Hard and Soft

I spent my first year of marriage terrified.  (Sees readers look at title and glares.  Nothing off color you ‘orrible people.  Have a carp.) You see, I’d moved away from all family support structure to a country where — still to this day — things work so differently I have trouble explaining them to my parents.

We were living on very little and to make things more interesting, were making up for the dating we hadn’t done prior to marriage, so there were movies and dinners out.  For various reasons Dan also could count on no help from his family, most of it being that he was an adult and determined to make his own way.

So here we were, two 22 year old kids, who often got to the end of the month with $6 in the bank, and no safety net whatsoever.

The culture I came from was centered around a big tribe, and of course you could fail, but your family was there to cushion the fall.  When I didn’t have a tutoring job in college (some semesters I didn’t find any students) I had to save a bit on luxuries, but I wasn’t going to go without a roof over my head or food.

The realization that there was nothing between us and utter destitution but Dan’s job (and later my jobs, sometimes, but I never made much) made me very scared.  Particularly because this was the mid-eighties, time of sudden layoffs.

Where I came from the government was there to provide health care and education and in extreme cases if you managed to piss off your entire tribe, money for food. This is something that didn’t change through the revolution and shocks in the 70s — since the 40s or so, the government was a big old safety net.  National or international, socialists are socialists.

I thought the US was very hard, very cold, and there was no one to help should we fail.

I don’t remember when I stopped thinking that.  We hit rock bottom on money a few times, one of them while paying for the complete cluster… er… mess that was my older son’s delivery while both of us were unemployed. That was the time we actually considered going to a soup kitchen.  CONSIDERED, mind, but we never could get ourselves to go in.  Yeah, we were hungry and broke, but it seemed like that was something reserved for other people, people in REAL trouble.  We went to bed hungry that night, and the next day something happened and we got a small payment and got rice and frozen veggies which lasted us a week, and then Dan found a job…

And we were okay if very tight for a few years, and then he got a raise.  And until he was unemployed years later, we were okay provided we were frugal.

The last two rock-bottoms we hit were both while paying double mortgage or mortgage and rent while selling houses.  Our “Rock bottom” seems to be getting shallower.  We were very tight last year because rent and mortgage, and the house took forever to get ready to sell (it actually sold very quickly) but the “tight” was a matter of foregoing all luxuries and some necessities like car repairs, not of foregoing meals.  (Though of picking cheaper meals, yes.)

But even in those rock bottom times, I wasn’t as scared as that first year.  The feeling no one was there to look after me if I did something stupid was terrifying.

I don’t remember when I stopped being scared, or when I traded it for “we can handle it.” Yes, a lot of it was getting a bit of a cushion in the bank, but even when that is gone, like last year, I wasn’t as terrified as that year.

I think the greater part of it was having friends who are like family, and knowing that if worst came to worst, I could show up at Amanda’s or Kate’s or half a dozen other people, hungry and with only the clothes on my body and they wouldn’t even ask a question, just tell me to come in and make up a bed.

Look, we’re humans.  We’re built on a great ape frame.  All of us want the tribe to be there, to care for us.  We might never need it, but we want to know someone gives a damn if a lion leaps out of a bush and mauls us, metaphorically speaking.  And a nuclear family is not big enough to give that sense of protection.

Yet our economics, and in the US our demographics, conspire to make the nuclear family about the biggest unit most of us can count on, and a lot of people not even that.

Is it any wonder that the left (and those on the right who turn their hopeful eyes to Trump) want the government to be a daddy who steps in and saves them if things get too scary?

Both views of government are valid, in a way.  The “let us alone and let us do” and the “look after me.”  And both have trade offs.

I wasn’t wrong in being scared.  The situation we placed ourselves in when we moved away from kith and kin and faced the world without a safety net but each other was terrifying.  We scraped by okay, but we might not have.  If one or the other of us had got seriously ill, we had no one to turn to but charity, which we were both too proud to take.

If we’d decided when we got married to move to Portugal instead, we’d never have faced that.  Because in layoffs, or even while selling a house, we could have punted back to living with my family for a few months (or years.  Or forever.  No one bats an eye at that there, and several households hold more than one family.) And we wouldn’t have worried about how to pay for the boys’ schooling, or surgery when I needed it.

Without those dips, we’d have been able to take nice vacations and do a lot of other things we’ve never done. (Look guys, our idea of a vacation is a long weekend at Embassy Suites in Denver.  One time we were able to afford five days in a row.  We still talk about this as the most fun, EVER.)

So, am I sorry we didn’t do that?  Not only no, but h*ll no.  Why not?

Because being looked after has a price, whether it is by your family or the government.  Oh, my parents would have looked after us, and counted it as nothing, but the return is to do what they deem fit.  I.e. Mom has this thing about my wearing jeans.  If I were in her house, under her roof, it would be skirt suits all the way.  And then there’s this writing thing.  While dad would secretly approve of it, both of them would have told me to stick with teaching (which I would have done had I stayed there) because it’s steady income.  And if I were dependent on them when my income failed, I couldn’t say no.  I mean, how could I take risks with other people’s money.

So, you say, what about the government safety net?  They can’t tell you how to dress or what to do.

Sure.  Well, they can, but it hasn’t got to that point (yet.)

I don’t know what the safety net is there now — I haven’t been back for more than a couple of weeks at a time for 30 years — but let’s suppose they have — not unusual in the EU — unlimited and generous unemployment benefits.

Let’s suppose I’d started out teaching school and was so bad at it I got laid off.  (Bad? No. Mouthy?  Yes.  Comes to the same in the end.)

