rich layer of church and private charity social services has impoverished local social capital. While today’s mass communication and the Internet removed one of the impulses to community (“I’m bored. Let’s go into town and hang out!”), a lot of the loss is due to the crowding out by a monopoly government, which had deep pockets and would use them to continue failed policies, as Microsoft in the 80s used the profits from its near-monopoly OS business to keep creating mediocre applications software until the innovators in applications were destroyed.

Very wealthy people have always been freer than others from the stifling social controls and judgments of bourgeois community standards. The elite of Paris and London in the 1800s often kept mistresses and dabbled in drug use without having their lives destroyed. The lower classes did not have the wealth to recover from errors, and those who did not hew to bourgeois social norms were isolated and damaged.

As the upper middle classes in the US grew as wealthy as the elite had been in the previous century after WWII, the sexual revolution and War on Poverty bestowed more social freedom on everyone — the middle and upper classes got birth control, sexual freedom, and women in the workplace, while the poor got programs to “uplift” them from poverty (a term which exposes the condescension involved). Social workers in vast numbers were hired to distribute assistance, free of any obligation — except for unmarried mothers, who were told their assistance would be cut if they married a working man.

Over the course of several generations, the well-off used their freedoms and came out relatively unscathed — families were still largely intact, children were still trained in the arts of civilization and followed the path of university and marriage into professional careers. But the artificial assistance to the poor, with its lack of community obligations and support and its immediate withdrawal in the event of marriage and better work, removed the social incentives that keep healthy communities healthy. Intact families grew less common. Crime and social pathologies became the norm in poor inner-city communities. As conditions worsened, the motivated and organized left for more civilized neighborhoods with better schools. The segregation of cities and even whole regions by income increased. Whole generations of children were poorly raised, poorly schooled, and left to drift without purpose or guidance from now-absent fathers, who were in prison or adrift themselves.

See this post and its links for more discussion of the black community specifically.

Meaning well is no defense.

We have a large number of people trained in academia who think their impulses to control other people’s lives indirectly through election of technocrats are just as virtuous, and a replacement for, the individual impulse to assist someone near you. They are horribly, hopelessly wrong, but convinced they are right and that only troglodytes and racists would oppose their “help.” They live in a bubble with other Virtuous People and feel superior to people who work in trades or live away from the elite coastal cities. Their lives are rich with experiences and status goods, and they can handle sexual and social freedoms well (mostly) because of their deep reserves of cash and connections — “rehab” is an option, and being late to work because of a bender or hookup won’t get them fired.

But for the poor, the “assistance” of government bureaucracies has gradually destroyed their families, their jobs, their communities, and their social capital.

The Hunger Games is an entertainment, but part of its attraction is the funhouse-mirror view of the societal and geographic divisions we see today in the US. The country is divided between the rich and frivolous Capital District, distracted by the spectacles of the Games and government-provided entertainments, and the poorer Districts where laborers (generally of the grubby, lower-class kind) toil generation after generation to support the imperial Capitol.

The heroine, Katniss Everdeen, grows up impoverished in the coal mining district, but with a strong and resourceful spirit takes on the system as a focal point for rebellion. The economics of the government are far from clear (why does an empire with high technology still have manual labor as its foundation?), but its oppressive nature and manipulation of the educated and refined white collar workers of the Capitol are clear.

Charles Murray fearlessly dares to be politically incorrect in his Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010:

In Coming Apart, Charles Murray explores the formation of American classes that are different in kind from anything we have ever known, focusing on whites as a way of driving home the fact that the trends he describes do not break along lines of race or ethnicity.

Drawing on five decades of statistics and research, Coming Apart demonstrates that a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinshipÑdivergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad.

The top and bottom of white America increasingly live in different cultures, Murray argues, with the powerful upper class living in enclaves surrounded by their own kind, ignorant about life in mainstream America, and the lower class suffering from erosions of family and community life that strike at the heart of the pursuit of happiness. That divergence puts the success of the American project at risk.

His point in focusing on the white class structure is that black communities have been the canaries in the coal mine — more fragile and more urban, and therefore the first to be effected by the social welfare bureaucracies. Now the social pathologies that destroyed inner-city black communities are spreading to the rural and suburban lower classes — marriage rates dropping, children brought up poorly, gangs and the drug war creating social chaos. Progressive whites could pretend the black community was in trouble because not enough was being done, and racism — but when the rot spreads to every city and town, it’s impossible to explain it as the result of racism.

The more progressives elect politicians purporting to care about income inequality, the worse the life of the poor. The phenomenal damage caused by the Drug War to inner city communities and families, the prison-industrial complex that has helped destroy the black family and the lives of millions of young men, the hair-trigger police SWAT teams raiding the innocent by mistake and killing dogs and people in the hundreds — these are all the effects of a government elected by “caring” people who want to control the lives of others from a distance. And now the damage is going mainstream.

The Economist this week has a great story about the Hunger Games-like divide in the US:

SHANA, a bright and chirpy 12-year-old, goes to ballet classes four nights a week, plus Hebrew school on Wednesday night and Sunday morning. Her mother Susan, a high-flying civil servant, played her Baby Einstein videos as an infant, read to her constantly, sent her to excellent schools and was scrupulous about handwashing.

Susan is, in short, a very conscientious mother. But she worries that she is not. She says she thinks about parenting Òall the timeÓ. But, asked how many hours she spends with Shana, she says: ÒProbably not enoughÓ. Then she looks tearful, and describes the guilt she feels whenever she is not nurturing her daughter.

Susan lives in Bethesda, an azalea-garlanded suburb of Washington, DC packed with lawyers, diplomats and other brainy types. The median household income, at $142,000, is nearly three times the American average. Some 84% of residents over the age of 25 are college graduates, compared with a national norm of 32%. Couples who both have advanced degrees are like well-tended lawnsÑubiquitous.

Bethesda moms and dads take parenting seriously. Angie Zeidenberg, the director of a local nursery, estimates that 95% of the parents she deals with read parenting books. Nearly all visit parenting websites or attend parenting classes, she says.

Bethesda children are constantly stimulated. Natalia, a local four-year-old, watches her three older siblings study and wants to join in. ÒShe pretends to have homework,Ó says her mother, Veronica; she sits next to them and practises her letters.

Veronica is an accountant; her husband is an engineer. Their children Òall know that school doesnÕt end at 18,Ó says Veronica. ÒThey assume theyÕll go to college and do a masterÕs.Ó Asked how often she checks her various childrenÕs progress on Edline, the local schoolsÕ website that shows grades in real time, she admits: ÒMore than I should, probably.Ó

In ÒComing ApartÓ, Charles Murray, a social scientist, ranked American zip codes by income and educational attainment. Bethesda is in the top 1%. Kids raised in such ÒsuperzipsÓ tend to learn a lot while young and earn a lot as adults. Those raised in not-so-super zips are not so lucky.

Consider the children of Cabin Creek, West Virginia. The scenery they see from their front porches is more spectacular than anything Bethesda has to offer: the Appalachian Mountains rather than the tree-lined back streets of suburbia. But the local economy is in poor shape, as the coal industry declines. The median household income is $26,000, half the national average. Only 6% of adults have college degrees. On Mr MurrayÕs scale, Cabin Creek is in the bottom 10%.

Melissa, a local parent, says that her son often comes home from school and announces that he has no homework. She does not believe him, but she cannot stop him from heading straight out across the creek to play with his friends in the woods.

She has other things to worry about. The father of her first three children died. The father of her baby is not around. Her baby suffers from a rare nutritional disorder. And Melissa has to get by on $420 a month in government benefits. Small wonder that she struggles to enforce homework. And small wonder the gap between haves and have-nots in America is so hard to close.

In a study in 1995, Betty Hart and Todd Risley of the University of Kansas found that children in professional families heard on average 2,100 words an hour. Working-class kids heard 1,200; those whose families lived on welfare heard only 600. By the age of three, a doctorÕs or lawyerÕs child has probably heard 30m more words than a poor child has.

Well-off parents talk to their school-age children for three more hours each week than low-income parents, according to Meredith Phillips of the University of California, Los Angeles. They put their toddlers and babies in stimulating places such as parks and churches for four-and-a-half more hours. And highly educated mothers are better at giving their children the right kind of stimulation for their age, according to Ariel Kalil of the University of Chicago. To simplify, they play with their toddlers more and organise their teenagers.

The Adventures of Supermom

ÒI talk to him constantly,Ó says Lacey, another Bethesda mother, of her two-year-old son. ÒAs we go through the day, I talk about what weÕre doing. I try to make the regular tasks interesting and fun, like going to the grocery store.Ó Her older son, who is five, devours maths apps and asks his mother questions about arithmetic. At the weekend the family might go to the American History Museum or the Washington Zoo or a park.

Cabin Creek parents love their children just as much as Bethesda parents do, but they read to them less. It doesnÕt help that they are much more likely to be raising their children alone, like Melissa. Only 9% of American women with college degrees who gave birth in the past year are unmarried; for those who failed to finish high school the figure is 61%. Two parents have more time between them than one.

And even two-parent families in Cabin Creek tend to be more stretched than those in Bethesda. Sarah, another Cabin Creek mom, has a sick mother and a husband who was injured in a coal mine. Her three boys, two of whom make it a point of pride to be on the naughty kids list at school, exhaust her. She helps them with their homework and reads to them fairly regularly, but often just lets them watch television. ÒDora the ExplorerÓ is somewhat educational, she says: ÒItÕs got Spanish in it.Ó

Children with at least one parent with a graduate degree score roughly 400 points higher (out of 2,400) on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (a test used for college entrance) than children whose parents did not finish high school. This is a huge gap. It is hard to say how much it owes to nurture and how much to nature. Both usually push in the same direction. Brainy parents pass on their genes, including the ones that predispose their children to be intelligent. They also create an environment at home that helps that intelligence to blossom, and they buy houses near good schools.

The two aspects of parenting that seem to matter most are intellectual stimulation (eg, talking, reading, answering Òwhy?Ó questions) and emotional support (eg, bonding with infants so that they grow up confident and secure). Mr Reeves and his Brookings colleague Kimberly Howard take a composite measure of these things called the HOME scale (Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment) and relate it to how well children do in later life, using data from a big federal survey of those born in the 1980s and 1990s.

The results are striking. Some 43% of mothers who dropped out of high school were ranked among the bottom 25% of parents, as were 44% of single mothers. The gap between high- and middle-income parents was small, but the gap between the middle and the bottom was large: 48% of parents in the lowest income quintile were also among the weakest parents, compared with 16% of the parents in the middle and 5% in the richest (see chart 2).

Likewise, the difference between high-school dropouts and the rest was far greater than the gap between high-school and college graduates. Mr Reeves and Ms Howard estimate that if moms in the bottom fifth were averagely effective parents, 9% more of their kids would graduate from high school, 6% fewer would become teen parents and 3% fewer would be convicted of a crime by the age of 19.

Read the whole thing here. The story goes on at length about suggestions for improving the lives of children brought up in social and financial poverty. Some of these are just more of the same failed top-down ideas (universal pre-school, more social workers.) But the most useful strategy of all is to allow the laws of natural community organization to work again by ending the Drug War, the police war on poor citizens, the overregulation that makes it hard to start and keep a small business, and the paternalistic “assistance” that prevents natural formation of strong families.

132 responses to “Real-life “Hunger Games” — Jeb Kinnison

  1. > elite coastal cities

    One person’s “elite coastal city” is another’s urban nightmare.

    Too. Many. People.

    • Even if you don’t like living in cities, you can still spot the differences between ‘elite coastal cities’ (or, more accurately, the upper class sections of coastal cities) and the urban wastelands. Just about anyone would prefer to live in Bethesda over nearby Anacostia.

      The larger problem is built into the nature of humanity: we are all fundamentally different in our desires and capabilities. We have no way to force the parents of Cabin Creek into the mold of the parents of Bethesda, and ‘encouraging’ them in that direction leads to the sort of Progressive social engineering that makes things worse.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Is Bethesda parenting necessarily an improvement in general?

        Breaking it down:
        1. Are the childrearing fads of the day necessarily a good investment? These aren’t widgets, not only can we not inspect quality into them, there’s reason to doubt that measuring the process can help result in improved quality.
        2. Are fewer academic high achievers a better result than more with a less narrow focus?
        3. Will Bethesda kids fight?

        • The answers to your initial question as well as question one are subjective. The most objective measurement we can take is ‘how are they doing in 20 years’, which, of course is unanswerable. However, we can look at their parents and see that one set is living in Bethesda and the other in Cabin Creek and say that whatever parenting fads were used on the parents in Bethesda were likely better than those used on the parents in Cabin Creek.

          Are the childrearing fads of the day necessarily a good investment? These aren’t widgets, not only can we not inspect quality into them, there’s reason to doubt that measuring the process can help result in improved quality.
          Like any process, quality can be measured in education, even with people being human. The problem is that you have to approach the issue with a sincere desire to improve quality, not a desire to prove you’re doing everything right already. This, of course, is what the educational establishment has done, by teaching to the quality metrics exclusively.

          We’re not perfect. Half of all teachers and half of all schools will be below average. Some children will fail. Some problems are unavoidable. Rather than admit this and use the failures as opportunities to find improvements, we’re seeing schools insisting that everything is done right already (or would be if they had more money). It’s a combined failure of teachers, government, and parents that leaves the system non-functional for a lot of people, and what’s worse is none of them can admit to being part of the problem.

          As far as question 3, I think neither the children of Bethesda nor those of Cabin Creek, in general, would measure up to the standards of the Greatest Generation, for example, but in different ways (nor would my generation, for that matter). It’s not just willingness to fight, but willingness to put up with discipline, to learn, to deal with hardships and sacrifice.

          • I think neither the children of Bethesda nor those of Cabin Creek, in general, would measure up to the standards of the Greatest Generation

            I think we are selling the current generation short – look at the kids* that went over to Iraq, and the ‘stans, and the Horn of Africa, over and over and over again for a period just about twice as long as WWII lasted for the US, and won in Iraq, only to have it thrown away**, and are still fighting the fight in Afghanistan in spite of everything the JAGs and the politicians in uniform can do to neuter that effort.

            This generation volunteered in sufficient numbers to meet the needs of two major and many unpublicized minor theaters of a war simultaneously throughout all the years of these long wars. I hold the Greatest Generation in the highest esteem for saving civilization, but I also note that most who served in WWII did have to be drafted.

            And in spite of the spotlight on a very very few incidents, the current generation has very much lived up to the proudest tradition of the soldiers, sailors marines and airmen that served before them.

            I personally think we are seeing another Greatest Generation. That’s one reason Sarah’s refrain of “In the End, We Win, They Lose” rings so true for me.

            * Get off my lawn!

            ** And don’t you just wonder how that development, i.e. the throwing away of what an entire generation fought for, will color that generation’s view of their elders in general and politicians in particular down the road as they shift into government…

            • Umm – yeah. Pretty much. My daughter was a peacetime Marine – enlisted after high school in 1998, re-enlisted after 9-11. She did a tour in Kuwait-Iraq in 2003 and is even more ferociously conservative than I am. And I am an original Tea Partier from early on.