Let’s suppose they had those unlimited unemployment benefits.  If I were living in a place where family contributed, it might be enough I had no reason to find another job.  So, instead, I’d decide to write.

Here’s the thing: there would be no reason to try to finish something or even to start something “saleable”.  I could be an artist working for immortal glory.

Which is to say, there would never have been a need to grow up and live in the real world.

In the same way there would never have been a need to depend on friends, which means there would never have been a need to be dependable friends, when we’re needed.

And in the end the “hard” countries that don’t smooth out that curve for you seem to result in more freedom and prosperity and greater innovation.

Is it the result of less regulations?  Who knows?  Perhaps it’s the result of something in the brain that only wakes up when under stress.

Or perhaps it’s the fact they’re more in tune with the gods of the copybook headings:  “If you don’t work, you die.”

Even in a, at worst, medium soft country like the US, there is an incentive to get out there and work.  And half of success is showing up and rolling up your sleeves.  So by definition there will more successful people than in a soft-soft country where you have no incentive to get up and do something.

The truth is as much as we want others to take care of us, humans are not designed to live soft.  We thrive on adversity.  We adapt to the strangest circumstances.  Only infants and children get taken care of unconditionally.  And it’s fine for them.  It’s fine for the elderly too.  They’ve made their contribution and now can’t, it’s up to family/friends/us to look after them.

BUT the price of being taken care of all your life is being a child all your life.  No one who hasn’t faced that abyss without a net and made the changes needed to survive knows what being grown up means.

It’s hard growing up in a soft world, because you have to kick your own behind into it, and most of us aren’t good at that.

So in the end, the soft countries even with all the nets end up with a worse standard of life and probably a lower standard of happiness too.  (If your struggles don’t matter, nothing matters.)

If you have a choice, choose the hard path. You grow the calluses to deal with it. And in the end, you and your surroundings will be better for it.

193 responses to “Hard and Soft

  1. The problem with safety nets is that there are always freeloaders who mooch off them. At least there are if they are run in mass by faceless bureaucrats. Small local self-help/mutual aid groups are rather different. You mooch too long and you’re tossed out.

    Essentially it all boils down to rule 1 of economics: Incentives matter.

    • A society, a company, a family… any group of semi-sentient people can manage to support a certain amount of freeloaders or slackitude. Much like the rest of y’all, there’s exceptions that are allowable.

      What annoys me a mite is that there’s a murthering lot that have the ability but lack the intestinal fortitude or sense of personal responsibility to take that first step, and start earning their own way. It can be a bit addictive, once you start.

      The current tax code and regulatory environment serves to choke a lot of the reward that comes from taking those risks out of it. Give a man a chance to keep most of what he earns… and I’d say the economy would explode with growth. We’d *have* to put in strict immigration requirements, because *everyone* would want in, then…

      • I wouldn’t mind all those people coming in, though, if they are here to work. It’s the people who come here to mooch that concern me. Indeed, if we can get rid of governmental mooching, I’d be completely ok with “open” borders.

  2. Somewhere, in a teen book about a girl with a hyper-controlling father, the MC observes her sister with a butterfly in a cocoon. They’ve had it since the caterpillar stage, and the younger sister decides to help the butterfly emerge from the cocoon once it starts trying to work free. But by doing so, it left the butterfly weak and stunted, with wings that never finish unfurling. The big sister watches the younger sister and decides that she will go her own way, the hard way, breaking loose without the help the sister grabs for and that burns her (later in book).

    The book stuck with me for a couple of reasons, but I had not thought about the lesson of the cocoon for quite a while. I’m not certain if the entomology is correct, but the lesson certainly is. *looks at latest folly from a college in New Orleans*

    • There was a discussion thread a couple of days ago on Insty? (Maybe, or just one of my other internet hangouts) that postulated that experiencing a mild level of stress at a certain age was necessary for developing maturity. Not the “OMG I’ve been micro-agressed!” stress, but a kind of existential stress – like working a crappy job, being responsible for another life, being a team member…
      Something to think about anyway.

    • *looks at latest folly from a college in New Orleans*

      Which one is this? “Folly from a college” isn’t exactly a unique identifier these days…

      • hardly!

      • http://theodysseyonline.com/university-of-new-orleans/its-time-to-check-your-privilege/355021

        I really, really hope it is satire. However, I suspect the writer is quite serious. Right-handed privilege comes in toward the bottom of the list, but it is in there, along with U.S. citizenship.

        • I’m actually somewhat gratified that they recognize the incredible privilege that is U.S. Citizenship, “winning first prize in the lottery of life.” Recognizing that all U.S. Citizens are blessed with things that people in many countries can barely dream of is a good start to getting on with life.

          Of course, this particular nitwit, who doesn’t seem overprivileged with brains, may take a while to get there…

        • Regarding the right handed thing – Has anyone noticed that underwear is right handed, particularly men’s briefs. Throw in the whole right handed/dress left vs. left handed/dress right (an evolutionary advantage, I assume, since if your right leg is dominant you’d want your junk to the left and out of the way) and trying to fish bits out to use the restroom can be awkward for left handed guys.

          Forget school desks – lefthanders gain a skill from them; when we straighten out our wrists we’re writing upside down. Those aren’t the issue. Safeties on handguns and powertools are usually right handed. Those can cause real problems. Sadly, the solution is not the same. There are no revolver circular saws.

          • When I’m King of the World, all the people who advocate “ergonomics” will go to the labor camps, to work with an entirely left-handed tool set.

            Like “eugenics”, “ergonomics” no longer carries its original meaning. Originally, it did NOT mean “make it impossible for left-handers to use.”