            • Just because it needs saying now and again: there was no “Greatest Generation.”

              That’s just a load of Boomer Crap.

              The generation which endured the Depression (yet kept returning FDR to power) and saved Civilization was great, sure, but no greater than any preceding one.

              The generation which first landed on these shores and established a beachhead for a new race of people — that was greatness.

              The generations which settled the land and built colonies — those were great.

              The generation that fought their government to preserve their liberty and establish a new Constitutional order of self-governance — they were great.

              The generation which built upon that, which defended our people’s rights against British incursions and fought the lobsterbacks to a stand still — they, too, were great.

              The generation which fought a vast and horrible war to preserve the Union and end the practice of human slavery — you gonna tell me they weren’t great?

              The generation which crossed the plains, fighting to establish homes and farms in a hostile wilderness — they, too, were great.

              The generation that fought to repulse the dead hand of Spain from this hemisphere’s throat, while establishing industry and vitality across our continent — they, too, were great.

              The generation which fought to end all war, focusing our nation’s industry on surpassing Europe’s strength — they were great even if they did tolerate the madman Wilson.

              Even the heirs of the so-called “Greatest Generation” who fought and served in great number for one of History’s most mis-managed wars to preserve self-governance in a land in S.E. Asia was great in many many ways.

              Okay — I will concede the ’70s, with its fascination in “singer/songwriters” and devolution into the depravities which were Disco was not that great, but they laid the groundwork for new greatness which followed, advancing cyber-frontiers and creating new means of human communication.

              I’ve little doubt that the current generation, given the chance and if they get their heads out of big Government’s butt, will prove their merit and achieve greatness as well.


              We’re going back.

            • That’s why I said “in general”. I know there are more people that have what it takes than are acknowledged; I know some of them and I’ve had the privilege of working alongside some of them. I seriously did not intend that to sell those that have short, including some friends of mine that fit solidly in the age group in question and made the decisions you describe. But I recognize that they are exceptions. Right now, we have half the people serving as we did during Korea with twice the population, and reintroducing the draft would be political suicide.

              I’m normally the one arguing that the current generations aren’t as bad as people tend to think, so it’s odd for me to be making the opposite argument. I’m hopeful that there will always be enough people willing to step forward in times of crisis, but I can’t rely only on hope.

              • Right now, we have half the people serving as we did during Korea with twice the population…

                Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that current active military numbers are as high as the Government wants them to be, and that many volunteers are turned down for seemingly trivial reasons, because of this.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  The last I heard, the size of the US Military *has* been set by Congress and the US Military is “turning away” people who want to join for that reason.

                • That has been my understanding. I believe recent news reports have been that the current Administration is trying to reduce troop strength even further, by about 8%:

                  Army lays out plan to cut 40,000 soldiers
                  By Michelle Tan, Staff writer 11:39 a.m. EDT July 10, 2015
                  The Army will shrink two brigade combat teams and convert at least one more as it cuts 40,000 soldiers to reach an active-duty end-strength of 450,000, the service said Thursday.

                  The Army’s plan to reduce the force to 450,000 are not new, but details about where those cuts would be made had not been released until now.

                  [SNIP]

                  Driven by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and ongoing budget cuts, these reductions, which are scheduled to begin in October, will affect “nearly every Army installation in the continental United States and overseas,” George said.

                  [SNIP]

                  Since 2012, the Army has already cut 80,000 soldiers and shut down 13 brigade combat teams, including two in Germany and one in South Korea, to reach an end-strength of 490,000.

                  [SNIP]

                  In total, the Army will have cut 120,000 soldiers – or 21 percent of the active force – since 2012.

                  The Army also will cut about 17,000 Army civilians and shrink its two-star and higher headquarters by 25 percent.

                  [SNIP]

                  The cuts to the Army could go even deeper if sequestration returns in fiscal 2016, which begins Oct. 1. The Army could shrink to 420,000 active-duty soldiers by fiscal 2019 if those automatic budget cuts are triggered.

                  This is a cumulative loss of 150,000 soldiers from the active Army – a 26 percent reduction – over a seven-year period.

                  Army Secretary John McHugh warned in January that it would take the Army years to recover from sequestration.

                  [SNIP]

                  It takes “months and months” to build a new brigade combat team or increase readiness across the force, McHugh said.

                  “We’ve got to be mindful of not just where we’re going, but what it would take to get us back to a different level should that becomes absolutely essential,” he said.

                  [SNIP]

                  Among the key reductions:

                  • The Army’s brigade combat teams will continue to be reduced from a wartime high of 45 in 2012 to 30 by the end of fiscal 2017.

                  The first two brigades to go were stationed in Europe. Ten more followed, impacting every major installation in the Army from Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

                  Earlier this year, the Army announced it also would cut the 2nd Infantry Division’s BCT in South Korea; that unit is being replaced by rotational brigades from the United States.

                  The Army will have 32 BCTs by the end of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

                  • The Army will convert the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, and the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, into maneuver battalion task forces.

                  Each brigade will go from about 4,000 soldiers to a task force of about 1,050 soldiers.

                  The conversions are scheduled to be completed by the end of fiscal 2017.

                  [MORE, including chart breaking out cuts by installation]

          • ” However, we can look at their parents and see that one set is living in Bethesda and the other in Cabin Creek and say that whatever parenting fads were used on the parents in Bethesda were likely better than those used on the parents in Cabin Creek.”

            See, that right there is an opinion. I know I would not only much rather live in Cabin Creek than Bethesda, but I would much rather see my kids living in Cabin Creek than Bethesda. So I would say the parenting fads used on the parents in Bethesda were likely WORSE than those used on the parents in Cabin Creek.

            • Is your desire to live in Cabin Creek rather than Bethesda something along the lines of a preference for rural over urban living or based on the perceived politics of both areas? Are seeing your kids with your values living in the sort of rural areas you are familiar with, or your kids with the values described in the article living in Cabin Creek? Cabin Creek was chosen as being the bottom of the barrel as far as rural areas go; it’d be like describing all urban areas as the worst parts of Detroit.

              If you are the sort of parent to get involved with your kids, they’ll turn out all right whether they grow up in Cabin Creek or Bethesda. You’re going to push your kids to be educated enough to get a job (whether it be blue or white collar) and have enough work ethic to keep it. You’re going to push them to not have too much debt, to try to at least wait until they can support children to have them, and to keep themselves out of jail. (Yes, there are ways you can damage kids by being over-involved, but i fail to see any of those being as bad as not involved at all.)

      • I think that your observations are correct, Civilis. We haven’t decoded human nature. There is a lot of correlation equals causation in the quoted text. I don’t know what to make of this:
        “In a study in 1995, Betty Hart and Todd Risley of the University of Kansas found that children in professional families heard on average 2,100 words an hour. Working-class kids heard 1,200; those whose families lived on welfare heard only 600. By the age of three, a doctorÕs or lawyerÕs child has probably heard 30m more words than a poor child has.”
        So it’s a matter of having words said to you as a child? Suppose it was the same words, over and over? This isn’t even close to a rigorous discussion, “Smart parents have smart kids” is a banal truth. The idea that there is a silver bullet, provided by government, that can fix this is silly and is just more of the same thing that brought us the “war on drugs.”

        • I think that “words per hour” metric is seriously broken.

          The television is everywhere, babbling incessantly. And radio. And whatever’s on their phone.

          If anything, the use of the “electronic pacifier” probably would load “words per hour” toward the lower-income groups.

        • I would assume that ‘number of words heard’ is a proxy for how much the child is involved and around other people. Presumably, babies learn something by watching people around them talk and use words. The more the people around them use words, the more opportunities the child has to associate the words with objects or actions. The stereotypical just learning to talk kid that picks up a few dirty words from their parents in inconvenient circumstances and then uses them innocently is such a trope that I’m going to just assume that we all believe this kind of learning exists. Since you can’t measure how much learning the baby actually does, we take the number of words they hear and assume if they hear more words they will end up making more associations.

          We have something we can’t measure (the amount of associations between words they hear and ideas the baby has made) and something we can measure that is related (the number of words they hear). It’s natural but a mistake to attempt to then increase the measurable thing as if it’s magic while losing sight of what we can’t measure that we’re actually interested in. Increasing the words the baby hears by, say, playing a book on tape in the room with them, while increasing the measurable statistic, does so in a way that means that the baby won’t be able to form associations between those words and ideas, which is what we really want.

          • It’s the exact same for standardized tests. We need to know something we can’t directly measure. how well students are learning. We come up with an imperfect proxy we can measure, standardized tests. The mistake is not measuring how well students are learning, the mistake is in assuming that measures designed specifically to address only the standardized tests we use to measure will also mean students are learning better.

            For a simpler explanation, take something else difficult to measure directly, like how sick someone is, and a proxy we can measure, their body temperature. Teaching to the standardized tests is the equivalent of putting ice on the place you are going to measure their temperature beforehand as a treatment for the disease causing the problem. This however does not mean that measuring someone’s body temperature is not useful in determining if someone is sick.

    • In. Too.Small. An. Area.

  2. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Some druggies are effectively suicidal. They can’t all be said to be actually suicidal, as they don’t necessarily start with a good understanding of toxicology, the CNS, and long term consequences.

    Someone who is killing themselves by inches is a poor investment as a worker. Someone who is dying by inches has less incentives towards civilized lawful behavior.

    One would expect violence, and deaths that are essentially by their own hands. Supposing that everything is the result of illegality and policing is similar that claiming that the measures that would deter an ordinary man would stop a juramendo. (I forget the proper spelling of this last word, it is one Shadow may know.)

    People at a suicidal stage of mental illness can be a danger to others. This isn’t because suicide is illegal. The same impaired state that makes self murder seem desirable can make other murders seem desirable.

    In short, a recapitulation of my usual ‘symptom not the cause’ ranting. (Risk assessment and knowledge of long term subtle things can be improved by being exposed to grandparents or older while young.)

    • I don’t think Jeb was implying the symptom was the cause, rather that we need to recognize that the Progressive ‘solution’ is part of the problem.
      Indeed, ‘Black Lives Matter’, and the ones that should matter the most are those getting ‘snuffed-out’ every weekend in the Chicago gang killings. Oddly, they are the black lives that no one seems to be talking about.
      The symptoms are bad, I think we can all agree on that. The usual solution is to look for ‘root causes’, but somehow, blaming it on someone’s Great to the fifth Grandfather for slavery, or suggesting aliens commit an illegal act as their entry position into the United States doesn’t really seem to accomplish much. Belief in a social contract and elimination of bureaucracies can work. For instance, despite the Progressive claim that the uninsured were dying on the streets, the old system of treating them first before financial or residence questions were asked worked and worked well. The Progressive ‘solution’ to the non-problem; works not so well.
      When what the conventional wisdom says do continues to fail, don’t double down. Try something else.

    • It’s certainly true that people on drugs are more likely to commit minor crimes. It’s also true that providing living expenses for dysfunctional drug addicts, then making their drugs so expensive they have to commit break-ins and robberies to pay for them, is the primary cause of high property crimes in areas near where they live. Car break-ins in enormously expensive San Francisco are at record highs not because you can make a living stealing stuff out of cars, but because you can supplement your social benefits with a little cash to buy pricy drugs by stealing.

      It’s a tragedy when someone is addicted and their life is ruined. But well-to-do addicts coast along, functioning at a marginal level, because their habit is affordable. I’d rather let people do whatever they want to their bodies, which hurts only them, than fund a criminal class and destroy entire neighborhoods over black-market drug profits, which rewards outlaws and increases their power. We learned that lesson with Prohibition — gangs and associated crime became much less of a problem when it ended. Drug addicts don’t learn from or need additional punishment — they need to be kept out of dangerous jobs, but they will be punished by the consequences of their addiction.

      • eh, possible. not certain. Theodore Dalrymple found, by careful questioning, that most of the drug addicted burglars among his patients were confirmed career criminals before they took up drugs.

        He also notes that many habitual takers of opiates have succeeded in holding down jobs for years.

        • People do manage addictions for years or a lifetime. Making it harder for them to do so doesn’t lower addiction rates but it does destroy more lives through forced interaction with the justice system.

      • I’d rather let people do whatever they want to their bodies, which hurts only them

        Can we at least agree that the emphasized portion is debatable? Neglected and abused children and spouses are likely to disagree with the idea their lives would be rosy if only [parent/spouse] wasn’t strung out. Alcohol is relatively cheap and available and we still see much collateral damage from its abuse.

        Any argument for decriminalization that pretends it is only “their own bodies” abusers hurt has a serious credibility hurdle to clear.

        • True, but also true of every other self-damaging action. Making things illegal doesnt prevent the behavior, and irresponsible family members aren’t going to do better jobs from jail cells. No human problem can be stopped by eliminating tenptation by law.

          • Arguably valid, but fails to address the false claim that they only hurt themselves. It is the falsity of that claim, not the validity of assertions that the damage done by criminalization are greater, which diminishes credibility

            • Sorry to have been a tad sloppy. We are in agreement — it’s harmful to evrryone in that person’s life when the person selfishly pursues drug addiction. But you do that person’s attachments no favors by obtuse intervention. I don’t approve of drug use and I wouldn’t hire a regular pot smoker, for example. But that use will be reflected in their record of performance; no need to throw them in jail.

              • While I agree that jailing is primarily of benefit to the jailers’ union and prison construction industry, I fear you will have problems not hiring a pot smoker, as there are regulations* against such discrimination.

                Moreover, it strikes me as unlikely a pot smoker would acknowledge such in a job application or interview. Once hired it can be rather difficult to discharge “difficult” employees under the current regulatory climate. (Indeed, I have been advised that it is deemed impossible to fire an African-American employee for “attitude” no matter how bad their attitude may be; a different basis must be found for the records.) See: Teachers’ Unions & Rubber Rooms.

                Oddly, unions seem to find it in their interest to defend indefensible members. Perhaps those constitute their most dedicated cadre.

                *The stupidity of such regulatiions is a separate discussion.

                • One can generally succeed in discriminating against habitual users by discriminating against those with spotty attendance records and poor attention to detail. You soon won’t be allowed to hold a candidate’s prison record against them, either! 😉 (we are in general agreement on the disparate impact of the idea of disparate impact…)

                  • Certes, law and regulation are rough tools for such purposes as they tend to be deployed. That is one reason conservatives and libertarians deplore such excessive deployment.

                    Philip K. Howard’s The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America addresses the matter at length. Unfortunately, as its publication date of 1994 suggests, hope of reviving the patient seems scant.

                    Law and Regulation have the tendency of crowding out Common Sense, just as government programs undercut volunteer organizations while delivering inferior quality at higher social costs.

                    • Unhappily, undoing such fatuity tends to fall into the “putting toothpaste back in the tube” or “unscrambling eggs” category. I am not sure how we get there from here.

                      Burn it all down?

                      Order Revolution and they usually deliver Terror. Truth in packaging laws seem ill-equipped to change that.