          • Not being into cross-dressing, and being cheerfully and resolutely female, with ambidextrously-enabled underwear … I can honestly say I have never contemplated the challenges of a male fishing out their junk with a right or a left hand from male underwear as currently designed.
            There may be, if this problem is considered sufficiently serious, for some enterprising Left-Handed Social Justice Warrior to embark upon a project to raise the funds through Go-Fund-Me to manufacture undies specifically designed.

            Seriously, the Onion had better work hard to keep ahead of reality, these days,

        • I’ve checked my privilege and it is still in full working order. Thank you. Now get me what I ordered and stop whining. And no I do not want fries with it

  3. And half of success is showing up and rolling up your sleeves.

    And I’ve told new folks to the work crew that ‘showing up is at least half of the key to things’ and how many listen and comprehend? Or are they the (for now) smart ones who ‘tried’ and having made an alleged attempt can go back to EBT and living off of the productive?

    If you have a choice, choose the hard path.

    “We choose to go to the Moon, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” – JFK

    At least he got that right. Now if the party he once was…. oh nevermind. It’s more probably I’ll sprout wings.

  4. What’s funny to me is that the safety net works even on a more personal level than government or even family. Almost 3 years ago my wife left me. She made about three times as much as I did, having chosen a better major in college. I lost the safety net of her income. Now I make almost double double what I did before with better benefits and more friends and I’m closer to my family. I don’t like the hardships I went through, but I appreciate most of the results.

  5. > BUT the price of being taken care of all
    > your life is being a child all your life.

    A distressingly large percentage of people think that’s not only okay, but desirable.

    And they vote.

  6. Reality Observer

    Speaking from personal experience, the mere existence of that “safety net” also leads to poor decision making when times are good. We grew up when we finally realized that hanging on to that tightrope, even with only one pinkie, is better than letting yourself fall into the net.

    You see this at all levels. Company hitting the rocks thanks to poor managers, over-expansion, failure to look at the market, control costs? Hey, there’s always Bankruptcy Court.

    BTW, thanks for the carp, I was short for tomorrow…

    • Patrick Chester

      Give a man a carp, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to get regularly carped and he’ll eat for a lifetime. 😉

      • Yes, when you have people standing downrange of the carpuchet with nets yelling “pick me!” it’s time to rethink the reward/punishment mechanism. 😀

        • Forced to watch CNN? Unmuted, of course.

        • A good day here is being called a “Bad Man” 🙂

        • That’s easy. Just let the carp age a while before lobbing them in the carpuchet.

          • …and/or fail to thaw them before launching

            • If it’s an orbital carpstrike the carp will be flash frozen in the vacuum.

              • Point. Although – interesting computation: Would a frozen, average-sized carp make it to the ground from LEO, without the addition of a refractory casing? or just become a carpiorite (aka shooting carpstar)?

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Well, if you want to go that route, I doubt that the average carp would be aerodynamic enough for accurate targeting when launched by catapult. 😈

                  • True. Carp munitiions for either orbital carpstrikes, or hypersonic long-distance carpapult, are likely to need some form of target acquisition and terminal guidance.
                    Might make the whole thing too expensive to implement, especially when the carp could be saved for later close-range opportunities.
                    [Have we jumped far enough over the shark, yet?]

                  • It isn’t launched by carpapult. It’s launched by OCLC. (Librarian joke)

            • NO that doesn’t work. If you fail to thaw them then they can catch them and put them straight in the freezer to keep for later. 2 week old stinking carp are much better

      • But what is better? Carp diem or to be carp bombed?

      • Might get a touch boring, though. Hey! Can we get tuna over here? Wait a minute, I’m no musician – I can’t carry a tuna in a bucket.

    • A lot of that is management contracts where the “compensation” of the CEO and board aren’t tied to revenue or profit.

      That’s a real good indicator that the vampires are firmly attached to the carotid, and the company is going down.

  7. I spent the first year of my marriage homesick. My family safety net was in another state, my husband wasn’t close to his family so the in-laws were basically nonexistent, and while I didn’t want to drop everything to move back to what I considered “home,” I had no idea how I was going to make it far away from everyone I loved and everything I knew.

    Our sixth wedding anniversary is in a couple weeks. We have two daughters. This is their home, our home.

    I can definitely say that I made it.

  8. Since my cardiac adventures, I have discovered that the “safety net” basically isn’t there for me. So I’ll just HAVE to reprint my books and write new ones and see about taking care of myself.

    HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY, FOLKS!

    http://threebeerslater.blogspot.com/2009/03/95-of-irish-history-ends-in-words-and.html

    http://threebeerslater.blogspot.com/2009/11/another-eurosocialist-success-story.html

  9. . I’ve told our kids (1 left at home, 2 in college, one graduate) that they will always have a home, but I’m not interested in subsidizing a wasted life. It’s still early, but, so far, I’m more afraid they’ll never come back than that they’ll never leave! Our college kids have spent a total of two summers between the 3 of them with us, and, even then, they found their own jobs and worked. Otherwise, they haven’t even come back for the summer, but have pursued some adventure or other.

    Part of it is that we never ran them through the school mill, where ‘success’ is measured out in approval doled out for pleasing authority figures. Instead, they tend to see success in setting and achieving their own goals. (this has the odd side-effect of them sometimes being dissatisfied with getting an ‘A’ if they don’t feel they did good enough in the class.) I guess I’m saying that, so far, my experience is that merely having that family net does not make one soft.