                    • How to get there from here? Pass a law resetting the Code of Federal Regulations to what it was on – say – January 1, 2007, and require all further changes to come from Congress. The regulatory agencies enforce regulations, they don’t write them.

                  • How do you pick up spotty attendance and poor attention to detail before you hire them?

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Difficult, but nowhere does it say that decriminalizing means that a company can’t still require a drug test BEFORE employment.

                    • It’s easy when you’re talking professional careers — reputation and asking around, though few will give you a negative reference in writing for fear of lawsuits. In casual jobs it’s harder, though clues in appearance and grooming are common enough.

                • ^^THIS. Calling addictions strictly medical issues brings them under the Americans with Disabilities Act, because “it’s not their fault they’re sick.”

                  Bullshit.

                  Everyone knows the effects of alcohol and drugs. Choosing to take them means you intended the results. A drunk or intoxicated driver who kills someone should be charged with intentional murder.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Yep, and the “legalize drugs now” folks never say how they want to handle the problems caused by the addicts.

              • You punish them for their criminal behavior and treat them for their addiction.

              • I’m a “legalize drugs now” folk, and I have an answer; hold them legally responsible for their actions. Period.

                My issue with the drug war is threefold:

                It costs a great deal of money.

                It erodes our civil liberties.

                It doesn’t appear to have ever worked worth a curse.

                I note that there was a period during the runup to Prohibition when several States were ostensibly Dry and also had no laws against heroin, cocaine, amd marijuana. And that the principle drung problem in those states remained drunks.mi don’t know that this would still be true, but if legal drugs became a more serious issue than the drug war we could always change the law again.

                I think legalization is worth trying.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Plus, the “only harms themselves” ignores the cost to the society involved.

          A very large percentage of the Homeless are people who couldn’t handle their Alcohol and Drug addictions.

          Too often the “Homeless” are people who have someplace that they could live but the “price” of that place would be “giving” up (or attempting to give up) their addition.

          We are told that “we must help the homeless” but such help never involves “forcing the homeless” to “clean up their lives”.

          People can “whine” all they want about the “War On Drugs” (and I suspect there is better ways to fight the drug problem) but people who think the “magical” answer is legalizing drugs better be prepared to tell me how they are going to solve the problem of druggies who have destroyed their own lives resulting in them being a “cost to society”.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            The shifting of focus from the drugs themselves to the associated crimes, however, would very likely result in significant cost savings, as well as reduced risk to the lives of police and those who “see too much” when encountering drug dealings going on.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              How are you going to handle the “homeless because they’re addicts”?

              • The Other Sean

                I suggest letting them continue to wander the streets as derelicts, pan-handling when they have chance, and potentially get shot by citizens or cops if they try something aggressive. After all, its been working great in the four decades or so since they shut down the institutions that used to house all sorts who now roam the streets.

              • Wayne Blackburn

                Do you think that number will be significantly higher? If not, then what is the difference between then and now?

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  How are you going to handle the “homeless because they’re addicts”?

                  • Wayne Blackburn

                    If the number of such does not change significantly from the current situation, then your question has no meaning to the issue of changing the focus of law enforcement. That’s why I asked, “Do you think the number will become significantly higher?” Because if not, then the implication that such a change must provide an answer to the question is invalid. Only if it does increase significantly does that become a valid question on the subject.

                  • “How are you going to handle the “homeless because they’re addicts”?”

                    Why should we handle them at all?* Presupposing that the reason drugs are being legalized is to facilitate an increase in individual liberties, more liberty perforce includes more responsibility. If we give people the liberty to choose how to live their lives, then what right do we have to forbid them the concequences of those choices? If they choose to be homeless, because they would rather be strung out and homeless than clean up and get a job and a place to live, what right do we have to remove that freedom of choice from them? Until and unless they commit a crime worthy of jail/death, they should be left to live their lives the way they choose.

                    *I was going to write, “with rubber gloves” but decided to give a more serious answer.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      “I was going to write, “with rubber gloves” but decided to give a more serious answer.”

                      Unfortunately, I consider that answer an “Ivory Tower Answer” rather than a “Serious Answer”.

                      Yes, people have the “right” to destroy their own lives, but people shouldn’t have to put up with their shit. Of course, if society (something libertarians seems to forget humans form), is “going to ignore” those people, you got the problem of individuals attempting to “help” these people (which may increase the numbers of the “destroyed lives” in the area) or you got the problem of individuals decided to “finish the job that those druggies started”.

                      This is why I dislike the “legalize drugs” folks, they are magical thinkers. They seem to believe that legalizing drugs will “solve all problems” and aren’t willing to seriously think about the problems that will occur thanks to their “solution”.

                      There are very likely better ways to fight the drug problem than the current “war on drugs” but “legalizing drugs” is not the better way especially when the “legalize drugs” folks aren’t willing to deal with the “destroyed lives”.

                    • Replying to Drak… $HOUSEMATE spent considerable time as a volunteer paramedic and is, grudgingly, for drug legalization. It’s NOT a cure-all, by any means (and I suspect a few things, eg PCP, are things to be left as hard to acquire as possible). It’s that the current drug war actually manages to inflict more damage. Should there be some sort of arrangement to deal with the.. fallout? Yes. And ideally to prevent it. What that might be, I do not pretend to know. It’s not “unicorns and rainbows, happily ever after” but “This is not working, and is failing very, very badly. Let’s try something else.”

              • Addicts and the insane make up most long-term homeless populations. I’m thinking it would be far cheaper to declare them incompetent and bus them to a farm in the country where they could work for their food. That this looks somewhat like the closed state institutions they used to be sent to is a coincidence…? Instead, many cities now spend tens to hundreds of thousands per year per homeless person to fix them up and send them back out to the street.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Great Idea and I approve. Mind you, we might have to knock some “liberal” heads in to do it.

                  • In spite of Liberal efforts to declare Conservatives impaired, there is basis in the recent studies by Jonathan Haidt and others to indicate it is Liberals who are mentally deficient, able to think in a mere three of the six moral dimensions. Thus it stands to reason that Liberals need to be reduced to second-class citizens, in alignment with their impairments. They can be allowed to comment on the actions and decisions of the adults but not participate in significant decision-making before demonstrating cognitive competence.

                    In the meantime, they can be encouraged to commune with plants and other non-complex life forms. I gather they can be trained to be very adept at pottery.

                • … many cities now spend tens to hundreds of thousands per year per homeless person …

                  The cost only matters if you believe we lack an infinite supply of money rather than it only being the greed of the privileged which limits our ability to underwrite those charged with care taking responsibilities.

                • Well, the problem is the definition-setters for “declared incompetent” get to be in government – once you have the farms ringed with razor wire all set up, you might get a “fundamentally transforming” administration who decides that political opposition to their self-evident greater good is grounds for such a declaration, and then I’m on the frigging bus to Camp Happy.

                  Nope, not buying in to building out that infrastructure.

                  • Then we should shut down the military as well – so easily abused! 🙂

                    • Well, “Society has decided X are going to a Re-Education Camp” where Lois Lerner gets to decide who qualifies as X seems a bit different to me than “We need someone to keep Canada from invading us and taking our baked goods.”

                    • Of course. The reform I suggested to the “let drug addicts and crazy people use infinite resources since it employs more D social workers” is predicated on a reasonable government which has a due process proceeding which family and friends (if any) can participate in. A repressive regime can misuse any involuntary commitment system.

                  • Government deciding who is incompetent is why, while I think getting locked up for being mentally ill ought to be much more frequent than it is today, I *also* think it should require a jury trial. The shrinks can recommend locking you up for the protection of society, but they have to convince twelve normal people.

          • There was a period during which I checked every year to see what the DEA (hardly likely to downplay the numbers) had to say about how many druggies there were in the country. The numbers ran steadily at just over 15 million (16-17 in high years) who used illegal drugs at least once a month. Of those, the DEA said that slightly over 10 million were basically pot smokers. This was when the population was something like 280 million. So the 6 million users of “hard” drugs were 2% of the population.

            That’s a problem. It isn’t an epidemic, or an emergency. It doesn’t justify hard entry nightime raids in full battle gear on people fingered by anonymous informants. It doesn’t justify stop-and-frisk.

            If you count the war on drugs as having started with Prohibition, then it has been going on, to one degree or a other, for almost a century. In that time, if there has been a period when it was impossible to get any of the Big Three (heroin, cocaine, pot) in any U.S. City for more than a few weeks, I haven’t heard of it.

            It’s time to stop.

    • Druggies,and I’ve know a number, are mostly sad, wasted people. That said, they are better company than the vast majority of Prohibitionists. For one thing, when they want to rifle my wallet, tey do it in person, rather tha. Try to get the State to do it for them on an ongoing basis. And when you catch them at it they are generally ashamed instead of self-rightious.

      • “For one thing, when they want to rifle my wallet, tey do it in person, rather tha. Try to get the State to do it for them on an ongoing basis.”

        Actually I disagree with that statement. A far larger percentage of drug users are on welfare or another form of government assistance, than the percentage of non drug users. So yes, they are getting the State to rifle your wallet on an ongoing basis for them.

        • Yeah, but that’s not pushed by the druggies themselves, actively. Oh, given a chance, amd awareness of it, they’ll vote for it, if it occurs to them to vote. But the ones that push it are not, by and large,,addicted to anything as simple as drugs.

    • Not sure what the word is, but mendo/mendou is ‘bother’ ‘burden’ ‘trouble(some)’ …’responsibility’, if that helps.

  3. c4c

  4. The ‘conventional wisdom’ is really now official policy – promoted and pushed by a captured and compliant press. What used to be conventional wisdom or common sense is disdained as peasant logic and uneducated folk wisdom that was false, selfish and racist. The extremes of academic thinkers is given official sanction.
    Government and it’s policies protect their own existence with lethal force. That’s why nobody tries anything new – it is classified as rebellion.
    Right now government is destroying the middle class just as they did the black family. Mostly through controlling the price of money. They have made it almost impossible for a middle class family to save and have a decent retirement and pass any wealth on to their children.
    Also by enabling monopolies and cartels such as health care not subject to any restraint in price fixing.
    All political systems display extremes as they fail. You are simply limited in how much of those extremes you can shield yourself and your family from. A good place to start is to simply turn off the TV.

  5. It is a sad fact that bureaucracies act forever in their interest rather than the interests of their clients. Welfare agencies which are funded according to their case load have little incentive to reduce that case load. Teachers’ unions similarly have scant interest in actually educating students, as that would require holding many of their members accountable; instead they advocate performing the rituals of education in the expectation that many will succeed in becoming educated in any case and that for many of the ones who won’t the factors determining that are outside the schools’ control, anyway.

    Social capitol organizations, OTOH, exist to achieve their proclaimed goals, adapt their methods when those goals are not being reached, and are happy to conclude their efforts when those goals are achieved.

    Completely different dynamics.

    • Ayup. Private social capital organizations, like private businesses, can be bureaucratic and ineffectual, but if they are they can also lose their funding and die (unless they have mastered the art of getting themselves funded by government grants) — they are voluntary, so if you don’t want a sermon and some social work with your free meal, you don’t have to go; and if your donors sense you are topheavy and inefficient, you lose their support. Government bureaucracies are never failures in the bureaucrat’s eyes, they just need more money so they can fail on a grander scale. Public schools are failing about half of the students in the US, and efficacy of schools is only slightly related to funding.

      We now punish crime by taking care of prisoners and providing them with free food, board, medical care, and an education in criminal technology. Truly effective punishment would be painful and short, and not provide the punished with a network of underworld contacts. I’m not suggesting bringing back flogging, but it had some advantages.

    • Bureaucracy is necessary for any organization over a trivial size, and the Iron Law applies. The reason why private organizations are generally preferable to government organizations is that a private organization has to be accountable. If a private company or charity becomes more focused on the bureaucratic structure than performing its tasks, it loses customers or donors until it either reforms or ceases to exist – with new organizations arising to fill the gap. Government, on the other hand, can always force you to contribute, so there is no incentive for the bureaucracy to reform. Even a reform-minded politician will be hard-pressed to change things – after all, politicians come and go, but the bureaucrats are there for the career.

      • The only solution I’ve ever come up with to the Iron Law is to structure Bureaucratic Gladiatorial Games, so that each bureaucracy’s interest are at fundamental odds with another bureaucracy. As long as you set it up to prevent Detente, they control each other.

        Dunno quite how to do that last, though. Proposals welcomed.

        • or… term limits for bureaucrats! The old spoils system at least had the benefit expressed by the slogan “a new broom sweeps clean”; civil service has institutionalized the accumulated corruption, rent-seeking, and accumulation of lazy habits of any long-term bureaucracy.

        • For institutions which do things you want to encourage (e.g schools) you can attach funds to the people being served rather than the institutions, get rid of the institutions which have been defunded, and allow startups fairly freely. Charter schools are the obvious example.

          When the organization serves needs which you ultimately want to go away (e.g. welfare) it’s a lot trickier, but might be possible as long as the reward for having someone cease using the program which funds it was large enough.

          When the organization is something that you want to serve a goal that conflicts with the immediate desire of its user base (e.g. jails, drug treatment facilities, etc.) I’m dubious this is possible.

          Note that health care fits into ALL THREE categories depending on who is using it and why.

          • Consider the frequent warnings against just giving control over Health Care expenditures to individuals, “who might not use it wisely.”

            Now consider all the things which are mandated coverage under government approved health insurance plans and tell me that bureaucrats are wiser than people who have to live with their* decisions.

            *Pronoun obfuscation intended.

            • Oh, I want privatized health care even where it’s government-funded; I simply recognize there are some incentive problems with government-funded-privately-run health care that don’t apply to government-funded-privately-run schools.

              In my as-close-to-ideal-as-workable world, health care works as follows:

              First, health savings accounts are tax-free, unlimited, and inheritable, but the money never transitions from health care dollars to unspecified dollars. The Obamacare penalty then becomes your mandatory contribution to your health savings account.

              Second, all health care providers must publish a “cash up front” price for all services, and this price must be the lowest offered above at-cost. (They can offer charity care at or below cost, but they can’t make deals with organizations to provide care at prices below “cash up front.)

              Next, health insurance is limited to diagnosticians and actuaries. They aren’t allowed to do anything other than diagnose your ailment to the extent possible and deposit an appropriate sum in your health savings account. What treatment you choose with with that money is between you and the doctor of YOUR choice.

              Managed health care organizations will be begrudgingly allowed, since so many people seem to want “health insurance” which is actually prepaid health care. It is limited to routine and semi-routine care and should really be packaged with actual health insurance.

              The poor and people with chronic conditions get money from the government deposited into their health savings accounts.

              We probably want an opt-out system for purchase of health insurance to accompany the above — “Last year, 40% of people matching your demographic opted for insurance company A, 20% opted for insurance company B, and 10% each C, D, E, and F. If you do not send this form back by January 31st, you will be randomly enrolled in one of those companies.”(Where the form includes an obscure opt-out options, and the randomization is proportional to the number of people opting into each company.) But I recognize some serious problems with that….