    That’s all an aside, really – my main comment is that extended family is a good thing, one that not only establishes that support mechanism which you’re writing about, but also stands as the only practical opposition to the omnicompetent state. That’s why Marx and Gramsci wanted so badly to destroy it, and why it seems to be always in the cross-hairs of progressives everywhere: schools are presumed to raise our kids for us, Social Security is presumed to care for our elderly for us, the rights of the individual trump the rights of the family in divorce, custody and visitation decisions so much so that (right here, I imagine) it strikes people as odd to even imagine a family having rights, and outrageous to imagine that those family rights might need to be placed in the scales and weighed against what the omnicompetent individual wants.

    That ancient understanding is that, if a family has duties, it must also have rights, has mostly been driven off the stage. Sarah, in your stories I’ve read (mostly on this blog – don’t know if that’s a representative sample or not), it is common for the hero to become a loner or at least be stripped of his group membership, then find purpose and fulfillment by becoming part of another, better, group – a family, even. Makes for good drama, and resonates with what I think we’d all like to have. I’m suggesting that those families, bound by love and Ideals, are good and essential even before the bullets start flying. Heck, maybe if we focused enough on building and sustaining them, the bullets might not even need to fly…

  10. A thought on the elderly… Given what I know of Russian medieval society and Korea as recently as immediately pre-Korean War. I have often wondered if the expression ‘those who can’t do… teach’. As the elderly in both of those cultures were often set to teaching the young even if they weren’t able to go into the fields or couldn’t make that particular stitch enough to sew things up, they could do just enough to teach the people who didn’t know how. / random thought.

  11. This is why I always make it a point to tell the feminazis who demand that people stop telling them what to do with their bodies that once they accept money from the government to get abortion on demand, they lose all right to the privacy they think Roe v Wade provides because the government money was consolidated using TAX money…which in part, comes from me, my husband, my relatives who work, and other people I know who oppose abortion…and since that is the case, we ABSOLUTELY have EVERY right to tell them what they can do with their bodies.

    They either ignore what I say, or deny that government money is ever involved in abortions (it is), or just completely lose it and start calling me names. I just sit back in smugness, because its true: a woman who accepts government money and then uses it to kill a baby no longer has the right to tell me to mind my own business.

  12. Maybe I just have some socialist DNA in me or something, but I don’t have a problem with the existence of safety nets. The problem is where they’re set up.

    A safety net isn’t there to keep you from falling off of the trapeze. It’s just to make sure the fall doesn’t kill you if you do.

    • And should make it difficult or impossible to just sit in it.

    • I don’t have a problem with safety nets. I prefer private charity ones (they tend to be saner.) BUT I’ve reconciled myself to the fact there will always be a governmental one. Because people. BUT this was more of an examination of the cons of too comfy a cushion.

      • The best safety nets are local and non-governmental. Every level up creates more bureaucratic parasites. NGOs use given money governments are just OPM traffickers with guns

      • In Seattle there has been great wailing and gnashing of teeth because the vast swaths of homeless aren’t using the expensive shelters/homes/tent areas the government has set up for them (so of course the solution is Moar Money!) The homeless won’t use these things because they all come with rules, like no drugs/alcohol, no pets, curfew times, etc. In other words, no freedom. It amuses me in a very dark way that the demi-socialists in Seattle are being confronted by an (admittedly, violent and smelly,) group that will not give up their freedoms to go along with the nanny state. Since the homeless are sacrosanct in the city’s eyes, this refusal does not compute. They are victims, ergo they should want the goodies.

        To me, it’s just proof they really aren’t that desperate. Truly starving people would put up with the rules, at least long enough to get back on their feet. Sure they’d hate every minute of it–that’s the motivation to find a way out. Of course that’s the ones that just hit economic hard times, not the mentally ill or the drug users. But I don’t feel much obligation to help drug users, and the mentally ill are going to make bad choices *because* they are mentally ill. Enforcing harder limits will help those people realize they can’t function on their own.

        • The best long-term welfare is to provide choices, not solutions.

        • I heard a talk by the gent who is the on-site head of the local men’s “next-step” housing group last weekend. 1) They only take men who want to change. 2) You have to work and meet standards, even if it is just helping keep the houses clean and mopping the floors. 3) The red-tape they are having to cope with because of working with the VA is . . . absolutely foolish. Otherwise they are 100% private, no fed money, supported by five churches and a few local family foundations and the like.

          There was a tempest in a teapot last year about a “no sleeping/camping on city property” ordinance. Apparently the city must allow people to freeze to death if they want to. Which is NOT how the activists phrased their complaints, of course.

        • Of course, being on the streets in Seattle in, say, mid-January is not going to be a lot of fun. Still, with a minimum of foresight it should be survivable for most since conditions are unlikely to be as ferocious as in the Midwest where one is often faced with prolonged periods of temperatures below zero. Perhaps even teens below zero. In either temperature scale.

  13. I agree with what everyone is saying. I guess I’m semi-soft. I have a trust fund of a moderate size. (Merrill Lynch laughed at the size of it). I’ve never completely supported myself by my own efforts. Now I am living comfortably with my husband, who makes a nice income. Of course due to one thing or another we worry that he’ll lose his job. He hasn’t yet, but the worry is still there.

    • tech. the worry is ALWAYS there.

      • And I say unto you, Come FORTH from the cubicle dungeons of Tech and out into the Light!
        Other industries use Excel too, and often will view your Tech earned skillset as nigh unto magical powers. And it’s so very nice to be off the Tech rollercoaster.

        • our goal eventually is to live from writing. In another 10 years or so. Our version of “retiring.”

        • We’re in our mid 50’s. I’m afraid that if we let the current job go he either won’t get a new one, or it will be more unstable or less well paid with fewer benefits. He works for a very large corporation. I think that there are few companies that can pay as well.

          If he wasn’t in tech, he couldn’t work from home when he needs to.