  6. I believe social capital organizations suffer the same failure modes as governments. Look at the NRA, AARP, The American Red Cross or the United Way. Past a certain size they serve their existence instead of their original purpose. They ignore their member’s wishes and some devolve into eternal fund raising campaigns.

    • While I’m certain the size contributes, I think the age of the organization also has a lot to do with it.

  7. With mobility, decent people can move away from crime and violence. Good for them, but marginally less good for the society they leave behind. They no longer are visible as an example of how to do things differently. In a old-time village where mobility is more restricted, there was a chance an impressionable kid could see no, some dads *don’t* hit their wives or beat their children. If that’s all you see, though, it’s harder to change.

    Not that I would advocate restricting mobility, but it does seem to sort and sift out groups.

    My own very non-PC suggestions for improving things:
    – a telenovela-type series, on TV or wherever the impressionable young girls might encounter it, all about “No, getting pregnant will not make him decide to love you it will make him run away.” Yes, there are still girls who are so desperate for attention and affection they really think getting pregnant will help matters. The whole meme needs to be stomped hard and ridiculed lots. Not “don’t have sex”, that has never worked. Not “get married before having sex,” that just pushes them into relationships they can’t yet handle so they can have sex. Make sure there aren’t MORE regret babies first, then start working on fixing the social mores. Harsh, I know.
    – lots and lots of affordable, safe contraception, for males as well as females. This will cost money for research and the inevitable lawsuits, but worth it.
    – Stand up a Silver Horde/Grandparents Revolutionary Front, staffed by grandparents that raised successful children (that is, not in jail or dead from drugs or *shudder* running for political office. You think I am joking.) Have them volunteer in “at risk” neighborhoods at libraries or discounted day care or anywhere they might be available to kids. Having *one person* in a kids life that will listen to them, talk to them, tell them stories about life they haven’t seen yet can be all it takes. It saved my father from a horribly disfunctional family.
    – give incentives and rewards to people working to get off of welfare, instead of immediately cutting their benefits. Allow a little overlap, so people aren’t punished for finding work that takes two weeks to issue a paycheck when they have grocery and childcare needs that suddenly aren’t getting paid NOW.

    • The contraception is already safe and freely available. They are having babies because they want them.

      Probably the only fix would be to define the demographic of disaster and declare them unfit parents and take the babies before the parents make them unadoptable — which is probably unworkable because it requires a strong stomach.

      • The girls with attachment issues think babies will help. The guys don’t want them. If birth control is available to *both* partners, it will help. Also note step one there. Reduce the “wanting babies” part. Also, most birth control now requires discipline (the pill) or is expensive and requires a doctor visit for implantation, or has other issues that make it unsuitable for giggly teenagers. It isn’t as safe and available as it needs to be.

        • Notice that when some R legislators proposed to make most contraceptives OTC (so they would be cheap and available everywhere) they were opposed by the progessives, who want control and credit for everything provided for “free” for plantation women. In their model it takes several people financed by government — doctors, insurance and paperwork staff, pharmacists — to make sure no woman makes a mistake or takes a risk they don’t approve of. No matter how many years you have been taking it, you still have to pay your doctor to prescribe it regularly, and pay through the nose for all those other unnecessary people. Because only government-certified experts are safe.

        • A lot of the guys do want ’em. Theodore Dalrymple reports that many men insist on the baby as a condition of staying, and then desert within weeks of birth.

          • Then they don’t really want them, do they? They may want bragging rights, or access to the benefits, but they don’t want the baby.

            • They want the baby to be born, which is the root that contraception can not touch.

            • As with many things in this world, what they want is the idea of a baby. When confronted with the actuality of that they find it doesn’t conform to their earlier conception.

              I, personally, am enamored of the idea of cupcakes but none I’ve eaten this last half century has been as satisfying as I hoped.

              Many people now are finding the idea of Affordable Health Care is not so affordable and less caring than they anticipated.

              We can extend this ad infinitum. Many people find the idea of beating a dead horse entertaining until they’ve watched somebody do it.

              • Or, once she says there’s a baby on the way, they just don’t want their baby killed.
                I am in favor of any young man who has a girl telling him she’s pregnant telling her whatever lies he needs to in order to convince her not to kill the baby.

    • “… affordable, safe contraception, for males…”

      If there were such a thing, it would be a bigger seller than Viagra. Lost of men would love to be able to have as much sex as they wanted without having to trust a woman for contraception. Unfortunately, while women have a hormonal “occupied” sign for the uterus that is fairly easy to spoof, men are designed to get women – lots of women – pregnant at pretty much any opportunity.

      We do need to revamp our welfare system since it was designed to keep poor people dependent on government. I’d like to see a system where benefits are cut by 50-75 cents for every extra dollar a person makes. Also, we need to allow welfare recipients to accumulate assets without losing eligibility – say around $10,000 not counting house or car.

      • Are condoms really that much of a hassle? I mean most of the big chain grocery stores sell them in hugs boxes so it’s not like they’re hard to get and they’re a lot less expensive than a lot of the crap teenagers want to buy these days.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          It’s not the hassle so much as it is the lowered sensation for both partners.

        • Putting on a condom requires pausing things as they progress, which not everyone is going to be thinking of in the heat of the moment. There’s also the simple fact that while condoms aren’t that hard to get a hold of, they’re considerably more difficult to get when your pants are around your ankles. In other words, most guys, when they realize they don’t have a condom on hand, will take the risk rather than stop. Some form of medical birth control would mitigate against poor decisions made in the heat of the moment.

          • Getting pills and taking them every morning requires at LEAST as much preplanning as buying condoms and putting them in your dresser drawer/center console/pants pocket.

            • Yes, but keeping condoms in your pocket long-term isn’t good for them, latex breaks down much faster at body temperature. And if you keep them anywhere else, you’re dependent on her if you wind up going back to her place. A pill gives you control and flexibility.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      On top of the “it won’t make him stay”, there needs to be a way to show that getting pregnant as a poke in the eye to the parents isn’t as satisfying as it seems like it would be.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Unfortunately, the suggestion of reforming Welfare so that it incentivizes trying to get off it needs a major sea change in the political climate, as Welfare is structured to KEEP you on it, and in such ways that it’s nearly impossible to argue that they were not intentional.

  8. IS there a “police war on poor citizens”? – Or, most places/times, a police war on specific behaviors adopted by many poor citizens? It makes a difference – you can’t judge whether law enforcement is working well, with the right policies, nor identify and eliminate bad cops, if you don’t get agreement about what the majority of police are trying to do.

    • To clarify, the police in most cases are doing the best they can under difficult constraints and perverse incentives. For example, in Ferguson the city extracted big fees and fines from the citizens by ticketing people for minor infractions, then those who weren’t organized enough to pay quickly would end up with much larger bills as the late fines and interest mounted. People with little polticial power getting pushed around and soaked because it suited the city bureaucracy, which needed money — making it less likely that poor residents would think of cops as resources they could call on.

      • Maybe we should revamp fines from a dollar amount to a percentage of the person’s income.

      • minor infractions like speeding or having an unlicensed vehicle. then when they you know MISSED THE COURT DATE, were issued a failure to appear warrant, got picked up, arrested on the warrant and had to post bail. that kind of unfairness?d the kind the rest of the population has to live by?

        the rest of the Country has lost the protect and serve police force, i admit it looks like they are mostly revenue generators now, but those are policies handed down y local legislators.

        • Of course, there were also numerous cases wherein people showed up, only to find that the court date got moved, and oftentimes this was repeated.
          Not to say that the citizens of Ferguson were blameless, but it should be patently obvious that the government of Ferguson kidnapped Lady Justice and whored her out to Mammon.