          • I work from home in my not-Tech job.

            And my hair is quite grey, thankyouverymuch, to the point that if I was forced to try for another tech job, it would have to be as the resident grey eminence, and there’s not a lot of those positions in Silicon Valley that are not already assigned to the Steve Wozniak class of not-business-savvy founders. Silicon valley really does not like to hire anyone much over 40.

            But I found my current gig through personal connections, and as I mentioned above stuff that I would consider routine excel/SQL stuff back in the semiconductor biz has the local villagers hiding their children and making signs against the dark arts. And I know at other folks who fled tech to find homes as local wizards across the country, so I know the gigs are out there.

            My advice is to network outside the tech community – those connections worked way bette for me than all the tech-recruiter mixers I tried when I was last layed off.

            • I picked up a not-trivial amount of money just by word of mouth. “Hey, I heard you were the guy who could [fix an inventory system written in a dead language] [wire up machine tools that use strange serial protocols] [make these two unrelated systems talk to each other] [extract customer and billing information from a system that went down in flames]

              Most of my programming and admin skills are now so obsolete they’re worth something. Sort of the inverse reason a friend is talking about dropping out of IT to become a farrier. This week’s IT certifications will be antiques by the end of the year, but horses still need to be shod. And they’re easier to deal with that increasingly-thick levels of (mis)management.

            • I know that ETL/Reporting/Data Analysis outsourcing pays really well, based on the money that the company I work for has paid for it in the past.

            • I do mostly nuclear plant design work these days and I can work from home whenever I need to, which has been a blessing since my wife has been doing chemo from breast cancer.

              The circlebarW ranch has its faults, but they do try to accomodate their employees.

  14. “So, you say, what about the government safety net? They can’t tell you how to dress or what to do.

    “Sure. Well, they can, but it hasn’t got to that point (yet.)”

    Eh, it sort of has. I know it isn’t the main point, but once the government starts doling out money, they control all kinds of things based on that money. The various “nanny state” laws are often justified on the grounds that, if health is a public expense, then anything you do that might affect your health (smoking a cigarette, not wearing a bike helmet, drinking a Coke) is now the public’s business. Every state in the union has a drinking age of 18 due to Federal highway funding being dependent on it. The current “colleges must expel anyone even accused of rape” witch hunts have become universal due to the fact that all of these colleges and universities depend on government money.

    I agree with your main point, that you should grow up just because you should, but don’t underestimate how many strings are attached to the government’s money. If you use Mommy and Daddy as a safety net, they’ll run your life. If you use Mommy and Daddy Government, they’ll do the same thing.

  15. I don’t know why, exactly, but I’ve never really had a fear of failure. Even when things were at their worst, when I was sharing a small apartment with 3 friends and riding a bike to my minimum wage job, after the dot com crash in 2000 or so, I never really worried about it.

    I was never going to need the safety net, and I knew it. I was resourceful, willing to do just about anything to avoid it. My father’s family was hard and focused almost exclusively on self-reliance. There were times I was probably far *worse* off than most who were on welfare, or caught in the net, but I categorically refused it at all costs.

    Once, one of my wisdom teeth impacted, and I could only scrounge up about fifty bucks or so. I went into the dentist and said I needed the tooth extracted. He claimed the cost would be around $200. I told him that I had $50, what could we cut from the procedure? Well, it turns out that most of the cost was the anesthetic. So I told him to just take the tooth out without numbing it. I didn’t care. It hurt like hell, and I remember thinking that this must have been how they did it in the dark ages, but there it was.

    However, like yourself, things are much better for me now anyway. My biggest problems are how soon I can pay off the mortgage, and whether or not I should take more side work. And my wife’s Cuban & Spanish family have their own thing going, probably similar to what you grew up with. It still makes me somewhat uncomfortable. The though of an extended clan or tribe is foreign to me. And I would never ask them for help even if I needed it. I’d rather the dentist ripped out teeth without numbing them first than ask for a safety net, from family OR government.

    Contrary to your fears, I fear going over to their house sometimes, because I will have to say no to a lot of things they will offer us, since we’re part of the tribe. Ever try saying no to Latins? It’s not easy. Just trying to collect the restaurant check at the end of a night is a battle that requires you have your full wits about you. For they will conspire with the waitress to ensure they get the check, if you don’t watch them.

    • My kids have had to be schooled in “never praise anything” because if they do my parents will give it to them. You try explaining to mom lamps from there don’t even work here.

      • I had to learn that, also. My wife’s grandmother made some soup once. It was good soup, and I said so. So she made sure that I was supplied with several bowls of it (more than I really wanted to eat). Then, when I swore it was impossible for me to eat more, she supplied me with a big container to take home with me.

        And that became typical every time my wife and I went down to Miami. She passed on a few years ago, but now my wife makes the soup. And while it is good soup, I had to explain that saying “I really like this” doesn’t mean “I want this all the time, in absolutely tremendous quantity.”

        • LOL. This. Mom tried to give Dan a painting because he was politely admiring it. (It’s frankly a little creepy. The painting, not mom.)

        • Reality Observer

          Learned my lesson after one rather vociferous (fortunately, not quite violent) revolt by the family on one recipe that has had to be completely retired.

          Now, when they say they like a new recipe – I say thank you. Then start the Inquisition – how much do they like it? How often will they like it? Are they QUITE sure?

          Does give me a good schedule for the weekly menus and grocery shopping.

          Doesn’t always work, of course. We’re having an Irish Easter – I bought two hams (buy one, get one free) for Christmas and then sandwiches – and then the SIL gave us the second one from the ones that she bought at the same sale. Sigh. Maybe by midsummer they’ll be willing to eat ham again…

      • Yeah – my Dad used to tell a story: He was working, in late teens, as a farmhand. Went into town with the farmer’s wife to help her buy supplies; made the comment that a display of carrots “looked good”. Now, he didn’t mean “good to eat” (because he didn’t like carrots), just aesthetically displayed – and ended up eating a lot of carrots for the next week!
        This was likely in Nebraska or Colorado, I was never sure, probably about 1920 – not a lot of Latins owning farms in that area then, I think, so maybe it’s more a characteristic of extended families who have adopted you, even temporarily.

      • I remember doing that with my great grandmother….

    • Just trying to collect the restaurant check at the end of a night is a battle that requires you have your full wits about you. For they will conspire with the waitress to ensure they get the check, if you don’t watch them.

      I have the answer to that one. Tell the Maitre d’ at the start that you’re paying and get them to run your CC to open the tab right then.

      • The trick is doing that so that they don’t notice. And also, there is a certain amount of Mutually Assured Destruction. If you deploy that weapon, they will, also. It will only work once.

        • You can get it to work multiple times if YOU make the reservations because you tell the restaurant when you make the reservation. You just have to gracefully accept that if they make the reservation they’ll be paying.

          (At least that works with my Japanese in-laws who demonstrate a similar determination to pay for things)

  16. When I picture TEOTWAWKI scenarios, I always see it as worse for people who are dependent on the government. I have a large extended clan that lives mostly in the western U.S. and I have the LDS church which is prepared for all types of events*. So either I will be fine with everyone else or “we’ll all go together when we go”.

    That said, I do live with Mom. She’s divorced and I’m single and we live the Jane Austen life. I work full-time and I pay rent and do chores and cook but part of me feels guilty and ashamed that I’m not living on my own. But I honestly don’t want to live alone and the clinical depression makes it unwise to do so since there are days when I need someone to remind me to keep going. I don’t know. Hitting rock bottom might give me the kick in the pants I need but honestly I’d probably be overwhelmed by despair.

    Delete this if it’s too personal, I don’t want to be rude on your blog, Mrs. Hoyt.

    • Back in the day, I lived with my Mom for years in my 20s. Later in life Mom moved in with us. My daughter has moved out, back in now out again. Being totally self-sufficient is overrated. Being totally supported isn’t living.

    • Sara the Red

      Nothing wrong with living with the parents if you’re pulling your weight/taking care of them/etc. I’m currently stuck there (because rent where I live is utterly insane–and I’ve been *their* safety net a few times over the last six years with health problems popping up). I’m about to move out again (finally), and am thrilled , and am making plans to move to a different state altogether. But I am glad I was at home with them when I was and they needed my help, and vice versa.

      Heh. I’m single and LDS too–you aren’t wrong when you say it’s a Jane Austen life… 😉

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        I had to move back with my parents many times between jobs and it was especially hard to get a new job after the last job lose.

        I was really glad when it was suggested (not by them) that I apply for Social Security Disability and I received it.

        After I started getting it, I was able to take over some of the expenses of their home.

        Of course, after Dad died, I was there to help Mom out after she started to go downhill mentally.

      • “I’ve been *their* safety net a few times”

        *chuckle* That part never ends. When my wife-to-be and I split for the last time, I *thought* I was being a terrible burden and waste of a son when I moved back in. But Mom and Dad had health issues, needed squiring about, needed cooking/cleaning/house and property maintenance done.

        That’s what family does. Whether related by blood or by conscious choice. When my folks get too infirm to care for themselves, they’ve already warned me that *they* are moving back in with *me.* *chuckle* That, too, is a part of life.

        • Yup. I moved out of Schloss Red and back into Redquarters. There are creeping changes in progress that need someone who can drop everything (almost) and deal with problems right-away-now-pronto. My folks are fine at the moment, but, well, yeah.

    • Anonymous Coward

      When most of the US population lived on farms, having 3 generations under one roof was common. The elderly could live out their (usually few) remaining years at relatively low cost while remaining active and engaged. Urbanization has made 2 generations under one roof the norm, while longevity has increased the number of years 3 generations co-exist. Since housing is usually the single largest household expense, the math simply does not work for many families. Considering 3-generation households to be ‘normal’ and not an aberration would be a positive move IMO.

      • There are two problems with the 3-generation household: after WWII the majority of Americans began to move about a *lot*, usually following the job market. I lived in five different states in my first twelve years, and that’s not unusual. If only *one* person in the extended family is the wage-earner moving the clan can work, but if more than one is working it can be an economic nightmare.

        Second, you’re going to run slam into zoning and leasing. Unless you own your single-family-dwelling outright (and in many places, even then) you’re going to have laws or contracts that limit the number of occupants in some fashion.

        • Well of course those urban planners want to decide the definition of single families that live in single family zones.

        • Anonymous Coward

          Yep – I too was one of those kids who had to ponder when asked ‘where are you from’ (4 states & 2 countries). However it does not change the economics of maintaining a higher ratio of roofs/people. Having Grandma in assisted living or having Junior renting an apartment is not cheap. As the US faces more economic challenges, I believe we will see more people re-think our current patterns of housing (whether they want to or not). Fortunately, living space per person in single-family homes increased dramatically after 1980, so it may be possible for many to make this work.

        • Telecommuting will help.