          • I use the Ferguson license branch for my plate and title work, because its owned by the Lions club and they bought me my first glasses since my mom couldn’t afford them. i have lived in the St Louis metro area since the mid ’90’s and have been on both ides of that income gap. i paid my fines, made my court dates and got things taken care of when they needed taken care of.

            i got tired of being poor and went to night school while working a day job or two to get my BA and kept going to get my MS, i still owe a bit on student loans, but over all am about out of debt. Anybody can make that choice, just like they can choose to be poor and lazy. or charge up their cards and complain about debt.

            i don’t live in St Louis anymore but i drive to work every day near downtown. Ferguson wasn’t doing anything any other municipality in the US is doing, if their court date got moved they were notified, or failed to check Casenet you can take care of most of that stuff online in Missouri unless you are too far over the speed limit.

            its a culture issue and failure to take care of business because reasons. mostly to do with failure to be held accountable.

            • its a culture issue and failure to take care of business because reasons. mostly to do with failure to be held accountable.

              That’s why I say that lack of money is a symptom, not a cause, of poverty. Giving money to the poor is like using CO2 to put out a wood fire. You aren’t attacking the root cause, so the problem is going to keep coming back.

        • A significant chunk of any population will never be capable of scheduling and complying; they would be okay in a village, but can’t cope with regimentation. They got this way partly because the system never required them to — schools that passed them only because they attended, money that comes in EBT cards, no need to perform for an employer. To bankrupt and jail them in adulthood for not having middle-class skills seems unjust and does them further harm.

          • Question… Where does ‘they never learned’ end and ‘making excuses for bad behavior’ start? I’m having trouble seeing any difference in your argument. Also how do you propose they learn? These aren’t middle class skills they’re fundamental ‘survive in a community’ skills.

            I’ll be blunt, where I come from, the poorest of the poor could and DID show up on time every day and do their work. That was one of the differences out my way between ‘poor’ and ‘X trash’. Poor was respectable, most everyone had been there one time or another. Trash was lazy. But we were a farming/ranching community not the big city (and this is all the more reason to AVOID big cities as much as possible.

            • My argument is that the social service and welfare mindset has extended to removing most accountability from underclass upbringings. A child with no effective parenting and a school that promotes him in spite of not doing homework or passing tests will not be made to pick up those skills. The so-called soft bigotry of low expectations really does harm those growing up in social-service client neighborhoods. The bureaucracy hands out goodies for nothing, then punishes those it has ruined.

              • So your solution is to continue to hand out goodies and give them a pass on responsibility, simply because they were taught to be worthless culls?

                This is where we differ, we agree on what causes a lot of these problems, but we disagree on responsibility. Frankly I don’t really care WHY you are a lazy cull, just that you are. And as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t really matter why you are, you are still responsible for yourself, I’m not responsible for you.

                • No, my solution is to stop the welfare and social work and let natural incentives and accountability work again. That doesn’t mean blaming people whose lives have been stunted by the “helping” system. Shut it down. But out of tough love.

                  • Ok, that is the exact opposite of what I get out of your above comments, but apparently I am reading them wrong. I agree with what you are saying here.

                  • and to balance the tough love, give them somebody to go to who can tell/help them do the right thing, if they really don’t know. Kinda like what used to happen in most extended families…

            • If they never learned, they never learned. And at some point the culture becomes so dysfunctional that there are no cues to the individual that there is something important that he doesn’t know, so trying to learn becomes impossible.

              Just one of many reasons why I loath Progressives.

    • There isn’t a police war on the poor, per se. There is a regulatory war that the police are told to enforce. Pay to have the car you need to get to a job. Pay for a cosmetology lisence to braid hair, and get a big fine if you do it informally. Lots of little nickle-and-dime stuff that sounds reasonable to people who have jobs and an income.

      And delays, delays, delays. When I lived in Prince Georges County, Maryland, I opened a craft gallery. To do so I needed a “use and occupancy” permit. Average time to get one? Six months. Not a big deal of you are a corporation. Major roadblock if you are one guy trying to open a store.

      There is entirely too much law.

  9. Once you set up a machine to process, er, assist the toiling, struggling, disadvantaged masses, you better make damn sure you preserve a toiling, struggling, disadvantaged mass to maintain…

  10. One of the best reforms would be to change the program title from Aid For Dependent Children to Aid for Widows and Orphans. Widows with children ARE NOT THE SAME as single mothers. Not at all. My 24 year old son is currently at about $25K a year. If he were to marry a young girl his age, it would be a struggle, but in a few years if he keeps progressing through his career, he’ll be at $50-60K. I’ve seen many figures floating about, but a single mom taking all the benefits she can grab, has a disposable income that would require a pre-tax income of between $45K and $60K to achieve. Why should she get married? Most young men are worth less then government benefits. Most of the single moms assume, and I know a bunch of them, that they’re going to be the great single moms whose kids are going to do great in school and succeed in life. Reality sets in when the kids reach age 10 or so, if it does at all.

    My daughter, age 21, single and childless, has just been bumped up to $22K a year. She is eligible for no government programs to go to college, even community college, to get a degree and an even higher paying job. If she were to have a child, she would suddenly be subsidized to go to school to let’s say, become a nurse, either LPN or RN. But as a single woman who hasn’t screwed up her life, she’s not eligible for anything except work. My wife and I would love to pay their ways through school. After all, we’re paying, through our high taxes, for subsidized childcare and college courses for all the people who have screwed up their lives.

    The government rewards people who make mistakes. Thus harming people who don’t. That is a zero sum game.

  11. Off Topic: Salt Lake City ComicCon

    Met the Free-Range Oyster, quite a gentleman. Chatted a few minutes, while his parents realized that they were in some way connected to the father of an author (I think) at the Wordfire Press booth. Unfortunately, my Horde were close to meltdown, so we elected to skip dinner this time. The Oysters wanted to catch a panel before dinner and we were not going to get another hour of civility out of the Horde. Free-Range Oyster listened to my older two talk Starcraft at him. Look forward to meeting the rest of the Oyster family next time we’re down that way.

    Got MH: Nemesis signed by Mr. Corriea. Another gentleman. I tried not to be too much of a fangirl, I think I failed. He’s as nice in person as everyone says he is–he’s a big teddy bear like my husband.

    We’re already making plans to attend next year, hopefully with hotel room. The Horde are still up talking costuming (slept in the car on the way home). Husband was particularly taken by a group dressed as characters from a game (Street Fighters?) he played as a kid. Only mislaid one child, and only for about five minutes, and not the one I expected us to mislay.

    Also, judging from the Spidermen present, radioactive spiders must be the most common critter in SLC. There was a Captain America whose costume was made out of balloons, a trio of girls dressed as Loki, and two anime-type-charater girls who asked me who I was dressed as! (Myself.)

    Overall, we had a blast.

  12. I recall I was often read to – and later was expected to read for. Things were left out and around. Pa’s choice of toys were blocks, tinker toys, erector set (aka mechano), and similar – though LEGO never appeared, somehow. All constructive toys (there were others, but they were generally not as interesting – you couldn’t DO much with them). But I suspect the best thing that was done for me (and $SISTER) was that books, including old textbooks, were left out in the open and not in a closet. I read an old ‘Modern Chemistry’ for fun, learned a good chunk of electronics from ‘Elements of Radio’ and when NTSC was still the standard, ‘Basic Television’ covered most of it, even if it was a bit dated. Parents were not college graduates, but did care – though much was ‘benign neglect’ were it was “Go out and play. Be back for supper.” And that meant hours and hours of… not at home. No check in. Certainly no cellphones back then. That was, in a sense, one of the most valuable things of all: trust.

  13. Pingback: The Poverty Gap | The Common Room