      • My daughter and I share my house, and the expenses of living in it, although I have to admit that most of them fall on me.But – I am in my mid-60s, and there are considerable hazards to living alone, as my own mother demonstrated a couple of years ago, (Mom lived three states away from me, in the house that she and my dad built for their retirement years – a house which was two hours drive away from my nearest sib, four hours from the next two responsible sibs.) She was found by worried neighbors, the next day. Mom is now in a nursing home, and paralyzed from the mid-shoulders down. If she had been living with one of us, or one of us in the same house, it would have turned out somewhat differently. Mom would likely have been paralyzed to some degree, but not as catastrophically.
        So – something to be said for sharing a multi-generational house,

    • Reality Observer

      Arwen. Please imagine the STERN face here.

      You are being a roommate – not a sponge. Your mom, your sister, your best friend from high school, someone from a “roommates wanted” matching service – NO DIFFERENCE. You are doing everything that a roommate is SUPPOSED to do.

      That is on the physical side. On the emotional side – it is far better for YOU to be with someone who can “remind you to keep going.” It is ALSO far better for MOM – she is not wondering every day whether you are having a “bad one.”

      You are doing the RIGHT thing in every way, for right now. Try hard to get that one off of your despondency list, please…

    • I’ve been round and round and over and under on the whole self-reliance thing. Start with being physically slow, uncoordinated, and lacking in strength. Add in being book-smart and people-dumb. For years, undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. Also for years, undiagnosed cardiomyopathy. I have stumbled and fallen so many times and in so many ways in the effort to achieve self-reliance that I’m practically an expert in How Things Can Go Wrong. So, I’m on the government safety net (disability). But it truly was a last resort, and I dare not entirely trust it.

  17. The government safety net made economically possible a shift in the fundamental organizational unit of society from the nuclear family to the individual. When coupled with easier divorce and illegitimacy laws, single-parent families living in poverty exploded. Lacking parental role models, crime, imprisonment and police shootings exploded. Private charities are crowded out. Morals are obsolete. Copybook headings are unknown. It’s all fine until the music stops but sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money. When the government safety net fails, there will be no safety net at all, families and private charities having withered away. When hungry single mothers finish looting Wal-Mart and start heading into the suburbs where middle-class armed citizens live . . . .

    • How would you go about rolling back these laws without ‘hurting the children’? Statistically, single parented kids are more likely to live in poverty, so it makes sense . . . but there’s the potential for a lot of harm along the way, and those in favor of increasing the government involvement will always cry ‘for the children’, so an effective plan and counter-phrase is necessary, unless you can co-opt ‘for the children’, which would have the benefit of being, y’know, true.

      • It took a generation or two to destroy the institution of marriage in the poorer classes. It will take as long to renew it.

        • Which is not actually a bad thing.
          Part of my conservatism is the observation that all change (even toward good) is disruptive and costly to people who’ve learned how to get along in the status quo – and therefore change needs to be managed as a systemic cost.

        • Longer, seems likely to me.

      • If we don’t roll them back in a controlled way, which will “hurt the children” some, now when we run out of OPM they will roll back instantly.

        Think that isn’t going to really hurt the children (I know you don’t but you get my point).

      • Call it unavoidable collateral damage and cut the gov bennies anyway. Condem those who use children as a shield and still fire the ‘crats.

        • Thinking “cut the gov bennies”, rather than tapering them off to allow people to adjust, is an artifact of not having the power and fortitude to do things long-term. Do it too soon/too quick, and those who are stressed by the change will gain power and reverse your fixes.
          Better, I think, to do our own “march through the institutions”, to the degree we can; i.e. better to make the gov’t-as-poor-last-resort meme part of the base culture.

    • Single parent, meaning single mother, families exploded after Aid to Widows and Orphans was changed to Aid for Families With Dependent Children. Because according to liberal theology, single never married moms and widows are the same thing. Moynihan, a (then) liberal democrat, warned what would happen. He was correct. Today, he would be drummed out of the party.

  18. “Even in a, at worst, medium soft country like the US, there is an incentive to get out there and work. And half of success is showing up and rolling up your sleeves.”
    And of course you know that this concept is anathema to our current liberal progressive movement and all the institutions they’ve infiltrated. Welfare payments are such that taking an entry level minimum wage job is a significant economic step down. Side note: and raising minimum wage is even worst since it strongly disincentivizes employers from hiring minimum wage workers so the jobs are no longer there. Instead the entry level tasks get assigned to more skilled workers as other duties.
    Not that lib/progs don’t believe in hard work, just so long as it fits the narrative, supports the cause, but heaven forbid you do it to better your own situation. You work hard for the government and the government suitably rewards you, it’s the natural order of things, so says the narrative.

    • Why are the people who are most in favor of raising minimum wage not also most in favor of ending illegal immigration?

      You want wages to go up, you get rid of the under-the-table workers. Supply and demand. How do they not see this?

      I conclude they don’t actually want higher wages for low income workers, they just want gratitude expressed in votes for ‘giving’ higher wages to low income workers.

      • Too many people visualize a static world where one you can fix a problem by making a single change. We understand that everything id=s interconnected. Make one simple change and the unplanned secondary effects cascade off into infinity.

      • Because illegals, like other criminals, *make* money… for the bureaucracies that form to service them.

        When little Trayvon gets caught holding up a convenience store, he’s supporting an entire social structure – the police, the courts, his court-appointed lawyer, the prison system, the appeals courts, his parole officer… all bureaucrats running on “free” tax money.

        Without criminals, the whole system breaks down. Therefore, it’s in their interest to ensure their job security.

      • Your last sentence is the money quote. They want votes.

        For every increase in the minimum wage there is a corresponding decrease in minimum wage jobs. Entry level people are only worth a certain amount to employers. If the minimum wage is higher than this he will not hire more and possibly fire some existing lowest level workers. Overhead + unit cost must be less than the cost the customer is willing to pay to show a profit. If there is no profit there will be no company. It is possible to survive for a time on a break even basis. However profit is necessary to pay shareholders, to reinvest in the company and all sorts of other things. Check Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics for a longer explanation.

      • I clearly remember when the left was totallly anti-immigration. Asimov was hitting on it almost every month. Because it was helping the overreproducing nations to overreproduce and send their excess elsewhere.

  19. El Riesgo Siempre Vive

  20. “I think the greater part of it was having friends who are like family, and knowing that if worst came to worst, I could show up at Amanda’s or Kate’s or half a dozen other people, hungry and with only the clothes on my body and they wouldn’t even ask a question, just tell me to come in and make up a bed.”

    You show up at our house, and you _better_ be wearing clothes, young lady!

    • *opens muzzle to comment, thinks about blog standards, imagines angry Sarah appearing on front porch at 0200 local time, closes muzzle*

      • I can’t appear at your front porch. I am afraid to drive!

        • Eh – if you find a way to get here, you can show up with or without (clothes, family, cats, books…) and we’ll deal. (Coming this far would be plenteous proof of need!)

          • Where are you Alan?

            • Reality Observer

              Anyone who needs – find a pay phone and whatever it demands to place a collect call. There is always a way around any transport / housing problem.

              Only caveat is do try to hang on until September, unless you’re from my climate region. Although the summer weather may have been a motivator for one Connecticut friend that a SIL took under her wing…

            • 30 mi north of Seattle. I’m afraid things would have to be … wierd(er) for Sarah than usual for the offer to be exercised, but …

              • I think Texas is closer is to CO than Washington State. I think that of course because I live north of Dallas.

                • I have the permanent offer of a bed in Bedford, and that’s the first place on our bugout list, even if we had to put the boys in the outside porch.

                  • William R. Scarborough

                    I very much enjoyed sleeping in an enclosed porch in warm weather at my grandmother’s (central North Carolina) when I was young. The moon over the fields was so beautiful. It was there as roughly a 2-year-old that I “chanted” abba-abba-abba-… this was in 1950 or so, so had zip to do with the Swedish pop group However, it was the word for father in Aramaic and went through ancient Greek and Latin before landing in (middle) English. Someone was listening to me one night and told me I said …abba,abba, abba, (pause) that’s enough, and I wasn’t heard saying it ever again.

    • For every increase in the minimum wage there is a corresponding decrease in minimum wage jobs. Entry level people are only worth a certain amount to employers. If the minimum wage is higher than this he will not hire more and possibly fire some existing lowest level workers. Overhead + unit cost must be less than the cost the customer is willing to pay to show a profit. If there is no profit there will be no company. It is possible to survive for a time on a break even basis. However profit is necessary to pay shareholders, to reinvest in the company and all sorts of other things. Check Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics for a longer explanation.

      • sorry nest fail. this was supposed to be a reply to Holly.

        • Hehe. I do hope you don’t think I’ve not read Thomas Sowell ….

          • Certainly not Imperator!

            • We own soft-bound (self-purchased) and hard-bound (gift from Uncle) copies of Basic Economics. I think I read the soft-bound, but I might’ve read them both. I figure this means I can make two kids read it simultaneously and then they can have discussion, right?

              I do understand economics at the very small business level. The hard way–the we did that but couldn’t afford the t-shirt way. We afforded an accountant the first year, after that I did the IRS stuff.

      • this is why we are on the threshold of the awesome future of burger flipping robots!

  21. OT, but how are the Huns/Hoydens in the MetroPlex? Seriously nasty storms down that way.

    • Fine so far. Haven’t been out of the house since this AM. Hasn’t felt bad here. Maybe hasn’t reached North Dallas yet.

      • Oh good. I heard about the terrible hail that clobbered Ft. Worth and was worried. The MetroPlex is a big place, but some storms seem to take that as a challenge.

    • Anonymous Coward

      Cooler and a bit overcast compared to yesterday. Forecast does not look too scary.

    • The Other Sean

      I don’t know about them, but the news reports the birds at the Fort Worth Zoo did not fare well in the hail.

  22. I know whereof you speak. I destroyed (literally) 3 of 4 ligaments in my right knee, in August of 1977. It took two surgeries to “fix” it. Since then, I have “lived” on loans/workmen’s comp from 1978 to 1983. In ’83-4, I had “supported”: housing/training, before working at the local college, as a “Student Consultant,” supplementing with computer language tutoring, and living in housing that barely stood up. In ’89, I went to work for a State agency, making about $19K/year, and custom programming/private projects. Spending the “extra” money, to build knowledge/skills. In ’92, I was fired for wanting to enforce software copyright laws.
    The next 2 years, I lived in “Public Housing” on savings/part time income from working for a Polling company. In 1994, my _left_ knee, was taken out in a car-pedestrian accident. Leaving me making ~$623/month from SSDI. I used the settlement to start FBN Group/FBN Graphics that I was forced to close in 2001, after being rear ended. Today, 15 years later, I’ve managed to write/publish 1 Children’s/YA book, and three cookbooks (11 Kindle versions of the cookbook categories, are in process.) Today, I’m 90% paraplegic, and “living” in a Nursing Home, allowed to “keep” $42/month for “personal expenses.”
    Yes, there are times I want to “give up.” While I do have 2 “Daughters of my Heart,” and a much loved “adopted” Granddaughter, I have _no one_ to .leave anything to, I struggle on, anyway.

  23. “Is it any wonder that the left (and those on the right who turn their hopeful eyes to Trump) want the government to be a daddy who steps in and saves them if things get too scary?”
    =============================

    Ummmmm…is that a typo, Sarah?